Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022
More and more coaches, who were playing high school sports just a few short years ago, are now helping lead the upcoming athletes
When Faith King was a three-sport athlete for the Lyle-Pacelli athletics, she saw everything from her own lens.
Whether she was competing in volleyball, basketball or softball for the Athletics, King was focused on what she could do to help her team be successful. But over time, King’s view of sports has widened to a bigger picture.
King, a 2019 Lyle grad, started as an assistant volleyball coach for L-P just three months after she graduated from high school and also serves as an assistant softball coach for the Athletics.
“The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that coaching decisions are not personal,” King said. “Everybody’s here for the same thing. When you’re a player you kind of take it from your own perspective and you don’t really think about it that way.”
King was able to get her coaching opportunity from L-P head volleyball coach Tammy Truckenmiller, who asked King to stick with the team. Since then, King has served as a mentor to some of her former teammates. She’s also balanced her time on the field with raising her young daughter.
Both tasks have been demanding.
“It’s been good. My daughter likes sports. It’s constantly a battle to work things out, but it’s worth it and I hope I can keep doing it,” King said. “Coaching has really helped me grow as a person. It’s actually a little more rewarding than playing, because you get to influence their lives and watch them grow as people and as players.”
Stories like King’s have become more and more common in recent years as there has been a shortage in veteran coaches, which has forced programs to turn to much younger people in leadership roles.
King will be back on the sidelines next year as she was recently hired as the new L-P head volleyball coach.
Here are three more stories of younger coaches who have stepped up in the area.
Double duty for a rookie coach
It has been seven years since Hayfield grad Cam Rutledge was competing for the Viking boys basketball and baseball teams, but now he is guiding the future of many athletes in a rival school that sits just 11 miles east of his hometown.
Rutledge is now an Awesome Blossom and he’s taken on the head coaching duties of the BP boys basketball and softball teams this school year. It is tough enough for someone in their mid 20s to take on head coaching, but Rutledge took it to a new level by taking on two sports.
So far, he hasn’t had any complaints.
“It’s been a lot. It’s not just practice after school. It’s all day every day,” Rutledge said. “It’s all you think about; you’re answering texts, e-mails and communicating with players. It never stops and it’s seven days a week. The biggest thing is that the administration has had full trust in me and that’s made it easy for me.”
Rutledge has had some help from one of his former coaches as Hayfield boys basketball head coach Chris Pack has provided a wealth of advice in everything from strategy to scheduling. Pack led the Vikings to their second straight Class A state boys basketball title this year, but he still had time to help out his former player, who is leading a rebuilding effort with the BP boys.
“He was my coach and I think he’s one of the best coaches, regardless of class, in the state of Minnesota. He’s been helping me a lot,” Rutledge said. “We knew they were going to be good this year. It was fun to coach against Pack and I knew a few of those guys, because I helped coach the Hayfield baseball team last year.”
Rutledge, who teaches physical education and health at BPHS, always wanted to work around sports, but he didn’t think he’d land a head coaching job so soon. So far, it’s been worth the time he’s put in and he’s loving every second of it.
“I have a love of sports and there is nothing quite like a big game in front of the whole community,” Rutledge said. “Watching the kids grow is a big part of it as well. The kids here at Blooming Prairie have been absolutely fantastic. They were great during basketball season and the girls have worked their butts off during softball season and they’ve done whatever is asked of them.”
From the circle to the dugout
Cait Hendrickson heard the jokes from her head softball coach Craig Selk last year.
As Hendrickson was wrapping up her dynamic career as Hayfield’s ace pitcher, Selk would kid around and say that he was making her come back to coach the next spring.
Selk never forced Hendrickson’s hand, but his words proved to be true. Hendrickson is back with the Vikings as the team’s pitching coach and she’s now leading the team from behind the scenes instead of on the field.
“The opportunity kind of presented itself and I couldn’t say no. It’s very different, but I love the game so much that being a part of it makes me enjoy it so much,” Hendrickson said. “I didn’t expect for it to be as rewarding as it is. I tell somebody something that I see and they apply it and it works and they’re so thankful. The coaching aspect is so much more rewarding than playing because you get to see players blossom.”
Hendrickson now tutors Hayfield pitcher Anna Bamlet, who was Hendrickson’s back-up last season. Bamlet said it’s a little odd to hear Hendrickson’s voice in the dugout instead of on the field, but it is still appreciated.
“I’ve learned how much to appreciate each game I have,” Bamlet said. “I know Cait loved it more than anything. She wants to be out there playing, but she wants to help us so much. She’s shown me how to lead the other girls on the team.”
A year of learning
When Austin grad Jordan Ransom was a member of the Packer boys basketball team, which came up one game short of the state tournament in 2021, he was heartbroken. His senior year had ended and he had missed his chance to get to the big dance.
However, a simple twist of fate saw Ransom end up coaching at the Minnesota Class AAA State Tournament in 2022 as he served as the Packer boys basketball team’s freshman coach just one year after playing with Austin.
Ransom spoke with head coach Kris Fadness and assistant coach Joe Kroc about coming back to coach after the 2020-2021 season ended, and since he was going to school, it worked out for him to be on the sidelines this year.
“I’m glad we got to experience going to state as a program. To go to the barn and see the locker rooms, that was really cool,” Ransom said. “It kind of just worked out that we didn’t have enough coaches and we needed somebody to do it. Fads was all in to help me out and get me going. Jamaal (Gibson) was really helpful too.”
Ransom said it was hard to get his former teammates to take him seriously as a coach at first, but eventually he found his place as a leader. He also soaked up a lot of knowledge from Fadness, who retired after finishing his coaching career with over 500 wins.
“I was kind of there to be the cool guy, while Fads was the big boss. It was different for sure, and I liked being able to help them out,” Ransom said. “You kind of change how you watch games when you’re coaching, as opposed to playing. I learned a lot from Fads this year and that was great. I learned how to be a better person and how to coach basketball. This year was a great opportunity and it was good to be able to build relationships with those younger guys. I’m glad Fadness trusted me to be able to do it.”
Ransom will be attending college at the University of Minnesota next year, but he hopes to stay involved in coaching in the future. He especially wants to stay involved with this year’s eighth grade class, which he worked with a lot.
Chances are, Ransom, Hendrickson, King and Rutledge will be needed on the sidelines for quite some time. After the pandemic, coaches have been showing up younger and younger, and the stress of it being nearly a full-time job with low pay and long hours, has made it difficult for schools to find eager coaches.
Those who coach, do it for the student athletes and they are doing their communities a giant favor.