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Two coaches just starting, another heading to Hall of Fame

Two men who are just starting their head coaching careers, and one whose career ended over a decade ago, were the subjects of much of my recent writing.

Last Saturday, my piece on former Coal City football coach Ken Miller was published. Miller is being inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame this weekend.

I shared Miller’s reaction to the honor and some of his accomplishments. One thing I wasn’t able to work in is his response when I asked him what kind of a coach he was. Was Miller, in his own eyes, a proverbial “players’ coach” or more of the disciplinarian type?

“I would say the description for me ... well, I would hope my players and coaches would say I was a hard worker, that I put in the extra time needed to build our program. Way back when I was at Carthage, I learned that you couldn’t just go August to November and be able to build your program. You would have to take it to 12 months of the year,” Miller said.

“I feel like I was a student of the game. I loved being a student of the game. I loved watching and learning and being able to take things from what I watched. Coaches are great thieves, and I felt like I was a pretty good thief.

“To get back to the question, as a high school coach, you have to be a little bit of everything. You have to form relationships with your players, but at the same time, they have to know up front what they can and cannot do.”

This week, I interviewed a pair of first-year track and field head coaches. Dale Koepnick has taken over the head position at Coal City High School, and Nick Lundin is the new head boys coach at Minooka High.

There hasn’t been much of a chance to see Koepnick’s Coalers in action. They had just one indoor meet prior to opening the outdoor season Tuesday. Stories with more detail on Koepnick and his Coalers have been filed and can be read next week.

Lundin’s Indians have been much busier. They participated in eight indoor varsity meets. I won’t go into all of the details — I’ve also written about the Indians’ indoor success in the past several days — but their indoor season culminated with a second-place showing at the Illinois Prep Top Times meet.

“I am not surprised about our success. We have talent on this team. We only graduated three seniors from our state roster last season and brought back a ton,” Lundin said in an email.

“Again, I point to our coaches. They are demanding that the athletes work hard and teaching them that their goals are obtainable through hard work. I owe a lot to our coaching staff: Mark Smith (vertical jumps), Dan Ingram (volunteer coach, sprints/hurdles), Bert Kooi (horizontal jumps), Liz Jones (throws) and Derek Johnston (volunteer, sprints).”

I asked Lundin what his goals, in the short term and the long, are for the program.

“I want to be the best in state,” Lundin said. “The day I stop having that goal is the day I need to step away as a coach. I feel that we have the athletes in our school to achieve that goal.

“P.E. teachers and other coaches throughout the building (in all sports) have been very supportive in helping steer athletes towards our program if they thought it would benefit them. It has been great having that relationship with our coaches.

“It was an amazing accomplishment for a school to win three sectional championships from the boys in the spring season last year (baseball, track and volleyball). I’d be very interested to see how many times that has happened in this state. We owe a big thank you to those who have helped ups get where we are today and will help us achieve our goals in the end.”

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