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PAGE 20: FALL SPORTS 2017 PRESS & DAKOTAN ? PLAIN TALK Viborg-Hurley interim head coach Galen Schoenefeld, center, watches his team’s warmups prior to the Aug. 18 season opener at Irene-Wakonda. Schoenefeld took over the reins as head coach for this season with Rob Kessler serving in the South Dakota Air National Guard over in the Middle East. Standing Guard Schoenefeld Watches Over Cougar Football As Head Coach Rob Kessler Serves His Country R ob Kessler won’t be on the sidelines guiding and supporting his football players this fall. But he still plans to follow their performances. It’s just that he’ll be doing so from halfway across the globe. You see, Kessler — the head coach at Viborg-Hurley — is serving in the South Dakota Air National Guard and is currently stationed at an undisclosed location in the Middle East. And although that means the Cougars will be without their head coach this season, Kessler doesn’t plan to be far from the action. “That’s the beautiful thing about technology today,” he wrote in an email to the Press & Dakotan. “It makes it so much easier for our service members to stay connected back home.” Kessler, a Viborg native, was set to begin his second year as the Viborg-Hurley head coach, but when his Air National Guard duties called (Sept. 9 will be 18 years for him), a decision had to be made. The result: Long-time assistant Galen Schoenefeld will serve as interim head coach this fall. “Rob really wanted to see somebody doing it that had been working with him and knew how he liked to do things,” Schoenefeld said. So it only made sense that one of his assistants — either Schoenefeld or Brett Mellem — would take over this fall. “Turning over the coaching reins to anyone is killing me,” Kessler said in his email. But his “utmost trust” in Schoenefeld and Mellem is what has made the transition easier, he added. “The three of us have become close friends over the last two years and essentially have the same coaching philosophy,” Kessler said. The Viborg-Hurley program, Kessler wrote, stresses qualities like accountability, teamwork, respect, work ethic and trust. Schoenefeld also runs the school’s Fellowship Of Christian Athletes (FCA) for any interested athletes, Story And Photos By Jeremy Hoeck 2-6. “We’ve had a good group of kids in the weight room over the summer,” Schoenefeld said. “And I know they would like to see it pay off for them with some more success.” Kessler, too, believes his players’ hard work will result in more wins. “We have some good depth and if some of our younger kids are able to step up and fill some roles, I think we could be very explosive,” Kessler said. As though he was speaking to his players in the locker room before a game, Kessler included in his email to the Press & Dakotan a message to his team. “There are men and women that put themselves Viborg-Hurley interim head coach Galen Schoenefeld, center, speaks to the official prior in harm’s way every day to to the Aug. 18 season opener at Irene-Wakonda. Schoenefeld took over the reins as head provide you the freedom coach for this season with Rob Kessler serving in the South Dakota Air National Guard to play such a great game,” Kessler wrote, “and I would over in the Middle East. Kessler added. “For all three of us, our football program is more about teaching lessons about life and building strong men than it is about winning,” Kessler said. The idea of caring more about a player than about the win-loss record is something Kessler said he learned from his mentor Bob Young, the former football coach at the University of Sioux Falls. Winning, as the philosophy goes, will come on its own. “The three of us all believe this, so that makes it a lot easier for me to entrust this team to team, because I know they are coaching with the same philosophy as me,” Kessler said. Just maybe not as loud, he joked. Kessler’s absence was felt immediately during the preseason practices, according to Schoenefeld. Not only were there changes to practices (as mandated by the South Dakota High School Activities Association), but Schoenefeld — as now the head coach — had to take a rules test and was then in charge of dispersing team information to the various media outlets. “There was a little bit of an adjustment with all of those things,” Schoenefeld said. Even during the course of a game, Schoenefeld said he doesn’t expect there to be a massive change without Kessler there as the leader. Schoenefeld will continue as the defensive coordinator and Mellem will continue with his offensive play calling duties. “It shouldn’t be too much different,” Schoenefeld said. “There shouldn’t be too much extra responsibility during a game.” Of course, for Kessler, he’ll miss being there during Cougars games. Specifically, he said the “hardest part” about not beaing able to coach this season is that his oldest son, Tate, will be in his first year of high school football — which meant father could have coached son. But again, technology allows Kessler to keep in contact. As an example of how connected Kessler can stay with his football team, he said he watched game film of a preseason scrimmage nearly a half-dozen times. And Schoenefeld said Kessler will be able to watch footage from each game through the website Viborg-Hurley uses. So it’s not as though the head coach is completely out of the loop. “That’s a big plus,” Schoenefeld said. “I wasn’t sure at the beginning how much we’d be able to converse.” Last year, Kessler’s first as head coach, saw the coaches put in charge of a “good group,” according to Schoenefeld. Even though, as he added, the wins didn’t pile up — Viborg-Hurley finished ask them that they put the same commitment towards the schooling and their team, and that they leave nothing on the field. “And that they do me proud, as I know they will!” Since he returned to teaching two years ago after a 13-year hiatus, Kessler said the communities of Viborg and Hurley have supported him and his family. And it’s been the same now that he’s overseas and his family is back home. Kessler said he wanted to share one final message. “I’d like to give a shout out to my wife Laura, you are amazing,” he wrote. “My kids, who make what I’m doing worth it. And to all my friends and family that are giving both myself and my family so much support. “I love you all!” Follow @jhoeck on Twitter Roy Wilcox, Agent 200 W 4th ST Yankton, SD 57078 Bus: 605-665-7140 www.roywilcox.com We aren’t just in your neighborhood. We are part of your community. Being located in your community and being an active member of it are two very different things. We’re honored to serve you both through funeral care and community involvement. Guiding and serving families with compassion and trust. 665-9679 • 1-800-495-9679 www.opsahl-kostelfuneralhome.com Funeral Home & Crematory, Yankton Memorial Resource Center, Tyndall Memorial Chapels, Tabor, Menno & Tyndall
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