Trio of 2002 area graduates finding out success takes time
Three young men who graduated in the same year went off to college.
Six years later, those same three return to the area to teach and coach basketball.
Adam Foslien, Brian Kingery and Brandon Raymo all graduated from their respective high schools in 2002. All three went to college and earned degrees in education. And all three are first-year head coaches of basketball programs that need direction.
Raymo, a Lac qui Parle Valley graduate, went to Southwest Minnesota State University and got a degree in History, plus a teaching license. He's also the head coach of the boys basketball team at Yellow Medicine East in Granite Falls. His team, which has an incredible number of first-year varsity players, is 0-7 in the West Central South Conference and 0-9 overall.
"I expected to have a team that struggled with lack of experience," he wrote, responding to an email questionnaire. "My expectations of the kids were the same I had for myself when I played. As long as we continue to work hard, good things can still happen."
Kingery, an Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City grad, went to Hamline University and earned his degree in Biology and Education. He's the head girls basketball coach at BOLD. The Warriors are 1-6 in the West Central South and 1-8 overall. The Warriors have won only four games in the last three seasons.
"I entered this season knowing that our basketball program has had its better days," he said. "So my biggest expectation was trying to improve every game."
Foslien, a Benson graduate, got a degree in Physical Education and Health Education from Southwest Minnesota State University and is the head girls basketball coach at Renville County West. The Jaguars are 5-4 in the Camden Conference and 6-7 overall, after winning the Camden North title last year.
"I think you ask every coach around, there are always expectations coming into a season. We only had one returning starter, but many girls who were capable of stepping in and producing. Coming in we were defending conference champs, so we had the target on our back. Our goal is to be playing our best basketball heading into playoffs, and hopefully make a run during section play."
Returning to roots
Many teenagers dream of going off to college and putting their hometown in the rearview mirror. Gone are the days that kids went off to college, then came back home to become a new generation of teachers, business owners and leaders in the community.
But not so for these three.
"Last year, I was up north teaching at Lake of the Woods, and when I got engaged I knew there was no way that she would move up there, so I applied for teaching jobs in the Cities and to BOLD (my high school's big rival)," said Kingery, who was the quarterback of the 2001 ACGC team that won the Class A football championship.
Raymo, who teaches social studies, was more than happy to have a chance to return close to home.
I student taught at YME and they just happened to have an opening. ... My wife Katie is originally from Montevideo so we are really lucky. Once we had our daughter, Adelyn, being close to home became that much more important," he said.
"I've always like the area and wanted to work around the area," Foslien said. "RCW was my first job interview, first job offer and it was a great fit for me. I have been blessed with the opportunities given to me here, and it's only an hour from my hometown. I had a job interview the day after I interviewed here 195 miles from Benson and it just wasn't me. I like it here."
Coaches don't just put Xs and Os on the board and tell a team how to run an efficient offense. Their job duties include preparing their student-athletes for the life ahead of them.
When asked why they decided to get into coaching, all three named at least one coach that made a big impact on their focus in life.
"Coaching and playing under Roger Lindahl (Benson's head boys basketball coach and assistant football coach) and Scott Gonnermann (Benson's head football coach and assistant boys basketball coach) have helped me tremendously in my coaching career, not to mention the fact I student-taught under Brad Atchison (Willmar's head girls basketball coach), so we discussed basketball a lot during our time together," said Foslien. "I have really created a great network in the coaching field because of those three and I still keep in touch as often as I can with those three."
Kingery, who played two years of football and four years of baseball for the Pipers, singled out a longtime ACGC coach.
"... the one who sticks out the most was Doug Torgerson. Torg was my football coach for four years and basketball coach for around five years. If you watched or had a conversation with Torg about coaching it wouldn't take you very long to how passionate he is about it."
Being exposed to one coach for a long period of time also had an influence on Raymo.
"If I had to pick one coach, I would say Bart Hill. He was my coach from VFW baseball, to B-Squad basketball, to varsity baseball. Obviously having him as a coach for six consecutive years made a huge impact on me."
Thrown to the wolves
Coaches have to deal with adversity just like players do, but on a grander scale. The three young coaches were asked to name the biggest challenge so far:
"The biggest challenge for me thus far has been keeping the kids positive. We are very young, and as a result, we will take some bumps. We are trying to keep everyone positive so the losing attitude doesn't dominate our year," Raymo said. "Also, time management has been a challenge. Balancing school, coaching and family is very difficult. My wife and daughter have been very understanding and supportive of the strenuous basketball season."
"Making assumptions," wrote Kingery, "assuming that they knew more then they did."
"The unexpected things that come up during a season: injuries (losing our sixth girl to a torn ACL), sickness, all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on, weather issues," said Foslien.
Though wins may be tough to come by for these first-year head coaches, they all noted what a great experience they've had so far.
And it's not always about winning, is it?
"I always have loved sports and working with kids. When I was in high school we had to coach younger kids on Saturday's for basketball and that's when I knew I wanted to go into coaching," Foslien said. "It has always been a dream of mine to be a head coach. To be successful, you must work at it, and to watch the kids work and then achieve is priceless and a reward in itself."