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Thief River Falls adds coaching mentor position

THIEF RIVER FALLS--Over Jeff Loe's 35 years as a high school coach, he had a few occasions where he had to deal with disciplinary problems on a team or disgruntled parents.

THIEF RIVER FALLS-Over Jeff Loe's 35 years as a high school coach, he had a few occasions where he had to deal with disciplinary problems on a team or disgruntled parents.

"It's happened a handful of times,'' Loe said. "It hasn't always been major issues, just knowing how to handle different situations. In my younger days, there was nobody on staff to help me. I think I would have benefitted from that.''

Lincoln High School is dealing with such situations. The 60-year-old Loe, who resigned as the school's head girls basketball coach after last season, has been selected as the Prowlers' first coaching mentor in a program that was initiated this fall.

Prowlers athletic director Mike Biermaier said duties of the coaching mentor include being a liaison between himself and the more than 100 coaches in the school district as well as being a position of support for coaches, particularly younger coaches.

"It's impossible for me to have a relationship and be a mentor for all the coaches and still fulfill all my other AD's duties,'' Biermaier said. "Jeff will provide additional support for the coaches. This is a peer system; there's a difference between a boss telling you to run something and having a coaching colleague seeing good ways to do things.

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"We're hoping we can eliminate the pitfalls some young coaches run into. Hopefully, that will add to their coaching longevity.''

The coaching mentor is a novel situation. While Biermaier said he can't say for sure there isn't a similar program in the state, he knows of no other school that has one. Several schools have contacted him to inquire about the program.

The concept is one that has been discussed within the local coaches' association for several years. Whenever a young coach has had issues with which to deal, Loe said, the question of how veteran coaches could help always arose.

"As a young coach, I wanted to talk to and feed off of the older, more experienced coaches,'' Loe said. "Younger coaches don't seem to stick with (coaching) as long nowadays. I think it's important to help those younger coaches.''

As part of his duties as mentor, Loe is required to meet with head and assistant coaches in all sports, on every level, at least once. It can be in groups or individually. With coaches with three or fewer years of experience, Loe must meet with them at least three times in a season.

"Things will come up,'' Biermaier said. "Hopefully, with Jeff's experience, he'll have a lot of answers. And if doesn't have an answer, he can help find it. Jeff is patient. He's very supportive and meticulous.''

Exactly what all of Loe's duties will be is a work in progress.

Both Loe and Biermaier said he isn't critiquing coaches as far as game strategies.

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It could be something as simple as helping a coach find a book, something that already has happened. Loe said he could be a buffer between coaches and administrators. Or he could be a sounding board, somebody to whom coaches can vent or he could provide a shoulder to cry on.

"I don't know what all it will be,'' Loe said. "I'll be ready to listen. If somebody wants to vent or cry about something, I'm here.

"Hopefully coaches come to me if they have issues. I'll go around to practices and see how things are going.''

Through the local coaches' association, Biermaier said there already was a support group in place where older coaches would help younger coaches. "But I don't know if we had direction in that approach,'' he said. "Now we have it set up, a mentor to help coaches, somebody official they can go to.''

While Loe and Biermaier have ideas of what he mentor's role will be, and there is direction set up in the position, it is an evolving position. The end result is an unknown.

"A big question is how do we measure if this is a success or not,'' Loe said. "Will we resolve issues? That's the part we haven't really filled in yet.

"I'm kind of a go-to guy. I want other coaches to reach out to me. I don't have all the answers. But we'll work to find them.''

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