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LTE – Ronald Walsh – 11-21-2012

After 39 years, is it really over? Last night I attended the awards night for the Elk Mound High School Football Team. They had a great year. Not because of the record, 8-2. Not because they had so many individually talented athletes. Not even because it was Coach Dan Pedersen’s last year as head coach.

They had a great year because they became what Coach Pedersen strived for with all the teams he has coached. They became a family. How do you define a family in the sense that Coach Pedersen means? You work hard to achieve individual goals; you work hard to achieve team goals; you work hard each day in school; you work hard each day in practice; you work hard in your personal life to avoid the errors of youth that sidetrack the potential in many young people. Coach P has always taught his athletes that if they do these things, they won’t have to worry about the wins and losses.

There were many fine athletes recognized last evening. We are truly proud of them. As the program moved along I wondered if there would be anything specific in the program about Coach Pedersen and his 39 years. I knew that he was adamant throughout the football season that there be no attention brought to him about this being his last year. He wanted the focus to be on the kids. He didn’t even formally submit his resignation until after the season ended so as not to distract the team, his coaches, parents and community.

As the night wound down, Coach Pedersen said a few closing remarks, not about himself, but the players. Seemingly as a last thought he said to the parents, “Remember, everything we do for these young men is to make them better people and to help them to be ready for life.”

If you’ve seen the movie Friday Night Lights you know that Coach Gary Gaines, in a brilliant half-time speech, defined for his players what he meant by being “perfect.”  In Coach Dan Pedersen’s brilliant career as a coach, teacher and mentor, he has defined for us what he meant by “family.”

For the Mounder family it isn’t over. The values, commitments and accomplishments of the various families Coach Pedersen has shaped will live on.

Thank you, Coach Pedersen, for your 39 years of dedicated service the Elk Mound Area School District.

Ronald J. Walsh

Elk Mound Area School District