Coaches say 2 schools, 1 man set foundation for success in New EnglandToday, New England has a population of 555. In the past four decades, the small southwestern North Dakota town has produced almost as many successful coaches.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Today, New England has a population of 555.
In the past four decades, the small southwestern North Dakota town has produced almost as many successful coaches.
A few stayed right at home, a handful went down the road only a few miles and others spread across the state or left it all together.
But no matter where they went it seemed, New England natives have chalked up countless accomplishments while shouting from sidelines and mentoring in huddles.
“A guy just starts thinking and it’s unbelievable,” New England athletic director Daryl Jung said.
This weekend, the town celebrates its 125th anniversary and many of the great coaches it helped produce will be back home for the festivities.
Over the past two weeks, many of those coaches reflected on why they believe New England natives — as well as many others who have passed through the town — have enjoyed success in the field of coaching.
Many point to an intense rivalry between New England Public and New England St. Mary’s that simmered for more than four decades until St. Mary’s closed the doors to its high school in 1992.
“It was such a competitive town in the years back,” said longtime Linton basketball coach Brian Flyberg, a Public graduate who got his start in coaching on the opposite end of Main Street at St. Mary’s. “Just to be the best in your town, you had to work your tail off.”
Mike Schatz, who coached the Tigers’ to four 9-man football state championships, grew up in New England during the 60s and early 70s, when the rivalry between Public and St. Mary’s was at its peak.
“I’ve always maintained that we’ve had a competitive attitude in this town — especially when the two schools were both thriving — that was more than most people have seen,” Schatz said. “The desire to be as good as you could possibly be and ultimately beat the other team in town was a big deal.”
However Schatz, like other veterans who came through Public’s system in the 60s and 70s, point to a superintendent whose deep affection for athletics and extracurricular activities — and its potential benefits not only in high school, but later in life — laid the foundation for the numerous coaching successes the school has produced ever since.
Jim Broten was New England Public’s superintendent from 1953 to 1980.
“The one thing Jim Broten did was he hired good coaches,” said Doug Olson, who coached Beulah to state championships in football and golf and five state tournaments in boys basketball.
As Dickinson Trinity’s head football coach, Gordon has won three state championships and three state coach of the year awards. He points to the mentoring and instruction of his high school coaches as the starting point for his successful career.
“When we were back in New England, when we played in high school, I’d have to say our coaches were just a little bit above the rest of them,” Gordon said. “They were a step ahead of the other schools. I think that’s why we were successful.”
Perhaps no one season was more telling of New England natives’ success in coaching than the fall of 1997 when four of the state’s coaches of the year in different sports were graduates of New England Public: Mike Schatz in 9-man football, Randy Gordon in Class AA football, Brian Flyburg in girls basketball and Jerry Schwartz in girls cross country.
“I think it’s just a tribute to your program that all these people go into coaching and are successful at coaching,” Jung said. “That’s the key.”
Monke is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press and a 2002 graduate of New England High School. Email him at email@example.com and read his blog at monke.areavoices.com.