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Hawley High School football coach Peder Naatz. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Money not always the driving force behind entering the profession for area coaches

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Hawley (Minn.) High School football coach Peder Naatz remembers the brother of a player screeching his car within 8 feet of Naatz during a postgame radio interview, glaring at him, saying a few words and flooring the car in reverse to shower Naatz in gravel and rocks.

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Two years later, the same person mocked Naatz’s heritage from the sidewalk as he drove by.

All because Naatz didn’t play the man’s younger brother in the first half of a game due to in-school behavior issues.

“We were trying to make sure our kids were toeing the line in school and setting a positive example for others and he fell short,” Naatz said.

This comes with the territory of being a high school varsity coach. With the whistle around the neck comes the second-guessing of every decision, the yells from the crowd, a yearly hope of a contract renewal and the reminder of every mistake.

That’s why they get paid the big bucks. Only, they don’t.

Naatz made $4,998 last season. Hawley went 10-2 and lost in the Minnesota Class 2A state semifinals. Between

100-plus hours of watching film and 216 hours of practice, Naatz estimated he worked more than 500 hours outside of his regular job for the football season.

Moorhead head boys hockey coach Jon Ammerman wasn’t exactly sure how much money he was paid for coaching the Spuds in 2013-14, his first season as coach.

He doesn’t care that the $4,961 came out to $6.79 an hour for the roughly 730 hours he put in the 18½ weeks. According to Moorhead athletic director Dean Haugo, pay is based on experience, length of season, number of students, liability, spectator interest (pressure), equipment and preparation time.

Those hours don’t include summer camps, the three overnight trips Moorhead took and the youth hockey meetings.

Ammerman still didn’t care.

“I’m teaching and coaching at the high school I graduated from,” Ammerman said. “I feel extremely fortunate.”

Brad Strand made $6,581 to take the Fergus Falls High School girls basketball team to the Class 3A semifinals and a third-place finish in the state last season, losing two of the 32 games his team played.

If there’s anyone who can do the math, it’s a math teacher like Strand. He broke it down to 747 hours of work during the season, and around 250 in the offseason for the basketball season.

That’s $6.60 an hour.

“I have always told my wife that when I start coaching for money then I better hang it up and let somebody else do the job,” Strand said. “It is all about the relationships that are built, because we definitely spend a great number of hours together. I have been a head coach for 24 years and it has really been a great experience. I wouldn’t trade all the hours that I have had the opportunity to spend with the kids I coach for anything.”

Mahnomen High School’s football team has the longest active winning streak in the state of Minnesota at 28 games, including two Class 1A state titles. Indians coach John Clark Jr. got about $4,000 per season for that.

Is it worth the sacrifice of having Thanksgiving dinner at Old Country Buffet because the Indians are at state? To people like Clark Jr. it is.

“Wasn’t bad, but not the same as mom’s cooking,” Clark Jr. said. “I love the kids first and foremost. I really enjoy watching them grow as athletes and people. I think the only way you coach is if you have passion for the game. Other than that, we coach because we’re downright nuts.”

Naatz coached a football game the same week he buried his father. His reason why didn’t sound nuts at all.

“I coach because I know what athletics can do for a person,” Naatz said. “The thrill of seeing kids have success is a great feeling. That success doesn’t necessarily mean winning. They can be successful if they’ve earned a spot on the special teams, been moved up to varsity during the season or for the playoffs as a freshman.

“It can mean earning a letter, making a good play or even properly executing a block that leads to a gain. There are thousands of little examples of successes each year and to see them happen is pretty cool.”

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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy is the Minnesota preps and Fargo Force beat reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota for the last five years and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so. If reading him in the paper and online isn't enough, you can read more of him at the Forum Preps Blog: http://forumpreps.areavoices.com/  
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