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Eagles’ new football coach ready for a challenge
Dan Ericson always wanted to be a head football coach. Now he has his work cut out for him.
Ericson was hired last week as the new head football coach at Klahowya Secondary School. Ericson, 36, a four-year assistant coach at Olympic High School, takes over for Lyle Prouse, who resigned in November after two winless seasons. The team currently holds the state’s longest losing streak for 11-man teams at 22 games. Despite Klahowya’s spiral, Ericson said he’s prepared for what lies ahead.
“I welcome the challenge, it’s not like I don’t know about what’s been going on,” he said. “Everyone needs to know what the expectations are, and coaches, players, parents and administrators can come together to improve the program.”
The lowest point of Prouse’s short tenure may have been the proposed walkout by some of his players for the homecoming game against North Mason High School last season. School administrators thwarted the plan when they found out, but the players’ frustrations were already expressed. Ericson wants to avoid a similar fate. He said he’s well aware of Klahowya’s struggles, having coached in the Olympic League, so his first priority is gaining trust with players and parents.
“I think players need to know why the coaches are out there, dedicating their time to be there away from their families,” he said. “Players need to see that you care. They need to see your passion for your work. And the kids need to know they have a voice and they’re heard.”
Ericson worked as an offensive and defensive coordinator under head coaches Carlton Cooper and Tim Allbee in his four years at Olympic. He also wants a balanced attack from the Eagles that includes hard-nosed defense and option-style plays from the offense and special teams units. The Eagles will have several offensive and defensive schemes, Ericson added, that are aimed to disrupt their opponents’ gameplan.
“I know as a defensive coordinator that preparing for a team that has a lot of different things can be tough,” he added.
Klahowya Athletic Director Todd Winters knew he wanted to hire Ericson once the interview concluded earlier this month. Ericson was treated to a campus visit on the final day before winter break, where he reconnected with students he knew from Seabeck Elementary School, where he taught for six years. Developing a good rapport with student-athletes, Winters added, is one of the most important qualities from his new head coach.
“Some coaches get so serious about this sport, and forget that kids are playing high school sports,” Winters said. “As a teacher, he gets the big picture about mentoring kids and what high school athletics are all about.”
Leaving behind Olympic was the hardest part of his decision, Ericson said, but he couldn’t pass up the head position at a Class 2A program.
“The hardest part was leaving because I have strong relationships with those players,” he said. “They knew the only reason I would ever leave Olympic was to be a head coach somewhere.”
For now, Ericson is busy juggling responsibilities in his final year of coaching at Olympic. Ericson will remain the school’s golf coach through the 2011 season. In the meantime, he’s looking for assistant coaches to fill the staff at Klahowya.
Another issue of concern is player turnout, which took a hit when the team went winless in Prouse’s first year. Ericson will host meet-and-greet events in January and February to familiarize himself with the Eagles football community.
“We need to get players turning out, and we need to keep the kids throughout the season and build that way,” he said. “At that point, once we get everyone on the same page, then you can implement the systems for offense and defense and get ready for the fall. There’s a lot of work to be done that’s for sure.”
Ericson currently teaches fifth grade at Pine Crest Elementary School and is certified through the eighth grade. He has a master’s degree in education from Central Washington University, and wants to transfer within the district to Klahowya.
“It would be great so we’re all in the same building,” he said. “It’s a six-year program, and when done correctly, we can really work together and run similar systems with the middle school players and develop the program.”
Ericson said he won’t know about a transfer from the Central Kitsap School District until at least spring. However, he plans to remain at Pine Crest if denied a spot at Klahowya. Both Ericson and his wife, Rebecca, teach at Pine Crest and their son attends the school as well.
Ericson, who grew up in Shelton, eyed a head coaching position for years, particularly at Klahowya where it feels like home, he said. He taught second grade at Seabeck before it was closed due to cutbacks, and wanted to return to the community and lead his own football program.
“It has a small town feel, and the community really supported Seabeck when I was out there,” he said. “I grew up in a small town where everybody went to the games on Friday nights, and Klahowya has a lot of those characteristics, so it’s always appealed to me.”