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A Bell Cow Coach provides us a model from whom we can learn deeply and meaningfully about coaching. The term “bell cow” is not just a catchy reference to Wisconsin’s proud dairy heritage, but a useful metaphor for leadership.

Tradition has it that farmers have been known place a large bell around the neck of the “lead cow” in a herd. Knowing that the other cows tend to congregate around the lead cow, the herd can easily be found by the farmer, even in the biggest of fields or roughest of terrains. The farmer listens for the clang of the bell and knows that by finding the bell cow, they’ll find the whole herd.

What’s interesting to note about bell cows is that the other cows naturally follow them. They watch, learn from, and follow the bell cows. Bell cows pace the herd and model the way to go. In a similar fashion, we can each benefit from “bell cows” in our own lives. We can observe, listen to, learn from, and in some cases, emulate, leaders we admire. A bell cow coach.

The Wisconsin Coaching Project is identifying and honoring several Bell Cows throughout the 2021-22 academic year. These leaders change lives. They grow the good around them.

Our first Bell Cow honor was awarded to Somerset (WI) High School Coach Bruce Larson on November 11, 2021. Coach Larson has won multiple state championships and innumerable awards. But it's off the field where his greatest impacts can be found. Since 1987, Coach Larson has served as a positive everyday leader in his community. He built his program around Army values. All his players and students take these values with them into the world. They're better students because of him. Better family members. Better workers. Better community members. Congratulations, Coach Larson, for all that you've accomplished. And thank you for being a Bell Cow for us all.

To learn more about his leadership, listen to Coach Larson on the Sport on the Growing Good podcast:

It was extra special to honor Coach Larson on Veteran's Day in front of the whole school and multiple military veterans. His program is built upon Army Values.

The Somerset weight room includes beautiful new weightlifting equipment. But the most meaningful parts of the room are found hanging from the rafters: the values that guide the program.


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