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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

Author Bryan Stevenson observed that, “You can't understand most of the important things from a distance...You have to get close.” SGG's "Football in Wisconsin" special series gets close to football through conversations with coaches, competitors, and others connected with the game in the Badger state. We aim to deepen our understandings of coaching -- and of football's impact on and off the field.

Coach Dave Keel earned Hall of Fame distinction in both football and softball during his 30+ years of teaching and head coaching at Homestead High School in Wisconsin. Coach Keel is known broadly for his wins on the field, including six football state championships. But those who know Coach Keel are even more impressed by his care for the young people he led. On this SGG episode, we discussed:

1.  Growing up playing football at Milwaukee Hamilton High School and UW-LaCrosse.

2.  Learning from Coach Phil Datka at Germantown High School and from John Brody at Homestead.

3.  Common attributes of his mentors: their love of the young people.

4.  Developing the tenets of his program.

5.  One tenet: Getting the most people on the field as possible. “We’re going to have 22 really committed players.”

6.  A second tenet: Get the community involved.

7.  His role within the broader school community.

8.  What makes football unique: it’s uniquely American and it’s significant in our culture and it embodies what our lives are like. “You’ve got two choices when you get knocked down. You can roll over and say, ‘Dang it!’ and walk off the field or you can get up, dust yourself off a little and say.’Hey, I’m going to do my best not to get knocked down again.’”

9.  The social component: Learning to work well with other people through sports.

10.  A difference he’s observed between girls teams and boys teams.

11.  Community impacts of his program.

12.  His efforts in making football safer with USA Football’s Heads Up program: “We’ve seen a tremendous buy-in.”

13.  How he’s changed as a coach over the years.

14.  The leadership skills program he developed at Homestead.

15.  Learning about developing a leadership program from Coach Craig Bohl.

16.  Conflict and “the skill of listening.”

17.  The listening activity he used with his program.

18.  Listening and empathy as being at the heart of conflict resolution.

19.  “Listen with your eyes.”

20.  Recognizing the impact that coaches have upon young people. “Coach, you don’t know this, but for the last four years, you were my father.”

21.  “Every one of these coaches, has that young person on your team…You need to recognize that those little folks out there, there’s more than one that really needs you more than they need the sport… Recognize that and use that to help young people become successful.”


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