Raiders youth coach getting ready to hang up his shoes
GREENFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – Saying goodbye is always a tough thing to do. Especially when you’ve dedicated your life to something you love, knowing it’s time to go.
For the past 40 years, Dave Schmidt has walked the South Range Little Raiders football program while serving on the board for many years. Saturday was his last regular season game, retiring from the sport he loves very much.
“Like any good book, the last chapter is always the best. This is where I am, ”said Schmidt, 68.
With some relief, Schmidt is eager to hang up the same playing shoes he has worn for 25 years on the sidelines. He explained that they had injured their feet these days and after his last playoff game he will leave the shoes on the court and walk away.
Schmidt started as an assistant coach with the North Lima Vikings, then after the Greenford Vikings and Rams merged in 1973, due to the larger South Range School District amalgamation in 1969, he helped launch the Little Raiders program with George Toy. He would eventually serve as a head coach for 32 of the 40 years he coached youth football.
“What I enjoyed the most was seeing them go to college and high school. I go to a high school game and 80 to 90 percent of them are still playing, and in about the same positions in many cases. It makes me happy that they continued to play and improved. It’s an incredible feeling to see this, ”he said.
Throughout his tenure, he insisted on the fundamentals of football. Basic techniques and forms of blocking and tackling. Something that translates up to high school level. But according to Schmidt, it goes even further.
“We meet all of our coaches even before the start of the season, and starting with the little guys from Batam and JV. It’s not just about winning, it’s about preparing these kids for the next level. Batam prepares them for JV, JV prepares them for college. My job is to prepare them for junior high school and so on. It means the basic fundamentals. To tackle well, block well, be a good teammate and a good student. This is one of my great things. I tell them that they are not a student-athlete, you are a student-athlete, ”explained Schmidt, emphasizing the student part.
Schmidt has three children who played football or participated as a cheerleader. He’s also had a few of his grandchildren play for him, including his eldest grandson JD Crouse, who is an outstanding junior winger on the state-ranked high school team of the Raiders. His oldest granddaughter, Hannah is a senior forward on the Raiders girls’ basketball team, while another grandson Heath is a freshman also on the soccer team.
His pragmatic approach to football and life has left an imprint on the many young boys and girls who have participated in the program over the past four decades. This imprint was left on many fathers and sons who performed for Schmidt during this time.
“Some people call it old school coaching. If you don’t teach young people a little discipline now, where will it go in the future? I demand a little respect and I think I’ve accomplished this, ”Schmidt remarked.
Scott Valentine played for Schmidt in his youth, and as a result, Valentine’s son Tommy also played for Schmidt in the program. Additionally, Valentine’s two younger brothers also played for Schmidt in the Raiders’ youth program.
“That was over 20 years ago now,” said Valentine. “But I’m still learning these days everyday. And I was really happy that my youngest was playing for him. He’s a generational coach, coaching for 40 years is just an incredible task. It is a great service to the community. You learn to be a part of your community as much as you learn to block and tackle. Take care of your teammates, your family and your community.
“I remember getting hurt once and he called me after the game in his deep voice and thought it was a higher power to call the house phone,” Scott said with a little to laugh. “But he just called to see if I was okay. This is the kind of stuff you take away, it was a good experience.
What the future holds for the South Range Little Raiders football program remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, they will miss a core of the program that has been around for so long. Coach Schmidt will spend time watching these grandchildren.