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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Best Coach I Ever Had

The sub-title above references "the people and rides to make it happen." One such person that has made many things happen for me is my Dad. To limit this post to athletics, he was the best coach I ever had.

Clifford Gerhardt Groseth
I played team sports for many years, with many good coaches. Starting from high school, I played American Legion baseball, played high school basketball in a state championship game and some college basketball at South Dakota School of Mines, and played high school football on back-to-back, undefeated state championship teams under the legendary Max Hawk, in honor of whom the South Dakota High School Coaches Association actually named an annual award. Good coaches, indeed.

However, regardless of the coach at those levels, I loved the camaraderie of team sports and especially loved the achievement of collective improvement. Winning often followed, but not always. In the end, getting better together was always fun. All this was a direct result of my Dad coaching me in all sports until eighth grade. He was the best coach I ever had.

Clifford Gerhardt Groseth grew up on a family farm originally homesteaded in 1874 near Centerville, South Dakota by his great-grandfather, a hardy Norwegian immigrant. After starring in four sports in high school, Dad played some semi-pro baseball, played football for South Dakota State and even made the basketball team at South Dakota State. After college, he taught high school science in Freeman, South Dakota, where he also coached the varsity football, basketball and track teams. With a growing family, Dad entered the business world as a manager with the International Harvester Company and played competitive men's fast pitch softball. As a pre-schooler, I loved the atmosphere of a ball park under the lights of a hot summer night and eagerly anticipated the end of his games to sprint around the bases.

Dad was my first coach in football, basketball and baseball, and basically my only coach until eighth grade. He focused on fundamentals, which included not merely individual skills, but a thorough understanding of the game. By middle school, we had more sophisticated offenses and defenses, in all three sports, than I had later in high school or even in college. He expected each player to know what everyone else was doing at all times and to support every teammate. No one was left behind or left out. As a result, every team he coached played much better than the sum of its individual parts.

More importantly, Dad coached every kid how to play the game right. He treated everyone the same and gave everyone opportunities to succeed. He encouraged, without badgering. However, if you acted inappropriately, you were on the bench, probably for the rest of the game. If you missed practice, for whatever reason, you did not start the next game. His players respected their teammates, the opposing team, the officials, and the game. If I did not fully appreciate his influence at the time, I did when I experienced the behavior of other coaches and teams during high school and college.

He was the best coach I ever had.

Thank you, Dad.

High scoring Cliff Groseth for Centerville High School in 1951-1952.

Coach Cliff Groseth with his 1958-1959 Freeman High School Flyers boys basketball team.


Precision Optical Little League Baseball team, Sioux City, Iowa 1971.
Half the kids on that team lived on the same block, and the other half lived within a block or two.
There was no recruiting at that time and place. You were on the team with all your neighborhood kids.

Groseth International Little League Baseball team, Yankton, South Dakota 1974.
By then, Dad owned an International Harvester farm & truck dealership, sponsored the team and coached it.
Two of his sons played (Craig, Cyler) and the youngest was the bat boy (Christopher).
This was just one of his championship teams and was the last time my Dad was my coach.

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