After Mike Gaffney retired this year, Dave Schueler was chosen to be the new Head Coach of the YME football program. We spoke with him to get a glimpse into his background and his plans for the football program.
Schueler started his football career early. He played in 7th grade through his junior year. He had a farming accident that severed his Achilles tendon, preventing him from playing in his senior year. The football itch didn’t go away, and after he graduated from YME in 2004, he looked for smaller schools to give himself a good chance to work his way into a starting position in the football program.
He found Bethel University, and did what he does best– used his passion and work ethic to become a starter in his sophomore year. For the rest of his college years he was an on-again, off-again starter.
“I learned how to coach and how to care about your players through how I was coached.” He credits the Bethel football coaches Johnson, Meyer, and Miller, with a huge impact on shaping that man he is today.
He studied Phy-Ed, and after he finished college, he started teaching at ECHO Charter School. He started a football program, and over the course of three years, got them to where they could play at the varsity level.
He learned the hard way to not make football too big a priority. He ended up burning some kids out, and the program had to shut down mid-season because of too many injuries. The lesson he took from that experience was to try to match his drive and the drive level of the players.
That doesn’t mean he turns down the stuff he wants the athletes to do, but he takes a “baby steps” approach, and understands that, “Things take time to grow. You can’t turn things around in one year.” Schueler returned to Bethel to coach, specifically, coaching the tight ends.
“That year and a half refreshed me, and brought back my love of the game.” He also met his wife during that time period. He coached and taught at ECHO for one more year, and then came to YME.
He currently teaches Special Education at Bert Raney Elementary, and is working on getting his Master’s in that field. He had been the Special Teams Coordinator for the past four years, until Mike Gaffney retired.
One of the first things he did as the new head coach was setting a foundation. He made a Player-Parent Handbook, a Coaches Handbook, and a Mission Statement for the football program.
“I wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page with the foundation, and what our expectations are. It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the field. It’s bigger than just a game. We’re helping boys become men. How are we going to develop them so they become great husbands, dads, workers, employers? We want to win but the bigger goal is to make them productive citizens. That goal has been there, but it hadn’t been explicitly written out before.”
Schueler has been around the game for a long time, but is always looking to learn more. “I’ve been coaching since I graduated. I’ve picked up different offenses, different ways of doing things. I know there’s still a lot to learn, I’m not an expert by any means. I know enough to know I can’t stick with a program if I don’t have players to run it.”
In other words, he has to adapt the system of football plays to match the players he has. “This year we have a little more speed, so we need to change up what we do on offense and defense to capitalize on that.”
Schueler and the other coaches came up with four cornerstones to build the football program on:
•Accountability - hold yourself and each other accountable
•Discipline - do the right thing even when you don’t want to do it
•Work Ethic - Always give your best
•Service - serve everyone around you
“My coaching philosophy is coach the player first, and then coach football. We’re going to have a lot more success if we go into a game with a group of strong men instead of a bunch of little boys. If I help develop their character while coaching, it’s going to be that much better for us during a game. and it’s going to be better for them in the long run. I don’t want to focus so much on Xs and Os that we lose sight of the character development. “
Schueler has a grander vision for the team and the school. “I want the kids to realize ‘We’re all YME. We all have to support each other. It doesn’t matter if you play football, basketball, danceline, softball, Lego league, band, choir. We all have to come together and support each other, parents, students, community members. We all have to remember this is our school. It’s not just the students and teachers. I’m hoping to build that through my coaching here.”
The passion Schueler has for football and YME is impossible to miss. “I will be loud, but it’s always encouragement. I want to be the kind of coach who a player can call at midnight because he has a flat tire, and know that I’ll answer and help him out. I want to be a servant leader. I want to be the guy who’s here for his coaches, his players, and the community and serve in any way I can. I think doing it by example is the best way to teach it.”
This interview was conducted while Schueler and several players were raking soil in the football field by hand to get it ready for grass seed in time for the season.