By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
The relationship between a high school coach and the parents of the athletes he or she is working with can sometimes by a touchy one.
Why is my child not playing?
You’re working my kid too hard!
We think you should be doing this….
Randy Zimmer has stepped down after 24 seasons as Milaca head wrestling coach. He’s chatted with a lot of parents over that time.
“I’ve had some great parents to work with,” said Zimmer. “Overall, they have been very supportive.
“I’ve tried to explain why we do things a certain way and answer their questions. My approach and that of the assistant coaches ,has been to make each wrestler a better athlete and a better student. And, someone who respects others. I’m happy with the relationships I’ve built with parents and grateful for their support and understanding.”
So, how do the parents feel about Zimmer’s 24 years as coach?
Let’s start with Chris and Barb Kotsmith, who had sons Luke, Mark, Craig and Andy go through Zimmer’s program.
“Randy has always had the best interest of kids in mind, as a coach and as a teacher,” said Chris. “He’s been a great mentor.
“Many of the lessons he taught in his program the wrestlers could take with them after they graduated. Things like working as a team and striving to always improve and do better. A big part of his success was that he showed that hard work will pay off.
“He always tried to get the best out of each wrestler, no matter how talented they were. He maximized their potential and showed them the value of being prepared.
“He never panicked during a match and he taught the kids how to be good losers as well as good winners. He knew that in the end, kids had to have some fun competing. Luke and Craig suffered serious injuries and he showed them how to deal with that and come back strong. And, he didn’t give up on kids. I think he was able to keep some kids in school through his wrestling program.”
“Kids today now have so many rules and regulations and Randy never forgot what it was like to be a teenager,” said Barb. “He was able to relate to them. Practices can be hard work but so many times our boys came home and said what a good time they had in practice that day. As adults, we demand respect from our kids but Randy gave his wrestlers respect and made them feel good about themselves. He taught kids – he didn’t preach to them.
“We were always impressed with the help he received from his wife, Kris.”
Paul and Gayle Ash had two boys go through Zimmer’s program, big boys, Carter and Marshal. Carter was a state runner-up at heavyweight in 2008 and Marshal was a state champion at 220 in 2010.
“We’re very proud to have had Randy as coach for our sons,” said Paul. “He taught them lessons they could use on the mat and in life. He emphasized the whole team, not just individuals.
“He kept his teams under control. Milaca wrestlers didn’t do things to embarrass themselves or the program. Randy kept up with the times and taught new holds and moves.
“Gayle and I are grateful for the care he had for our boys and their teammates.”
Ron and LuAnne Weyer had two sons, Mike and Chad, coached by Randy and his staff. Mike became Milaca’s second state champ in 2001.
“Randy taught his wrestlers how to do things the right way,” said Ron. “He commands respect and he gives respect.
“I’ve been at the little kids practices and kids in kindergarten and first grade get a little wild. As soon as Randy would blow his whistle it got quiet and the kids were in a circle around Randy, ready to learn.
“Randy and Kris are special people. They both put a lot of time and effort in making Milaca’s program one we can all be proud of.”
Deb and Doug Vedders had three sons go through the program, Mike, Mitch and Steve. Mitch was a state champ in 2004 and Steve won a state title in 2006.
“As a mom, I wasn’t sure this dropping weight thing was a good idea,” said Deb. “I was concerned about that.
“But, Randy handled me perfectly and eased my fears. He helped me learn how to be a better parent of an athlete.
“It’s a great feeling when you can trust a coach to do what’s best for your kids. We watched our boys grow into young men under Randy. Our whole family enjoyed being part of the wrestling family. We appreciate what Randy and Kris did for our boys.”
“Randy is such a great communicator,” said Doug. “He took time and had the patience to make his wrestlers better. And, he did it without putting the kids under a lot of stress.”
Dan and Mary Jo Moscho had two sons on this year’s team, senior Joe and ninth-grader Aaron. Older sons Jake and Tony also wrestled.
“Mary Jo and I are very thankful for a great program from which our boys learned many valuable life lessons,” said Dan.
So, there you have it. Randy Zimmer and wrestling parents connected real well.