40 years on the gridiron [UPDATED]Published 11:00am Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Updated 11:00am Tuesday, September 25, 2012
It has been said that success in football isn’t about the Xs and the Os; it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes. It takes more than Jimmys and Joes, however, to build a successful football program like Don Seipkes has in his 40 years of coaching.
Seipkes is approaching the halfway mark of his 40th season as a coach, and his 3-1 Otter Tail Central Bulldogs are on track for another successful year.
“I’ve always loved the game,” Seipkes said. “I enjoy being around the game. I grew up with it and, sports have always been important to me.”
While it takes a great coach to build a program, success is impossible without student athletes.
“I’ve been blessed with great kids and great families,” Seipkes said.
Otter Tail Central football players said they like playing for coach Seipkes because he gives everybody a fair shot. He doesn’t have favorites.
“He treats the team as a whole,” said offensive and defensive tackle Aaron Bengtson. “He never singles anybody out.”
Fullback/linebacker Tom Lachowitzer said Seipkes makes practice fun, but all of the players know when it’s time to be serious and get focused.
One of the most important things Seipkes has learned in 40 years is to let himself rely on assistants.
“I used to think I had to do it all,” he said. “You can’t expect to do everything yourself. I have the final say, but I give my assistants some authority.”
Seipkes has taken teams to the Fargodome, Metrodome and made it to state championships, but he said some of the most memorable moments of his career were coaching his three sons.
“You learn a lot as a parent and a coach,” he said. “You think you know it all, but I grew and learned a lot when I had my kids on the team”
Seipkes saw several changes to his team throughout his years as a coach. He started as the coach in Henning in 1973, and in the 80s, Henning and Deer Creek merged for football. In 1991, Henning parted ways with Deer Creek and combined with Battle Lake to make Otter Tail Central.
“I don’t think the changes were too hard,” he said. “The kids get along tremendously. It has been fun.”
Seipkes taught at Henning School for 39 years, and this is his second year coaching since he retired.
“I have more time to evaluate games and watch film,” he said. “The hardest time is Friday. I need to find other things to keep myself from thinking too much.”
Seipkes said he is taking it one year at a time now. He will decide if he wants to come back to coach a 41st season at the end of the year.
“It takes more time than it used to,” he said. “I have to give up more of my time during the season and the summer, but I still enjoy it.”