Game Time

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tiedeman embracing new role as Wildcats coach

Coaching high school football is a little like playing a video game - only with real-life kids instead of computer-generated images, and headsets instead of joysticks.

That's Schaller-Crestland interim coach Mike Tiedeman's synopsis of his new gig six weeks into the season. He makes the calls. The kids listen to him. The timeout button's in his hand, but it's up to the players to crank it into turbo mode.

"It's a whole different monster on this side of the ball," Tiedeman said. "I can't control the game. At least when you're playing you can do something when things aren't going how you want, but all I have is words."

Whether playing or coaching, football is more than a game to him. It is an opportunity to learn life skills and define character - an opportunity that arose out of an unconventional path.

When Tiedeman graduated from N-F in 2000 and headed to Simpson College, he had no idea he would eventually find himself leading his school's long-time rival, Schaller-Crestland. Starting out on a seven-year road trip as a four-sport star from Fonda, Tiedeman has ended up 25 miles and a world of experience away as the interim head coach in Early.

Though S-C considers itself fortunate he chose the route he did, the detours Tiedeman took on his journey were rather unique.

After high school Tiedeman started out playing football, basketball, baseball and track at Simpson, though by the time he graduated football was the only sport that could entice his battered body onto the field. Finding himself with free time on his hands, Tiedeman picked up a guitar his junior year of college and taught himself how to play.

"Just as I was phasing sports out of my life, music came in like a tidal wave," Tiedeman said.

He graduated with an accounting degree and landed a job at Principal Financial in Des Moines while continuing to play for fun after work. His hobby became a little more than recreation when a co-worker who had heard him play booked him for a spot at a local bar. Like other challenges in life, Tiedeman took this opportunity in stride and turned it into a success.

"It was kind of like sports, when you're in the limelight. The more I did it the more comfortable I was," Tiedeman said.

With the belief that everything would work itself out, Tiedeman quit his job at Principal to sing and play full-time. After showing initial concern, his parents, Bill and Jeanne Tiedeman of Fonda, soon supported his decision to pursue this avenue. His opening gig resulted in a temporary career as bar owners came to listen, liked what they heard and scheduled him for their bars too. With the help of some savings, he was paying for rent and groceries with his earnings.

After a year of playing, Tiedeman was ready for a break from the music scene and a chance run-in at an annual basketball tournament led him back to this corner of the state to take over for head coach Dale Tokheim, who was going to Kosovo with the National Guard on a peace-keeping mission.

Sports have always been an important part of Tiedeman's life. Besides being a first-team all-district quarterback for N-F in 1999, he earned second-team All-Conference recognition as a wide receiver for Simpson in 2003. Tiedeman was a major factor in the Mustangs' state basketball championship victories in 1999 and 2000. A point guard, he finished sixth on the school's all-time steals list. In baseball, he owns N-F school records for most runs scored in one season and in one game during the 2000 season.

Tiedeman has always wanted to be a coach, though his life as a perpetual participant meant the only experience he had coaching was as a little league coach in Newell-Fonda one summer.

"His limited experience was a concern, but we knew the type of person he was. He has shown that he has great character and work ethic," Randy Galvin, S-C athletic director, said.

While everything seems to effortlessly fall into place for Tiedeman, coaching has come with its own share of struggles as he was thrown into the fire from day one. Figuring out how hard to push the small 28-member team, moving players around to fill positions and teaching the team a new offense have all been challenges. Luckily, Tiedeman has had the support of experienced assistant coaches Doug Davidson, Brandon Turnquist and Jeff DeHaan.

Besides his sideline role, Tiedeman has also stepped up to fill the role of mentor and friend to help the players cope with the deaths of Cody Claussen and Sam Collier, two of their teammates, as well as cross country runner Tony Clark, last April. Being a young coach has certainly been a benefit in this respect because he can more easily relate to the players when they need to talk.

More than his position on the field has changed as Tiedeman has been fully welcomed into the S-C pack, even though he was unable to prevent a last-minute Mustang score during the three-point loss on Sept. 14. The rivalry between N-F and S-C may have originally created doubt among the team, but it evaporated as the common bond of football overrode any differences.

"He's a Wildcat now," Galvin said. "He has the kids' respect, but he has earned it."

Tiedeman is thoroughly enjoying his position, which has rekindled his love for the sport. He does not consider coaching a job and feels a bit like a father because of the pride he takes in the growth of the players.

Following Friday night's 27-9 Homecoming win over Rockwell City-Lytton, S-C carries its record of 2-4 into this week's game against Southeast Webster-Grand (0-6) in Burnside.

While Tiedeman does not have plans for next year when he turns the team back over to coach Tokheim in the spring, he is determined to see them succeed and prove he is worthy of the confidence placed in him.

"I only have a year, it's Dale's team," he said. "But it has my stamp on it now."

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