For nearly three decades John Schultz has roamed the halls of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School and became as familiar as the basketball hoops in the gym.
Schultz announced his retirement from teaching physical education and health at NRHEG at the end of the school year but never fear, the man who coached the Panthers to back-to-back girls basketball state championships in 2013 and 2014 and mentored several other future head coaches, will continue to pace the sidelines of the basketball court as the junior varsity and assistant coach for NRHEG next season. In fact, he’ll probably be driving the bus.
Schultz led the Panthers to three consecutive state tournament appearances from 2012-14 and a 61-game winning streak. Schultz had two stints as the head girls basketball coach. He coached the varsity from 1992 to 2000 before stepping away and taking over coaching the youth team that went on to win two consecutive state titles. He returned to the varsity program in 2010 and stepped aside following the 2014 title.
This past school year Schultz qualified for the rule of 90, the teacher’s retirement rule that allows them to retire with a full pension if their years of service and age equal 90.
“I’m not going to stay at home,” Schultz said. “I’m going to stay busy with other stuff on my own terms.”
Schultz’s hobby has always been coaching but he’s trying to get into fishing, though he admits he’s not very good at it. As an assistant girls basketball coach, Schultz will get to continue to watch his daughter Sidney play for the Panthers. Plus as a licensed bus driver, he’ll bring the team to all its road games. Schultz says he plans on picking up a bus route for the school year and substitute teach a little bit, too.
Not only did he lead the girls basketball program for a total of 12 years, he also served as the head football coach from 1993 to 2000. He stayed on as the defensive coordinator for another 18 years.
In addition to football and basketball he worked for many years as the volunteer pitching coach for the softball team, which his wife, Wendy, has coached on and off for many years.
Along the way he’s mentored coaches like NRHEG Activities Director Dan Stork, who led the football program from 2003 to 2017.
Stork did his coaching practicum at Minnesota State University, Mankato, with Schultz and later coached and taught with Schultz at NRHEG.
“I basically learned everything from John,” Stork said. “I learned a lot about coaching from John. John is very good with Xs and Os.”
Preparation is perhaps the biggest thing Stork learned from Schultz when they coached together. Schultz, Stork and Grant Berg used to watch football game film together to evaluate players and prepare for future opponents. Scouting reports ended up looking like 200-page novels, Stork said.
Prior to Stork and Berg joining the football coaching staff, Schultz took on the film work largely by himself.
“Every single Monday we watched film,” said Berg, who played for Schultz at NRHEG. “He graded every single player on every single play. He had a complete scouting report. He did that all by himself.”
Berg learned how to watch film from Schultz. The two went on to coach girls basketball together during Schultz’s second stint as head coach, as well as working together when Berg led the softball team.
“He was not a yeller, he was not a screamer, he corrected you,” Berg said. “He didn’t blame you, he just made sure the kids got the most out of their ability. He handled kids professionally.”
Berg, who has taught with Schultz for 16 years, will miss having Schultz in the building. Schultz often popped in his room to discuss basketball strategy with him.
“He’d throw some different ideas at me about the matchup zone and how to play it,” Berg said. “It’s going to be different.”
Onika Peterson took over for Schultz when he stepped down and has picked up several strategies from him through the past few years.
“He is very willing to lend his advice, things I might not see,” Peterson said. “It’s really, really nice to have assistant coaches who are opinionated and will question what you’re doing or what you’re seeing. I’ve been very lucky having him come back.”
As passionate about coaching as Schultz is, he’s just as passionate about health education, said Stork, who has spent more than half his life working with Schultz.
“He was always very organized, very passionate about health and promoting that with young people,” Stork said. “He was my own little doctor. For me, it’s going to be harder than most.”
Schultz will miss the hectic pace of teaching and coaching in retirement, but he’ll especially miss the daily interaction with his students and colleagues.
“I’ll miss keeping busy,” Schultz said. “It’s been a lot of coaching and teaching.”