BREAKING: Butch Pedersen named national Football Coach of Year
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 11, 2018

A national coaching group on Jan. 10 named West Branch High School Head Football Coach Butch Pedersen its football Coach of the Year.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association issued a press release this afternoon honoring the 35-year head coach among coaches in 22 other sports.

"I'm truly honored to receive this award," Pedersen said Thursday. "I know a lot of great football coaches in the state and the nation, and I've been blessed with a lot of outstanding assistant coaches, players, parents, community supporters, students and family who have made my time at West Branch a successful one."

The NFHS selects 23 sports to recognize coaches on a national level. The group selects the top 10 boys and top 10 girls sports by participation numbers, plus two other sports not in the top 10, plus presents one "spirit coach" of the year.

John Hierseman played for West Branch's first state-champion team in 1989 and now serves as the team's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He said Pedersen's longevity and leadership style likely contributed to the honor.

"That's great he got recognized for how many years he's done this," Hieresman said. "The lives he's touched, the kids who played for him, the kids now coaching for him — it's a great testament for what he's done."

The NFHS receives nominations from state sports groups, like the Iowa High School Football Coaches Association, which sends profile forms to high school coaches and athletic directors. The forms ask about win-loss records, affiliation with professional groups, involvement with school and community activities, and coaching philosophy.

Under Pedersen, the Bears won 296 games and lost 74 with the end of the 2017 season, winning 80 percent of 370 games in 35 years. He has also served as head or assistant coaches for other sports, from middle school to high school, like basketball and softball. The football team won three state championships, made nine semi-final appearances, and won 19 conference or district titles with Pedersen at the helm.

Hieresman said his accomplishments certainly helped, but his way with the players and coaching staff ought to play a part.

"I don't know who nominated him, but if they know him as a person, they'll know how he is with other coaches and other kids," he said. "He's the first one there to pat them on the back, tell them they did a good job and pick them back up. That's his biggest strength, how to motivate kids and push them hard. It's easy to talk about, but not easy to do in the heat of the moment."

West Branch Community School Superintendent Kevin Hatfield congratulated Pedersen and called the recognition "awesome."

"He deserves that," Hatfield said, noting Pedersen's long years. "Butch is so instrumental in the community in so many ways and he influences so many kids. It is well deserved. It is amazing what he has endured and how he has connected, and his influence on a lot of younger coaches."

Pedersen said the long tradition of football started before he took over for Head Coach Tom Nosbish, who retired after the 1982 season.

"It's a program thing for me," he said. "If it wasn't for (the West Branch Times), coaches, players, the school district, fans and family, it wouldn't have been possible," he said. "And West Branch should share in this with me. West Branch should share in this great football program. This has been a football town for a long time."

The Bears coach said he remembered filling out a profile form, given to him by the Iowa High School Football Association, during the football season, but did not know it would get passed on to multiple national groups considering coaches for honors.

He reiterated his family being "very, very supportive" in his coaching career.

Pedersen said he remembers his high school football coach, Roger Hansen, instilling in his mind how to coach.

"When I look back, I think of young coaches and when I was a young kid," Pedersen said. "(Coach Hansen) set the stage for a lot of my philosophy. He was very organized and a very strict disciplinarian. He demanded the best and I tried to follow that and encourage kids to be as good as they can be."

He said that mindset works and athletes responded to that.

"To be really successful, they knew they had to play above (what they thought was) their ability," he said. "They would not want to disappoint anybody when they play football at West Branch. These are a bunch of kids who do extra things, who have that extra heartbeat, to excel in this sport. This is the ultimate team sport. Eleven players have to be in great condition, and they have to be fearless to make a play."

The NFHS's press release states that a committee evaluates candidates based on their particular section of the country, then compares them again on a national scale on a point system. Another 644 coaches will receive sectional and state awards.

Other recipients of this year’s national awards for boys sports are: Eloy Brazil, basketball, Maxwell (New Mexico) Municipal Schools; Eric Cummings, cross country, Greer (South Carolina) Riverside High School; Don Fosselman, soccer, Parkersburg (West Virginia) High School; Thomas Gladd, golf, Voorheesville (New York) Clayton A. Bouton High School; Robert Gonzales, wrestling, Manhattan (Kansas) High School; Thomas Loy, track and field - outdoor, East Canton (Ohio) High School; Charles Nelson, tennis, Florence (South Carolina) West Florence High School; Craig Phillips, baseball, Fort Plain (New York) Central School; and Michael Venos, swimming and diving, Bloomfield Hills (Michigan) Brother Rice High School.

The recipients of the 2017 NFHS national awards for girls sports are: Michael Ahrens, swimming and diving, Bettendorf (Iowa) High School; Bruce Cooper, golf, Hoisington (Kansas) High School; Janet Frazier, volleyball, Elizabeth (West Virginia) Wirt County High School; Johnette Goldman, cross country, Heber Springs (Arkansas) High School; Gwyneth Pinta, lacrosse, Columbus (Ohio) Upper Arlington High School; David Rosenthal, soccer, Iowa City (Iowa) Iowa City West High School; Kevin Ryan, track and field - outdoor, Bellingham (Washington) Sehome High School; Karen Self, basketball, Chandler (Arizona) Seton Catholic Prep; Kristie Stevens, tennis, Tucson (Arizona) Catalina Foothills High School; and Gene Victor, softball – fast pitch, Albuquerque (New Mexico) Cibola High School.

The recipient of the National Coach of the Year Award for spirit is Jeffrey Siegal of Buffalo Grove (Illinois) High School. John Todd, a lacrosse coach at Hingham (Massachusetts) High School, was chosen in the “other” category for boys sports, and Ann Naughton, a field hockey coach at Saint James (New York) Smithtown High School East was chosen in the “other” category for girls sports.

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