Leo Pohlkamp said the strangest part about not being the Pierz Pioneers head football coach was where to stand during games.
Pohlkamp retired from the head coaching job after last season, but goes to every game and is one of the team’s biggest supporters.
Here’s what he had to say as he prepares to watch his Pioneers play in the Class 3A Prep Bowl Saturday, Nov. 30.
Q: After a run to last year’s state semifinals, you decided it was time to step away from the head coaching position of the Pierz Pioneers. Looking back how hard was that decision?
LP: I just felt the time was right and after 39 total years -- 33 as head and six as an assistant -- that I gave enough time so I could step down. Never easy though.
Q: How did you know it was time to retire?
LP: I felt that I couldn’t give the energy and time that’s needed and let someone else take over.
Q: Do you have any regrets about retiring or have you been enjoying the time away?
LP: No regrets, but I miss the kids and camaraderie with coaches and newspaper guys. I still attend all the games and support the team.
Q: What are some of the things you don’t miss about coaching?
LP: I don’t miss crappy weather for practices and games. Getting all the equipment ready for practice and putting away at the end.
Q: I know it was important for you to leave the program in good hands and in good shape and Pierz is headed to the Class 3A State Prep Bowl. You must be satisfied with how you left things?
LP: I had terrific assistants who have done a great job of taking the Pioneers to the Prep Bowl and I’m very proud of them. I always said it was “we not me” who led the Pioneers.
Q: How different is it watching Pierz football from the stands compared to the sidelines?
LP: It felt weird at first, like where should I stand or sit for the game. I’m getting use to it a little bit.
Q: What do you miss most about being on the sidelines?
LP: The excitement and adrenaline of the game and being near the action.
Q: The current coaching staff was all of your assistants and many former players of yours. What can you say about the job they’ve done, especially first year head coach Danny Saehr?
LP: My decision to retire was made easier because of the confidence I had in the coaches. Dan Saehr is a great leader and the players respect him and will play hard for him. Pierz coaches teach the kids to play the right way with respect and great sportsmanship
Q: While coaching continuity has been a key to Pierz’s success, in your opinion, why is Pierz such a football powerhouse?
LP: Our tradition is unbelievable and the continuity of experienced coaches is great. The players are dedicated and very focused to becoming the best they can be. We really have a tremendous coaching staff from seventh grade on up.
Q: What can you say about the players and the time they put into watching film, lifting weights and really learning and executing the coaching staff’s game plan?
LP: They are dedicated to becoming better and will put in the time it takes and we do ask a lot of them. We have great senior leadership and that is a big key so they know we have high goals.
Q: There just feels like there is this culture in Pierz, where the next team up doesn’t want to let down the teams before them. How difficult was it to create that culture and to establish what Pierz football is?
LP: We have high expectations of them and the whole town of Pierz does, too, but we have so much support from everyone. I think a lot of boys grow up excited about Pierz football.
Q: In the Class 3A State Quarterfinal at Alexandria against Perham, Pierz fans heavily outnumbered the Yellowjackets fans despite having a longer drive. What can you say about the community support for Pierz football? And we should add, it was deer hunting opener, too.
LP: You are right there -- I think deer hunting is a religion in Pierz and they will sacrifice that to support the team so that says a lot. Wonderful followers of Pierz football.
Q: Now because of a late Thanksgiving teams get two weeks to prepare for the Prep Bowl. Because of the time of year and weather outside was this a good decision by the MSHSL to push the Prep Bowl back?
LP: I’m sure they had their reasons for doing it, but it will be different for the players and coaches to be practicing longer than usual, they will be rested and the bumps and bruises can heal.\u0009
Q: I know you’re a St. Cloud State grad, but how much are you cheering for the University of Minnesota Gophers right now?
LP: They still are a favorite of mine to do well and the only Division I school so -- Row the Boat.
Q: What are your opinions of P.J. Fleck and the job he’s doing at the U?
LP: As long as the players respect him and play hard for him that is what matters most and he is a great recruiter. He has good values.
Q: The Minnesota Vikings survived the Denver Broncos Sunday, Nov. 17. Do you think Minnesota has any chance to win a Super Bowl in your lifetime?
LP: Oh, wouldn’t that be great, but they need to be more consistent from week to week.