Clayton Ridge coach retires after 22 years

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Coach Tom Krall recently retired from a successful 22-year coaching career with the Clayton Ridge School District. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Each coach has a different approach to managing a sports team. Tom Krall of Guttenberg has been perfecting his skills as a team leader since he was 15 years old. Krall recently stepped down from his 22-year coaching career with the Clayton Ridge School District. "My coaching career began the year Garnavillo and Guttenberg merged into one school district," Krall commented.  

Stepping in as a substitute was the beginning of Krall's coaching career. "I have always had a desire to be a coach since I was a kid," he noted. "My brother's Little League coach worked for Northwestern Bell when they went on strike, and was looking for someone to take over the team. He asked my dad and he said, 'My son will do it.' I was 15 at the time."

Krall started attending league meetings the following year and had a Little League baseball team of his own. "I drafted my own players and had my own team when I was 16," he said with a smile. "I didn’t think much of it, although it seemed strange to see adults coaching other teams. I just got my drivers license so I could haul equipment, and my dad was the assistant."

Cinderella story

Krall's team would come from the bottom of the pack to win the championship that year. "We had a losing record during the season and had low expectations going into the tournament," he explained. We won the tournament and beat the top team, which happened to be my uncle's team, 19-3. We were on fire. We couldn't do anything wrong that day."

The Elk Expos were rewarded with a celebration. "The local Elks Club sponsored our team and threw a big party for us. My dad even wrote a poem about the team and read it at the team party," he added. "The parents were a little leery of me. The kids on the team were 11 years old and then a long-haired sixteen-year-old comes along." 

Girls basketball

The humble coach never dreamed he would head up a team at the high school level without being a member of the teaching staff. "When Mike Sasse retired, he and Ed Dvorak encouraged me to become a coach. I attended school at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar and earned my coaching certificate," said Krall. 

The newly-certified coach began the year his daughter, Lisa, played high school basketball during the 2000 - 2001 season, and eventually coached his daughter Katie as well. For the past 20 years he has organized the annual Knights of Columbus Free Throw Tournament in Guttenberg. 

Track

In 2006, Krall seized an opportunity to coach high school track. "I got started in boys track because of my son, Jeff, who competed in the long jump. Wes Baier was the coach at the time," he remembered. "I attended all the meets, and he was alone so he would ask me to take over while he was at the shot put or wherever. They had enough kids to require an assistance so I stepped up and helped."

Krall coached boys track for four years and switched to assist the girl's team. His friends back home were surprised he was coaching track. "I was the assistant coach for the girls team for eight years, and eventually was an assistant to head coach Angie Cook. In the long run it was a pretty good deal because we won the Women's State Championship title in 2015," he proudly shared. 

Volleyball

Krall surprised himself as a women's volleyball coach. "I coached high school volleyball for eight years. I never dreamed I would. Coach Chad Connelly taught me a lot about the sport," he shared. "He used to laugh because I couldn't figure out why the players hold hands on the court before each play. They needed a freshman coach really bad, so they got me up to par. I really liked volleyball much more than I thought." 

Soccer

The diverse sports mentor also coached soccer. He credited Jim Osterhaus of Guttenberg for his involvement. "I coached soccer for seven years in the Dyersville league and the city league for the high school team. Jim got me started in it right away when I moved to town."  Back to the bases 

Coach Krall would eventually find himself back on the baseball field. "Todd Randall and Dr. Jeff Hoffmann organized a traveling Little League team for elementary and junior high students. They asked me if I wanted to be a coach, and I ended up back on the ball field," he laughed. 

Coaching philosophy

The dedicated coach shared his philosophy and told The Press, "I enjoy being around the kids. They make me feel young. For the most part everything has been good. I appreciated the camaraderie among coaches from other teams and even the referees. Coaching a game with a nice big crowd is probably the most fun. I never minded the long bus trips." 

He went on to say, "I enjoyed teaching kids not just the sport but beyond. I have had a variety of kids through the years. I always admired Ed and Sue Dvorak. I always thought they did things the right way caring about the kids." 

Krall made an effort to be fair. "I have no particular coaching style. I just always tried to make a point to be as fair as I could with the kids and to not forget the substitutes and reserves and give them a chance to play. I always tried hard to make sure everyone had some minutes. It's harder to get away with that philosophy when you are coaching varsity sports, because parents have expectations. I tried to make sure the number one kid and the number 15 kid were equal, but I am not always sure I accomplished that. I myself spent a lot of time on the bench as an athlete, so I knew patience,” he added.

All in the family

Everyone in the Krall family got a piece of the action. “I never thought it was ever a big commitment. I was going to my own kid’s games, and I always liked to be part of it,” said Krall. “We did a lot of running from here to there and everywhere. That was the way it was. My wife, Jan, who has supported and encouraged me throughout the years, was the scorekeeper when the kids were involved, and she grew up with sports so she never minded.”

Krall currently works full time at Stryten Energy in Manchester and looks forward to using his free time to attend his grandchildren’s sporting events on the sideline – this time as a spectator.

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