Ron Stolski was on a football field again Monday, teaching and coaching the game he loves, what he always does when August rolls around.
The passion still burns as the longest-tenured coach in Minnesota State High School League football history begins his 47th season as a head coach, his 34th with the Brainerd Warriors.
Stolski never imagined when he began coaching in 1962 at Kensington High School that he would be on the field almost one-half century.
"No, I couldn't have," he said. "Then again 47 years ago the only thing I wanted to be, from a vocational point of view, was a teacher and coach, and 47 years later that's still the only thing I want to do.
Brainerd Warriors football coach Ron Stolski talked to a player as practice opened Monday at Adamson Field. Stolski, beginning his 47th season, and his staff greeted 106 players in grades 10-12. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Honestly, I don't feel any less passionate about teaching football than I did at Kensington. I know a lot more now than I did then. I probably thought I knew more then than I did, that I'm certain of.
"It doesn't feel like 47 years. The only time it feels like 47 years is when I run into people who we coached, and realize, 'You played for us 30 years ago.'"
Stolski enters the season one career victory behind Verndale's Mike Mahlen (305). The state record is 307 by the retired George Larson of Cambridge. Stolski said 300-plus wins wasn't something he set out to attain, but it is a tribute to longevity.
"As a staff we never talk about it," he said. "When, and if we get there, it will be a staff thing. It's certainly not a me thing. I've always believed in letting your coaches coach.
"We have a great football staff. These guys can flat out coach. When we get wherever we get it's not me getting there, it's us getting there. When that happens, if it should happen, it's going to be a milestone that we all share."
Although there has been little change in Stolski's veteran staff, there are two new wrinkles in Warrior football, the result of the changing landscape in the funding of activities.
One change is the formation of the Brainerd Warriors Football Association. Stolski said this is the first time in his 47 years of coaching that he has had a football booster group.
"Due to the recent cuts we need to find a way to be able to continue to deliver the kind of program that, frankly, our community is accustomed to, and that's first-class, first-rate," he said.
Stolski said he was approached in years past about forming such a group, but never thought it was warranted. He said now that the need exists the group will help enhance the Brainerd football experience, program-wide, and the aid will come in the form of financial support, in-kind services and volunteering of time.
Age: Turns 69 Tuesday
Years as football coach: 47
Career record: 304-140-5 (.686)
"There are many more interested people who are going to be contacted, particularly alumni," Stolski said of the group, which has met over the summer. "It's been a fun experience. They are bright people, caring people. Obviously, we want to see that we are able to continue to run the kind of program that we have been fortunate to run for a very long time."
The other new wrinkle will be conducting a home scrimmage. Anoka and Fargo South will travel to Brainerd Aug. 23 for a scrimmage that will run from 9 a.m. to noon for sophomore and varsity teams. A freewill donation will be accepted, with proceeds going to the BWFA.
For many years, Brainerd had participated in a scrimmage at Anoka.
"Anoka was kind enough to say, 'We appreciate what you've done for us the last 25 years, and we'll come up to your place,'" Stolski said. "In addition we've got Fargo South, which is one of the better programs annually in North Dakota. It will be a great day for the fans.
"We're going to showcase three of the premier football programs (around)."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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