Braxton Scott hits a few balls with his father, Ron, in the basement of their Greeley home. Ron began coaching flag football after Braxton signed up for the city’s recreation league. Dan England/for BizWest

Execs combine work with coaching sports

Ron Scott’s first son, Braxton, signed up for flag football, and the prospect excited him. Scott was looking forward to going to games, playing catch in the backyard and maybe even sharing relevant stories from his days playing for the University of Northern Colorado’s football team in the late 1990s, when they were a superpower in Division II.

The one thing he didn’t want to do was coach.

Scott, 40, now spends more time than he ever thought he would as the coach of his son’s flag football team, after recreation staff for the city of Greeley asked him to do it because they didn’t have a coach. He’s coached for five years, and it’s a big part of his life now, even as he balances work with High Country Beverage, a beer distributor, and his own admitted competitive spirit, the kind that allowed him to play with other great athletes in college.

“It is hard because you want to win, even at 5-year-old flag football,” Scott said and laughed. “You have to be OK with a kid dropping a pass. Not everyone is at a great skill level, but all you have to do is just show them a few things.

“It’s a lot less pressure than what I was used to, but I love it.”

Most hesitate, as Scott did at first, to get into coaching for many reasons. Time, of course, is the most obvious, even with (mostly correct) reassurances that they won’t have to spend more than a few hours a week to be successful. But there are other reasons, including those who think they don’t have enough experience at a sport to coach. Not everyone, after all, played fullback in college, as Scott did.

“The biggest goal is to make sure they have fun,” said Jerod Cronquist, recreation supervisor for the city of Greeley. “If they want to play next year, you did your job.”

The city of Greeley had 264 youth sports teams, and typically Northern Colorado departments from major cities have more than 250 as well. The teams include Jr. Nuggets basketball, soccer, volleyball, tee-ball and all the collaborate middle school sports programs with Greeley/Evans School District 6, in addition to the NFL flag football that Scott coaches. A majority of the teams had two or more volunteer coaches, so the city had approximately 530 helping out.

“We completely depend on them to run these programs,” Cronquist said.

The city does provide equipment as well as some training, another reason why experience isn’t necessary to be a coach.

“We try not to just turn them loose and say good luck,” he said.

The city also provides one free registration for every head coach, a new carrot that’s helped increase the number of volunteers, he said.

Most coaches are parents, but not all of them, Cronquist said. Some retired coaches still enjoy helping out in a relaxed setting, and UNC has a coaching major and minor, which helps bring students out.

There are also residents who just want to coach: Ryan Reynolds, 37, does not have kids, but he coaches track for the Fort Collins recreation leagues. He was looking for something to do in 2008 and enjoyed working in youth camps in high school and with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in college. He played track and basketball in high school and remembered growing up in a tiny town in Montana, where a farmer in between harvests tried to coach his teams, making him appreciate anyone who had the knowledge to help him really learn the games.

“We never really had actual coaches,” Reynolds said, “and I know it’s hard, that the city is always looking for coaches, so I wanted to help.”

He now is the head coach chairman for the state for Colorado Association of Recreational Athletics (almost all know it as CARA), a paid position, in addition to his work as a foreman for Gregory Electric of Loveland. He still enjoys coaching track when he can. He eventually had to give up basketball a couple of years ago because of his two jobs. It takes time, but Reynolds sees it as a break from his busy life, not something that adds to it.

“It’s a good escape,” Reynolds said, “and something way different than what I do every day.”

Matthew Vonderhaar, 35, also does not have children, but he’s coached in the Fort Collins recreation programs for years.

“I played sports my whole life, and I like being around it,” said Vonderhaar, who coaches middle school boys and girls basketball.

Vonderhaar is competitive — he loves to remind people that he won both the boys and girls city league last year — but he considers coaching a way to give back to the community. He also works for ABC Supply, a construction supply company.

“I just ask that the kids have fun and goof around and I can babysit,” Vonderhaar said, “or we can take the knowledge I’ve learned and try to win.”

Most parents support his philosophy, he said, because the lessons carry on through life. In fact, he’s had the core of his team for a couple of years now.

“Learning how to win is simply trying harder and making extra effort and doing the small plays,” he said.

Scott wants to win, too, but he also tries to play everyone — even if they drop a pass — and keeps a chart to ensure every player touches the ball at least once a game.

“It’s a handoff if nothing else,” Scott said. “It’s no fun to go through a game and never get the ball.”

Scott’s had the same six kids on his team for years, including Braxton’s best friend, whose father helps coach as well. But he always gives the same speech at the beginning of the year.

“I tell them ‘I’m not yelling,’” he said. “I’m just loud. I care more about how hard they try over how good they are.”

Scott’s glad he had the opportunity to coach, even if, at first, he didn’t want to do it.

“I think it binds you more with your kid,” he said. “It’s rewarding.”

Four tips on how to coach

  1. Don’t worry if you haven’t played — The younger teams, especially, need someone to organize everything more than teach a press defense.
  2. Fun is the key — Most programs want you to coach a fun team, not a winning one. If those are one and the same, great, but as long as the kids have fun, you’ve done your job.
  3. Ask for help — Most parents are willing to jump in. They may just need a little encouragement.
  4. Ask if coaches need help — Most coaches want someone to jump in. They just need someone to ask.

Ron Scott’s first son, Braxton, signed up for flag football, and the prospect excited him. Scott was looking forward to going to games, playing catch in the backyard and maybe even sharing relevant stories from his days playing for the University of Northern Colorado’s football team in the late 1990s, when they were a superpower in Division II.

The one thing he didn’t want to do was coach.

Scott, 40, now spends more time than he ever thought he would as the coach of his son’s flag football team, after recreation staff for the city of Greeley asked him to do it because they didn’t have a coach. He’s coached for five years, and it’s a big part of his life now, even as he balances work with High Country Beverage, a beer distributor, and his own admitted competitive spirit, the kind that allowed him to play with other great athletes in college.

“It is hard because you want to win, even at 5-year-old flag football,” Scott said and laughed. “You have to be OK with a kid dropping a pass. Not everyone is at a great skill level, but all you have to do is just show them a few things.

“It’s a lot less pressure than what I was used to, but I love it.”

Most hesitate, as Scott did at first, to get into coaching for many reasons. Time, of course, is the most obvious, even…