Edgewood’s coach combines faith with football Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

MADISON -- For Edgewood High School football coach Al Minnaert, the start of his 23rd season is another opportunity to go beyond teaching Xs and Os, it’s a chance to teach young men about relationships.

"You'll remember wins and losses, close games, and some of those things, but the real part that matters and that they get the most out of are the relationships they establish with their classmates, their teammates, and their coaches, and if it's done the right way, even perhaps opposing players."

Minnaert, like coach Bob Ladoucuer in the movie When the Games Stands Tall, is both football coach and religion teacher at Edgewood -- teaching half of the freshman class each year.

He previously taught and coached football at the former Holy Name Seminary in Madison, where his team won the 1985 WISAA Class B state championship.

His faith is a big part of how he has coached the Edgewood Crusaders to more than 200 wins in the past two plus decades, and it starts before the lights go on Friday night.

Each year, the team's seniors pick a Scripture passage at the beginning of the season as a theme for the year. This season it's Proverbs 27:17 -- "As iron sharpen iron, so one man sharpens another."

"I try to put ownership in [the seniors'] hands," said Minnaert. "We talk a lot about the most important values, and it comes through the relationships, how they treat each other, how much they care about each other that love is the best motivating factor as opposed to fear."

At practice, the team also wears jerseys with the word "TEAM" on the front.

Minnaert said the relationships developed on the team as well as the senior leadership can lead to rewards on and off the field.

"The unique thing about football is you earn more games by winning games through the playoffs," he said. "You care for each other so much that you want to earn, as we call them 'bonus games', so you can spend more time together with your football family."

He went on to say, "What we do as a team will help make them better parents, leaders, businessmen in the community. This experience in football, the highs, the lows, and the relationships that they develop and how you treat other people will carry over into the rest of their life."

For Minnaert, prayer and thanks are essentials to success. The team has a prayer service before games and starts every practice with a prayer.

That tradition grew after one teammate, several years ago, was injured in a car crash and ended up paralyzed from the chest down.

"We're blessed with this ability to play the game," Minnaert said. "What he would give for one more day of practice. You never take anything for granted. You realize what a gift it is to be able to play the game and that you maximize this day to its fullest for your teammates and realize that what we offer back, it’s kind of our thanks."

Minnaert is also equally rewarded teaching religion as he is coaching football.

"I think all teachers, with whatever their subject matter is, want to try to bring some relevance to it," he said. "I try to get them to see the world in a way they’ve never really thought of it before. Whether it's presenting an idea in a project, to either just see things from another person’s point of view, or learning to share their point of view with others."

Edgewood's first game of the 2014 season is at home against Waunakee on Thursday, Aug. 21.


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