The Final 15
The coaches were nominated by their communities and voted on by you. Each of the Final 15 coaches’ schools received $5,000.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School, Reinbeck, IA
Coach Olson is Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s head football coach, physical education teacher and athletic director. On or off the field, Coach Olson talks about how his goal is to “not win championships, but to help raise championship kids.” He encourages kids to volunteer, to do the right thing and to be role models for the younger kids. Even though he has won state football championships, the true winners are the kids that he teaches and coaches.
Lafollette, Madison, WI
For more than a decade, Coach Green has dedicated his time and energy, heart and soul, mind and spirit to making a difference for the kids of Dane County. He coaches the girls team at LaFollette High School, and he has done everything from foster care to mentoring. He created a small business to support the community, called Mentoring Positives. He developed products from his own kitchen and marketed them in grocery stores. The proceeds go toward mentoring troubled youths to see themselves as more. More than they dreamed, more than they knew, more than they hoped for. Coach Green continues to stretch himself and the kids he works with. Reach higher, dream bigger, be more. Give back, family is everything, do your best. These are the messages he has always given, and the way he has always lived.
Portage High School, Portage, WI
Coach Engelhart is not only there for the whole team, but also there for each individual. She makes her team a second family. She’s a friend, a mentor, a tutor and a role model. She pushes each student to do their best and try their hardest at everything they do. Coach Engelhart demonstrates what it means to be a team player. Not only on the field but in the community as well, by volunteering the team to help out in many events. The cheer and dance teams have competed for state titles because of the confidence and drive she instills in them. She has grown the cheerleading team from 10 students to 30, and she has earned the school’s respect for the sport.
Wewoka Public School, Wewoka, OK
Football & Baseball
Coach Cooper is truly selfless. He's a fantastic coach who cares about his players deeply. He is more than just a coach. He is a leader, a mentor, a veteran, and a true voice for his community. Coach Cooper is a fantastic role model for his students. He helps those in need, and he works for many charitable causes. He started a non-profit, No Surrender, for those who struggle with PTSD, addiction, suicide and many other illnesses. He's always a people-first kind of guy, with a genuine desire to lead his students in the right direction.
Lewiston High School, Lewiston , ME
Soccer & Basketball
Coach McGraw is an icon at Lewiston High School, a legend who is loved by many in the school and community. He is entering his 42nd year of teaching and his 35th year as the boys soccer head coach. He always goes above and beyond for his players, and he shows them that he cares about them. He has been named League Coach of the Year six times, Maine Coach of the Year four times and New England Coach of the Year. His 2015 team ranked in the top 15 in the country by USA Today. When immigrant students started to arrive in Lewiston, Coach McGraw was one of the first people to embrace them. He met with immigrant parents and set up meetings with the community leaders. He helped give these students a home at Lewiston High School and in his soccer program. Each fall, Coach McGraw is the first person to greet the freshman class. Additionally, he runs every pep rally throughout the year. His school pride and enthusiasm are infectious. Coach McGraw has touched the lives of so many members of the Lewiston community, whether it be in the classroom or on the field.
Newman Central Catholic High School, Sterling, IL
One of the keys to keeping Newman High School vibrant for the past 40 years has been Coach Pappoccia’s successful athletics program. Coach Pappoccia doesn't just teach the sport of football. He teaches young people about God and family; he builds a sense of community, loyalty, and caring among his players who become not just a team, but a family. He stresses strong character and teamwork as the underpinnings of his successful program, and spends countless hours supporting students at school sporting events and supporting the community through acts such as a homecoming week food drive for surrounding towns. With a smile, Coach Pappoccia has dedicated his life to the community, and anyone that knows him is proud to call him a friend.
North Mahaska Community Schools, New Sharon, IA
Wrestling & Golf
Coach Groom is a hard worker. He is a very determined father, husband, teacher, volunteer fire fighter and coach. Coach Groom takes kids under his wing to make sure they become successful in school and outside it. As a teacher, Coach Groom works hard with local businesses to make sure his students get up-to-date knowledge of the latest technology. As a coach, this determination also shows up on the mat and on the field. He is very positive when coaching his athletes, and he helps them succeed. Coach Groom spends time outside of practice learning more about the sports he coaches so he can become a better coach. Coach Groom also volunteers his time at a wrestling club for younger kids, where he has helped kids get to nationals. Coach Groom loves coaching and loves to help kids succeed. As a father, Coach Groom works with his four kids to follow their dreams. In his community, Coach Groom is also a volunteer fire fighter for the city of New Sharon. Volunteering for his community is important to him. Coach Groom is well-known for always being willing to help, motivate and mentor.
Southwestern, Hazel Green, WI
Coach Wiederholt truly has a love for gymnastics and a love for helping her athletes succeed. It doesn't matter if they are new to gymnastics or if they have been in it for most of their lives, every student receives the same attention and dedication each and every day. She's been coaching since 1974 and has no plans to stop; she's too busy improving her gymnasts. Coach Wiederholt has won a number of team and individual state championship titles, coach of the year awards, and a place in the Wisconsin Hall of Fame. She also serves on coaches’ advisory councils, committees and has even worked with the WIAA (state sports organization) to bring about changes to include more gymnasts in the state tournament. In addition to coaching, she led efforts to start a nonprofit gymnastic center in her town. For over 20 years she and her gymnasts had set up the entire gymnastics gym every day, practiced for three hours, and then tore down and put away the equipment because the school did not have designated space for the gymnastics team. She also leads a number of fundraisers each year to raise funds for new equipment, leotards, and more for her students.
Thomas Jefferson High School, Council Bluffs, IA
Coach Manz, through his insistence upon character and effort, is truly changing the lives of students and the culture of Thomas Jefferson High School. He is a role model for his athletes, as well as all of his students. He sets the bar high and he gives kids the tools to reach it. As a wrestling coach, he has built up the program so much that the team has had individual state wrestling champions two years in a row, along with other wrestlers competing at the state meet. He teaches the kids grit, dedication, positive mindset, focus and resilience. They learn to put in effort every single day to achieve their goals, so when they leave his program, they know how to accomplish great things for themselves, and also how to be part of a larger community.
Mt. Abram High School, Salem Twp., ME
Soccer, Track, Skiing & Robotics
Coach Danala makes each of his athletes feel valued, so they are eager to be represent Mt. Abram High School. He opens his teams to everyone who has a desire to participate. His track team started with just a few students and has now grown to over 50 athletes of all levels. The soccer program was in need of a coach and Coach Danala stepped up to fill the position. He is also involved in the Mt. Abram summer school program, which helps at-risk and failing students get back on track. As part of that program, the students and leaders tackle a high adventure event, utilizing the vast outdoor resources in the area. Coach Danala also inspires students in the classroom. He teaches a robotics class that he started from scratch, and over the years it has grown so much that the students now compete in state competitions. Coach Danala is also the Scout Master in a local Boy Scout troop. Whether it’s in school, on the field, or throughout the greater community, Coach Danala’s jovial, caring way helps young people grow. If someone needs uplifting, Coach Danala is there.
Duncan High School, Duncan, OK
Coach Bowers is dedicated to his team, his community and the service of others. Coach Bowers has been on the leadership team for several youth mission trips, helping to repair homes for those in need. He serves as a deacon at his church. He has helped deliver summer lunches to needy children. Coach Bowers recently started a community swim team that allowed small-town and homeschool students to be part of a competitive swim team. He has grown the high school team from a few swimmers to a team with several champions. He has been the Regional Coach of the Year two years in a row. And was an All-State coach. Not long ago, he welcomed a special needs student onto his swim team. He trained her, encouraged her and cheered her on as she won gold in the Special Olympics. Later, she represented the team as the Sports Queen candidate. He recently went to a child's swim birthday party and gave a presentation on water safety and teamwork. The students respect and honor him, as he respects and honors them. As he says, "It’s not teaching them to swim, but teaching them how to be men and women."
Foxcroft Academy , Dover Foxcroft , ME
Soccer & Wrestling
Coach Luis Ayala has coached varsity soccer and wrestling at Foxcroft Academy for the past eighteen years. Coach Ayala also coaches the youth soccer teams, travel teams and K-12 wrestling. Each year, he coaches 250 children. He is a coach who leads by example, is passionate about teaching life lessons that extend far beyond the soccer field and wrestling mat, and treats all of his athletes as if they were his own children. The youth wrestling program was completely established and has been sustained by fundraising efforts by Coach Ayala and he believes if athletes are given the tools to succeed, they will. Coach Ayala has seen his teams win conference, regional and state championships. He has been voted Conference and State Coach of the Year four times and has amassed over 400 team wins. His former athletes frequently return to visit and thank Coach Ayala for pushing them to succeed in the classroom, on the field, on the mat and in their future goals and ambitions—wherever that might take them. Truly, this small—town coach has not only made a positive impact on the community, but an impact that has been felt worldwide.
Holmen High School, Holmen, WI
Coach Kowalski goes above and beyond just football. He teaches the team about brotherhood. As a team, all players matter and work together, whether that is on the field, running laps or completing school work. Coach Kowalski has started a program where the players do team building and drills with local ROTC members, and he takes the time to get to know the players and their parents. He teaches the students about showing others respect and making good choices. In the classroom, Coach Kowalski teaches social studies, world geography, history and driver’s ed. In his off time, he volunteers a lot of his time supervising the weight room and putting on strength and conditioning programs for all athletes. He is a positive role model keeps a cool head regardless of the game outcome. He strives to make every game a positive experience, making his players better people.
Milton High School, Milton, WI
Wrestling and Baseball
Along with teaching social studies, Coach Jauch is also the wrestling coach. He has also started coaching high school baseball and youth wrestling for the city. He is always giving of himself and never asking for anything in return. His community is enriched by his dedication to his faith, which he uses to support a men's shelter, lead a men's study group at his church and hold an ongoing bible study for high school students. He puts in countless hours as a coach, as a student council advisor and as a mentor. Coach Jauch has dedicated his life to teaching his students and athletes, not only knowledge and skills, but responsibility and accountability. Although winning is always the goal, he focuses on character building. He teaches them the values of hard work and selflessness, and the importance of being a kind, caring human being who never gives up on themselves or on others. He shows empathy to kids going through tough times by spending extra time with them. He doesn't judge, he supports. He doesn't let kids settle or take the easy way out. He teaches kids to overcome adversity and to be humble in both success and defeat.
Pekin High School, Packwood, IA
Cross Country, Girls Basketball & Boys Track
Coach Eidahl has coached for 53 years and has had great success. He has received numerous State Coach of the Year awards for both cross-country and track and field, he’s been a National Coach of the Year, and was the first cross-country coach to receive the Golden Plaque of Distinction from the Girls High School Athletic Union. These awards show his dedication to the sport, but very few know what he does behind the scenes for his community and students. Coach Eidahl buys shoes, spikes, sweats and meals for kids who can't afford them. He has also spent over 20 years organizing girls’ youth basketball teams and hosting tournaments to get more young girls participating in basketball in the community. One of the most kind and generous things Coach Eidahl has done for countless years is organize a Turkey Trot road race. It is the longest running race in Iowa, and all the money helps a local family in need. In the past few years, recipients have included two students who have had organ donations, and a janitor who needed back surgery. Coach Eidahl doesn't want the recognition. He loves his school, his community, his athletes and his students.