Competitions are ultimately won and lost because of how the competitors perform. Whether it is football, volleyball, one-act play or speech, whoever executes the best is going to win nine times out of ten. One of the differences in good and great execution is confidence and a belief in what is being done. Two years ago, the Jordan football program struggled through a 2-7 season – their 3rd straight season without a playoff victory. Belief in the program was not high. When head coach Bo Wasurick came to town in 2016 Jordan started to believe.
Wasurick grew up in Green Bay Wisconsin.
“I started working at Packers’ games when I was ten years old,” Wasurick said. “That town breeds a passion for football. I fell in love with the sport.”
After high school, Wasurick would play for the Minnesota Gophers and then some arena football where his official coaching career would start. His unofficial coaching career began much earlier.
“I went to a private school for my senior year, and my coach then let me take the outside linebackers once in a while – and coach that group myself,” Wasurick said. “I knew what I was doing, and my coach respected that. Looking back on it now, I realized I had a passion for coaching even back then.”
It would take some time before the future head coach – who initially was a business major – would act on that passion.
“It took until my senior year (of college) before a professor pulled me aside and told me teaching would be a good fit. I went back to Wisconsin and got an emergency teaching license and started teaching right after graduation.”
With teaching now in his future, looking back at his playing career made coaching football an obvious path.
“(As a player) I learned I liked seeing other people succeed more than scoring myself.”
Wasurick’s father and two college coaches had important influences on his coaching philosophy.
“I learned a lot from my dad. He is a passionate person, believes in who he is and works extremely hard. He has been my main influence,” Wasurick explained. “Then I played for Glen Mason and before that Jim Wacker – two of the most polar opposite types of head coaches you could ever have. Just seeing how bad Mason was at some things and how great he was at others; the same thing with Coach Wacker. He was terrible at certain things but unbelievable at others. If I could fall somewhere right between those two, it would be a great place to be.”
Wasurick coached in Wisconsin for a few years before coming back to the University of Minnesota to get his masters. He took a job in Chisago Lakes and coached there for two years.
“While I was in Chisago Lakes I got into some minor league football with the St. Paul Pioneers. It was a page right out of Slap Shot. I was a player/coach. I would call plays while I was playing tight end. I got to test out some things coaching-wise that I believed and wanted to dabble in a little bit.”
While in Chisago Lakes, Wasurick was ready to start his teaching and coaching career, but he hit a snag.
“I took my teaching exam to get my full-time teaching license, and the testing agency said I failed my test,” Wasurick told northstarfootballnews..com. “Going into my third year at Chisago Lakes I had to call the principle and tell him I didn’t pass my test. He said they had to go in a different direction with the job. They couldn’t wait for me. Three months later I got a phone call from the testing agency saying they screwed up and didn’t accurately score my test and I did pass. That led to some frustration with the educational system. I didn’t know if I wanted to get back into it.”
He took a few years working other jobs before he realized despite his early frustrations he was a teacher and a coach.
“I wanted to coach at the highest level possible, so my wife and I packed up the car and went down to Texas.”
By his third year at a Texas high school, he was an offensive coordinator. He spent eight years coaching football at Flower Mound High School.
“We had some success. We took a program that came from nothing, and in 2010 we had one of the best offenses in the country.”
Soon he was back in Minnesota with stops in Rockford and then Chisholm. When his oldest son got to middle school, it was time for the Wasurick family to settle into a community. That community ended up being Jordan.
Message Sent, Message Received
Wasurick knew he had to get started right away.
“I started subbing in Jordan the spring before I took over. My four kids and I moved back before my wife did. My wife had to stay behind four more months to finish her nursing degree. We moved back because I had to start meeting with the kids and the coaches. I had to start getting things going.”
The new coach had some work to do getting his message through to the players.
“There was a hard barrier to break down at first. You could tell the players felt like all I am is Coach. I should only be asking them about football. They didn’t see a connection that I might care about them as a person.”
It didn’t take long to take hold, but Wasurick’s message wasn’t received well by all the players coming off a two-win season.
“Our first meeting with all the kids before the year I said we can beat any team in the state,” the former Gopher recalled. “We are good enough to win a state championship with this football team. One of our receivers was sitting right in front. He smirked about it and kind of laughed about it and (sarcastically) said ‘oh yeah, let’s go win State guys.’ I didn’t say anything but I just re-iterated that the guys are as good as anyone in the state. I said we need to get better, but the difference between being good and great is not as big as you guys think it is.”
Later in the year, the sarcastic receiver was one of the primary vocal believers in the coach and the team.
“Just seeing those guys transform their attitude throughout that year, they started to see success,” Wasurick said. “That made this year kind of easy from the start. Everybody was on board.”
One of the first things Wasurick stressed with the kids was the Hubmen’s football team should not settle for good enough – not on the football field and not in life.
“There is a lot more in life that they can be than what they are being told daily,” Wasurick said. “Daily it gets pushed on them to get a safe job, get a paycheck and everything will be good. In our program, we talk about pursuing greatness. We define greatness as being the best version of ourselves that we can be.”
That philosophy also defines the football program’s new attitude.
“As a team, we are a great team if we are the best version of ourselves that we can be,” Wasurick commented. “As coaches, we ask the players to be the best version of themselves that they can be. We have a player like Marlon Wiley who is a state 100-meter champion. For him to be the best version of himself, he needs to dominate every time he is out on the football field because that is who he is. Then you have a kid likeTaylor Stroh – he is 5’4″ and weighs 130 pounds. He runs down on kickoffs for us as a sophomore on varsity because he puts everything he has – he is the best version of himself that he can be right now. Our job as coaches is to teach kids what they can accomplish in life.”
Wasurick knows there is a thin line between being confident and being cocky and he wants his kids to walk as close to that line as possible. If Wasurick didn’t do that as a player and as a coach, he – nor the Jordan football program – would be where they are today.
“Whenever any one of our players takes the field they have to believe they are the best player on the field. When I played for the University of Minnesota we played Michigan in The Big House,” Wasurick said. “I am on the punt team, and Charles Woodson’s the punt returner. He wins the Heisman Trophy that year. In my mind, I am constantly telling myself I am the best player on the field because I have to because if I didn’t believe that, then I wasn’t going to go down there and make a tackle. Not only did I have to tell myself that; I had to believe that I am the best player out here. We have to get our players to believe that.”
They also need to believe in the schemes the coaches put together. Jordan’s pass first, no-huddle offense started by taking concepts Wasurick had seen playing under Jim Wacker and was honed during his time in Texas.
“We are going to throw the ball around a lot – we threw it a lot this year, but that is who we had,” Wasurick said. “We had a kid who could chuck it. The year before we had a quarterback who was a good runner, so we ran that ball with him more. (Regardless of the quarterback) we try to go fast, and we try to go wide open.”
“Defensively,” Wasurick continued, “we try to be multiple in our looks – trying to move a lot in coverage to keep people guessing. We want to get pressure on the quarterback and be sound in eleven assignment teaching.”
Third and five is key for the Hubmen.
“I tell the kids all the time that for us to dominate, we need to dominate the third and five situation,” Wasurick explained. “We have to own that. They can’t get a third and five on us defensively, and offensively we look at third and five as a gimme.”
On the practice field, the coaching staff installs those principles a little bit at a time. Why? They only stay on one thing for a few minutes at a time.
“Every practice is on a clock,” Wasurick said. “We are on five minutes segments in everything we do. We are never in one spot more than ten minutes. Kids’ attention spans don’t last more than ten minutes, so we have to keep things moving.”
“We coach the positive as much as we coach the negative,” the head coach continued. “That doesn’t mean we have to sugar coat things and hug the kids up, but we need to point out to kids when they do things right. We constantly try to coach every aspect we can without beating the kids into the ground. It is constant reinforcement and constant correction of everything we do.”
The players will hear the same message – from the same people – their entire high school career.
“The way we do our freshman, JV and varsity practice is we have one staff that coaches all three teams,” Wasurick explained. “We run a split practice. The freshmen and sophomores will go start practice on defense, and the juniors and seniors will start practice on offense. Halfway through practice, we will flip and will go through the same thing. As coaches it is kind of Groundhog’s Day – coaching everything twice – but for the kids, we think it is a huge advantage that the varsity coaches have position specific coaching for the kids all the way from freshmen to their senior year. We think over the next few years we are going to see the results from that.”
There is a reason behind everything on the practice field.
“We don’t do drills just to do drills,” Wasurick stated. “I ask why are we doing this drill instead of that drill? Why are we doing this drill before that drill? We don’t condition as a team. We expect to get it during practice. We have a two-hour practice. If you are going hard enough, that should be enough to get your conditioning. We don’t just get on a line and run. We don’t feel that is the best use of our time.”
Jordan is set up to have success long-term. They graduate just seven seniors off a team that advanced to the state semi-finals. Wasurick knows they can’t survive long-term with consistently small classes. The support system is in place to ensure seven-player classes are the exception – not the rule. In addition to having most of the football coaches in the classroom, Wasurick works in the Jordan community center that runs the youth programs in the area. How the program runs on the field could be the most significant recruiting tool in their arsenal.
“I believe in playing a lot of guys. We are going to start next season with twenty-two starters. Some of the starters might be backups on the other side of the ball, but some might not be. We will play other guys on special teams. If we are not utilizing forty guys on game day, then what is the point of bringing fifty guys to the game? The more guys you can play in games consistently the more you can keep them excited and involved in the program then it encourages more people to stay in the program and feel like they are a valued member of the team.”
The staff is still evolving, but Wasurick has put together a staff he feels will keep those kids and program improving.
“Scott Hennen is the assistant head coach. He has been in the area for a long time. He is the guy who helps me keep everything together,” the soon to be third year Jordan head coach said. “He is plugged into the community. Ozzie Sand is our offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He helps me with the weight room workouts and is my sounding board with a lot of things. Our secondary coach – Brian Heller – has taken our secondary to the next level. Nick Casterton is our special teams’ coordinator. He is our Swiss Army knife guy – he does everything for us that nobody notices but if it is not done everyone notices it has not been done.”
They will be coaching a staff coaching an experienced and talented group in 2018.
“Thomas Gutzmer is our center and will be a four-year starter for us. Ryan Friedgescaught 73 balls for us last year. He is the glue that keeps everything together,” the former Gophers’ tight end said. “Defensively our leading tackler – Noah Schmitt – is coming back. He recorded 26 tackles in the semi-finals against Pierz. Jon Huss was our second leading tackler at middle linebacker. We are looking for him to have a big year.”
Wasurick is looking for more than a big year for the Jordan program. He has already changed how the Jordan community views the football program. Next, he hopes to change the state’s perception.
“I tell our community all the time I want this program to be the best in the state. When people think about athletics everyone thinks about schools like Eden Prairie. They are good at everything – well they haven’t always been; they started somewhere. I want that to be us. When someone asks, ‘how to build a program?” I want them to think, ‘what did Jordan do?’ They are doing something right. We want to be the leaders. In the state playoffs last year some people were asking ‘where the heck is Jordan?’ I want to become a program people expect to be there in the end and in turn hopefully helps our kids get opportunities in the future.”
Those are high goals for a program that just three seasons ago won two games, but Wasurick has the community and more importantly – the kids – believing.