Prep Football

West Central's Steve Milder starting 47th season on football sideline

Ogden column: He's stll excited after all these years

Veteran West Central football coach Steve Milder works with some players several years ago in Maynard. Milder is starting his 41st season at West Central today. (Waterloo Courier)
Veteran West Central football coach Steve Milder works with some players several years ago in Maynard. Milder is starting his 41st season at West Central today. (Waterloo Courier)

If baseball players are the “boys of summer,” Steve Milder is a man of fall.

It may be early August, but the 66-year-old Milder has coaching football on his mind — for the 47th straight year.

Monday is the first official day the majority of high schools in Iowa can start practice. A handful of teams with Week 0 games started last week.

Milder is starting his 44th year as a head football coach, his 41st at West Central High School in Maynard. He still gets excited this time of year.

“When I’m not fired up to start, it’s time to quit doing it,” Milder said last week.

Many of Milder’s peers have stepped away from the game, for a variety of reasons — the time commitment has increased, too much parent “involvement” or changes in the game.

Milder has a simple explanation for staying put.

“The kids,” he said.

You see, in a day and age when many feel the “kids” aren’t has dedicated and their parents get too involved, Milder sees things differently.

“If they want to get better, I’ll work with them,” he said.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the 11-player game he grew up playing and coaching or the 8-player game he teaches now.

Milder is there for those kids.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Everybody talks about how kids have changed,” he said. “Kids haven’t changed. Kids want to be good.

“The big thing we have to do is figure out how to help them get there. ... You have to talk to them, help guide them.”

Maybe that’s the counselor in Milder coming out — another job he still holds at West Central — or maybe it’s the coach who has seen about everything in this small Eastern Iowa community where he and his wife, Marsha, raised two children and now keep an eye on three grandchildren.

Milder has had some great years. He directed the Blue Devils to a runner-up finish in the Class 1A state tournament in 1978, his first year on the job. Nearly 20 years later, in 1997, West Central won the Class A state title.

He’s taken 16 teams to the playoffs, including six since 2000.

But he’s also been through some lean years, including a few between that state runner-up and state championship.

And you know what? “Nobody was out yelling for the coach to be fired,” he said.

Unlike some of his coaching peers, Milder said he has no problem with parent involvement. He actually encourages it — to a point.

“I’m not going to talk about somebody else’s kid,” he said. “Parents are not your enemy.”

Milder is going through some more lean years right now. The Blue Devils haven’t won a game since beating Cedar Valley Christian, 63-18, in 2015. This season will start Aug. 24 with a 21-game losing skid.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

“We’ve had a run of bad luck,” he said, noting numbers have been down (there are only 29 boys in high school this fall). “We really don’t have people behind people.”

He’s not making excuses. He’s not going to stop coaching those who want to get better.

“We’ve just got to make do with what we have,” he said. “We get the most out of what we’ve got.

“You coach kids up and you do the best you can.”

But, he admits, “it’s probably not as pretty of football as we’d like.”

Milder ranks eighth among active coaches with his 235 career wins, 25th all time. He only thought “for a moment” about hanging it up.

“If the kids didn’t want to show up for practice. If the kids didn’t want to get better, I wouldn’t be there,” he said.

Milder will there today.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.