Column: Chilton Coaches Starting Culture Change to Unify Athletic Program


Lukas Halbach

Photo submitted by Lukas Halbach
Senior Lukas Halbach puts up a three-point shot attempt versus Roncalli. Besides playing basketball, Halbach ran cross country his freshman and sophomore years before switching to playing football. And he’s currently competing on the baseball diamond in his final high school sports season.

Chilton Activities Director Mr. Corey Behnke received an email in January 2020, from Mr. Jim McClowry about a coaches workshop that he runs. Mr. McClowry is currently the athletic director for Appleton West High School and was previously the AD at schools such as Kaukauna High School and Sun Prairie High School.

One of the similarities between these schools is that over time their sports programs have been some of the best in the state.

     “This doesn’t just come by getting a couple lucky classes of athletes or great coaching. Sustained athletic excellence comes from the culture of the school, and that is something,” said Mr. Behnke. “Coach McClowry doesn’t just bring (winning culture) to the schools he is at. It is something that he offers to teach to other schools in the form of this coaches workshop.”

     Thanks to the Chilton Booster Club, Mr. Behnke was able to get the funding to bring in Mr. McClowry. All coaches within the district were invited to this four-session workshop that has taken place over the last few weeks. The goal was to attempt a restart and to build a program that is well respected and, most importantly, well cultured.

The Chilton athletic program hasn’t necessarily been bad over the course of time, but as Mr. Behnke said, “We are not one program.”

Chilton sports have never been looked at as one of the premiere programs in the state. This is in part caused by so many different focuses between coaches in the various sports. There is no consistency in the program. In one sport the coach will emphasize hustle and hard work, some coaches will focus on doing anything to win, and in some cases athletes are just expected to show up and be there.

That isn’t how programs such as Kaukauna and Sun Prairie are built, and this was what Mr. McClowry came to teach Chilton coaches. He emphasized a missions-based athletic program where there is one central language and every sport shares common ground.

This is a very necessary change, being able to look back and see an athletic program that has pride in what they do and work for nothing but excellence. All coaches in every sport are now working toward a central mission and five “pillars” that the entire program will be built off of. The “pillars” are five central values that are to be carried out and preached in all sports by all coaches. This will help all coaches to have a say in the type of culture that is built.

“The coaches workshop really helped push me as a coach,” Mrs. Leah Cisler, the varsity volleyball coach, said. “Being able to hear about coaching from a different perspective — and not just in a volleyball perspective, but in a general coaching perspective — will help not just push me, but hopefully all the other coaches in the program.”

Coaches had to do activities such as building a pie chart with all the parts of

an ideal athlete. And they received a list of ten things that are important in coaching, such as using the athlete’s name, being truthful and having an “I love you attitude.”

All of these are very important in trying to gain the respect of the athlete. As an athlete myself, knowing a coach respects and trusts me makes it easier to give them 100 percent effort, knowing they won’t waste it.

Time management, or intentional lesson planning as Mr. McClowry put it, is important not just for coaches to have the ability to get done what they want to, but for the athletes to be able to see the bigger picture. All athletes including myself have personal lives outside of sports, and when we’re told to do something that we think might be wasting time, it makes it harder to do it to the fullest.

When coaches tell their athletes to do a drill and they explain why, it motivates and continues to reassure athletes to keep going. Practicing just for the sake of practicing doesn’t help anyone. Mr. McClowry even challenged all the coaches of Chilton to have practice go until 5:00 instead of 5:30 or 5:45 in order to better manage their time and really make all the time in practice pay off.

If all student-athletes and even some students start to get on the same page, the support at all events — swim meets, baseball games, cross country meets, etc. — will grow, making it more fun and fulfilling for not just athletes, but parents and others in the crowd, too.

The coaches have already bought in to the culture change. Now, it’s time for the student-athletes to step up by being open to this change and buying in. If both parties are on the same page, the sky is the limit for Chilton athletics.