Troy Gauer, a Milbank High School coach and teacher was inducted into the South Dakota Football Coaches Association (SDFCA) Hall of Fame on Friday, March 26. Gauer received his award during the 29th Annual SDFCA/Sanford-Riggs Clinic in Sioux Falls.
Gauer’s football coaching career spans nearly 30 years and included a 17-year stint as the head coach at Grant-Deuel High School in Revillo. The Wildcats compiled a 115-44 record under Gauer, won eight Eastern Coteau Conference titles (1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009), five Class 9B regional championships (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007). They also collected two state Class 9B runner-up finishes, one in 2003 and one in 2007.
Gauer began his coaching career in the mid-1990s as an assistant coach for two years at Bennett County. During the past seven years, he has served as an assistant coach in Milbank, where he coached all three of his sons. He also served as the head coach for the North team in the South Dakota All-Star High School football game in 2012 and as an assistant for the North in 2002 and 2008.
He earned Region Coach of the Year awards in 1998, 2002, and 2006 and Eastern Coteau Conference Coach of the Year honors four times. He also served as president of the South Dakota Football Coaches Association from 2004 to 2006.
Coach Gauer’s wife, Natalie; sons Tanner, Riley, and Sawyer; and Tanner’s fiancé, Kerissa DeBoer, accompanied him to the SDFCA Hall of Fame award ceremony.
Reflecting on her role as a coach’s wife, Natalie says, “For Troy, and likely many coaches, coaching is much more than a job assignment. It’s a calling. The impact he made on the players and the teams’ success when he was head coach made all the time away worthwhile.”
She also recalls the many hours coaching involves behind the scenes. For the Gauers, this included washing the players’ game jerseys every Saturday. “It was something Troy wanted to do for the players, Natalie says, “but, it was probably more for their moms.” She says, “When our sons were young, they couldn’t wait to head to the football field with their dad. Then, instead of just Troy drawing plays, he had helpers. I’d find dozens of sheets around the house with X’s and O’s on them. As the boys got older, it became harder to tell whose were whose.
Although, Troy will speak to the challenges of coaching your own kids — sometimes the supper table was pretty quiet after a tough practice — the boys grew up watching their dad’s commitment to a team and felt his passion to win. They adopted his life-long love of athletics.”
If Natalie hasn’t convinced you how much football means to Troy, consider this proof. The Valley Express asked him for the word that comes to mind when he hears “football.” Here’s what he said:
“Football has been part of my life as far back as I can remember. All the neighborhood kids would meet in the empty lot next to my house in Faulkton and play Nerf football until it got dark. We played from about age seven or eight until we got into junior high and then got to play real games against other towns.
I think of high school and playing in front of packed stands and pickups lined around the outside of the fields around central South Dakota. I think of dreaming of playing in the Dakota Dome for a State Championship just like the Faulkton team from1981 did. I think of the notebook I had in college with thousands of plays I drew out as I sat in algebra and biology class. (I probably should have paid more attention to the Algebra teacher.)
I think of going to practice at SDSU and watching the players and coaches interact and thinking I wanted to do that someday. I think of fall days and getting equipment ready to hand out to eager players who can’t wait to get back on the field. I think of painting the field at Grant Deuel (even though it’s almost dark out) so it looks great for the games on Friday night.
I think of the butterflies in your gut in the locker room before you head to the field to do battle. I think of the smell of the locker room. No, I can’t describe it, but anyone who has been in a football locker room knows what I am talking about. I think about the eyes looking at me through the face masks, some scared, some eager, some wondering what is going to happen next. I think of the wins, the losses, and the bonds made between players and a coach. I think of the friends I made and lost because of the game of football.
The one thing I have never thought is that football is a job. ( Don’t tell the school board, but I would coach football for free.) To me, it isn’t a job, it’s a passion that I love.”
Convinced yet? As Coach Gauer might say, “Game over!”
Photo: Kerissa DeBoer, Tanner, Troy, Riley, Natalie and Sawyer