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John Walsh returns to Somerset as athletic director

John Walsh

John Walsh has seen all sides of Somerset athletics.

He was an athlete first, graduating from Somerset High School in 1984, in a prep career where he played basketball, football, track and baseball. From 1991-94, Walsh served as the boys basketball coach at Somerset High School.

Now he will see the Spartan athletic program from the administrative standpoint. He was hired as the new Director of Activities at Somerset High School at the July 7 meeting of the Somerset Board of Education. He started his new job the next day.

Walsh, 48, is returning to Somerset after serving as an English teacher for nearly 20 years at Osceola High School. He also spent 15 years coaching the Osceola boys basketball program. He led the team to 123 Middle Border Conference wins in that time period, the second most among the MBC teams. He led Osceola to the only state tournament appearance in team history in 2001. He stepped down from coaching in 2012.

Walsh’s main roles in the district will be leading all activities and athletics. He will be in charge of Community Education. He will also assist with the daily management at the high school.

Until now, Walsh said he’s only considered pursuing a principal’s license. He said he’s now set getting the license as a personal goal.

“I want to see how my career can evolve in a school climate,” he said.

Walsh said he’s always gravitated toward responsibilities that came under the umbrella of being an athletic director. It started in college, at UW-Green Bay, where he was a student manager under legendary coach Dick Bennett. Serving with the NCAA Division 1 program took Walsh all over the country, getting to meet such basketball dignitaries as Don Haskins and Paul Westhead.

Walsh got further exposure to the college ranks after he completed his seasons of coaching in Somerset. He went to UW-River Falls and spent three seasons as an assistant coach under Rick Bowen.

“He is a master at leading, building relationships with people, and coaching,” Walsh said of Bowen.

While Walsh has stepped away from coaching, the intensity of his interest in athletics hasn’t diminished. He said he’s ready for the responsibilities his new position offers.

“I still love the dynamics of sports. I have great desire to support success here. This is a place I’ve always loved,” Walsh said.

Walsh said he’s fortunate to take over an athletic program where most of the teams are performing at a high level. Five Somerset teams won Middle Border Conference championships in the 2013-14 school year. He said the pattern of success is due to the efforts of coaches, athletes and community members.

“One thing impressive about Somerset is the volunteer base,” he said, noting the money saved through the volunteer efforts has left more funding available for equipment and other necessities.

With the number of younger coaches in the system, Walsh relishes the opportunity to serve as a mentor in helping those coaches adjust to the demands they’ll face. Because he’s moving into a new position in an educational system, Walsh also has been assigned a mentor. Former Somerset athletic director Brad Nemec will serve in that role.

Walsh is heavily invested in character education. He has completed the studies of the “InSideOut Coaching” system by Joe Ehrmann, which is a cutting edge program in character-based athletics. Walsh said he respects what Somerset has done in teaching students character.

“What I see here, it’s not just talking about character. I see the programs using character and expecting it,” Walsh said.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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