Craig Stern was named St. Olaf College’s 13th head football coach on Feb. 8. The 2013 season will be his 10th season as a member of the St. Olaf football staff.
Coach Stern has been well received by his players. “He’s a strong leader and has been an integral part of the Ole family since he began coaching here,” said Kevin Odom ’14, a wide receiver. “We’re looking forward to the opportunities that this next year will present with Stern at the helm.”
During his free time, Stern is an avid deer hunter. His deer stand is five minutes from campus, and he has been hunting the land around St. Olaf for 25 years. He also enjoys being active and playing sports with his family.
“I couldn’t be happier for Coach Stern and his family as they enjoy this great accomplishment in his career,” linebacker Jimmy Gildea ’14 said. “I’m excited to play under him, and I believe he’s qualified to lead next season’s team to the success we’re ready to achieve.”
The Manitou Messenger sat down with Stern to talk coaching, role models and the “true agape love” of teammates. Introducing St. Olaf’s newest head football coach:
Manitou Messenger: How would you explain your coaching philosophy?
Craig Stern: My coaching philosophy is focused on holistic development of the players. Everything that I do as a football coach is geared toward making sure that the guys who play football for me have the opportunity to have a rich and meaningful experience that is helpful in the process of finishing the development that one gains from college. That, for me, is the most important. Wins and losses are important for me, yes. But, in a decade, when I am getting birth announcements from guys who are married and have successful careers, that’s way more important. I want to make sure that I have that important role in helping them maximize their development in the many aspects of their lives.
MM: Any coaching role models that you look up to?
CS: I have respect for guys like Bobby Bowden [Florida State] and Tom Osborne [University of Nebraska]. They’ve done it for so long and so well. They were players’ guys. But to be honest, my true role models are all of the guys that I have worked for. I have taken something from each of them. I have taken the best that they have all had, and I have combined those types of things to create the guy that I want to be.
MM: What is the biggest challenge in coaching?
CS:The biggest challenge in coaching football is helping dispel the myths that exist toward football players. You think that it would be different in a society that is striving to eliminate those stereotypes for groups, but it is still accepted to do that to football . . . to put them in a box and say, “Okay, this is what a football player is.” For me, I see the depth that our players have in so many areas. It’s hard for me not to take that as a personal attack on them. They are my kids – I love them like my own. This creates an opportunity to help educatethe people that are making those generalizations and also to help educate the guys in showing them how they can be better ambassadors for the game.
MM: What do you envision in both the near and distant future for Ole football?
CS: One of the things that we talk about in the recruiting process is a vision for the guys to aspire to have excellence in all areas of their lives: academically, athletically, socially, spiritually. Those are the things that we are looking to do. Every day, we are striving to win championships, and we want to make the playoffs. I think that we have every reason to believe that we have the ability to do that. I also see us doing a better job in regard to the St. Olaf community as a whole. It’s a double-edged sword because we are a football family; we are a very tight knit group of guys. There very much is a brotherhood. That is a great thing because it creates an incredible support system – true agape love for each other. The other cutting edge of that sword is that it creates the image of an almost exclusive fraternity. I think that one of the things that I aspire to do as the head coach is to help our guys take advantage of opportunities to engage in the campus community a little more robustly so that the campus sees that we view ourselves as part of and not separate from the St. Olaf community.
MM: What has the transition from assistant head coach to head coach been like thus far?
CS: [Stern laughs out loud.] I just told my wife this morning, “Honey, I need a day planner.” My biggest fear is missing meetings that are set. And they are coming fast and furious. As an assistant coach, there are a lot of things that you can push up … onto the head coach’s desk. Now, for me, there are no more desks to push it to, so it all gets pushed to mine. Balancing those new obligations has been a part of the transition.