Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 - 7:53 AM
Throughout the opening week of activities, Pine City’s Rick Engelstad just couldn’t hide it. First came the smiles, then came the goosebumps. Engelstad, the former longtime tennis coach and the school’s activities director, was thrilled that participants had the chance to reunite for fall activities after five months of COVID-related challenges.
“Hearing the laughter and joy has been so overpowering,” he said. “The kids are really excited to be back, even with the social distancing pieces in place. We are in a new place, a better place than we were this past spring. The kids are getting an opportunity to compete. That is a great reason to be excited.”
Engelstad is in his 24th year in Pine City, and in his more than two decades of service, he has worn many hats. He was the boys tennis coach for the past 19 years and an assistant for three years prior. He was the girls head coach for about 10 years and an assistant for another five. With uncertainties in participants and return-to-school learning models, Engelstad chuckles that he picked a heck of a time to be in his first year as Pine City’s AD.
“I jumped right in with both feet and didn’t test the water,” he said with a laugh. “I am still seeing so much to be excited about and there are so many positives to embrace.”
Engelstad cites his membership and leadership roles with the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association as vital in managing the angst and uncertainty, as well as instilling positivity during an unprecedented time of global pandemic. He has been on the executive board of the MTCA for the past 18 years, primarily serving as the executive secretary. The parent organization is the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association. The group not only promotes their activities, but also serves as a leadership resource for coaches.
He is quick to point to the MSHSCA leadership of John Erickson, the group’s former executive director, and current leader, John Schumacher, and former League Associate Director Craig Perry as instrumental to his growth as a coach and administrator.
“There are so many incredible mentors in that group.” Engelstad said. “It’s all about giving back to the world of coaching. When I was young and dumb, it was all about me. That changed quickly when I learned so many valuable things. It is all about being ready for the unexpected, be willing to change and being grateful for what we have. Young people, coaches, need to know the process. You’ve got to get involved, volunteer, give back, be that person that is a positive influence for kids.”
As for the current fall season of activities, Engelstad embraces the participation and opportunities, even amid the uncertainty.
“The kids are hopeful of completing their fall season,” he said. “While their season might not end in Minneapolis (with a state tournament), they look to fully embrace the opportunity.”