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Park graduate and former assistant coach Keith Badger was hired as the new head football coach for the New Richmond, Wis., Tigers. (Image courtesy of Dave Newman, New Richmond News)

Park football: Badger earns his stripes

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sports Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Keith Badger's passion for football is unmistakable.

Badger, a Park graduate and former assistant coach, was hired as the new varsity coach for the New Richmond football program.

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At 26, Badger will be one of the youngest head coaches in the area. He said he's been preparing to become a head coach since he was in college.

Badger was notified two weeks prior to being hired that he was the top choice for the high school football and physical education positions. Since then he's been diving into the role. One of his first acts was to meet with boys who are interested in playing football this fall. The meeting attracted more than 60 boys.

For the past three years, Badger was part of the football coaching staff at his almoa mater, Park High School. He was a quarterback in high school, but switched to wide receiver for his college career at the University of St. Thomas.

Badger said he is also a strong proponent of his players being multi-sport athletes. Badger said he won't be satisfied until his players are successful on the field and in the classroom. Badger was a multi-sport athlete who also competed in basketball and track. He saw his most individual success in track, reaching the Minnesota state championships as a sprinter in all four years of his high school career. His top finish was a second place performance at state by his 800-meter relay team.

Badger's final year at St. Thomas was the first year that Glenn Caruso took over as the Tommies' coach. That proved to be a pivotal time for Badger.

"I'm very lucky to have played for him. He made a great impact on my life," Badger said.

Badger is taking a patient approach in setting his plans for the 2013 season. He's spent his first weeks scouring last season's game films, studying each player who is returning to the team. He's looking for skills that he can build upon as he forms his lineup for the season.

Badger isn't committing to an offensive or defensive system right away. He wants to see what talent is available, and then decide upon schemes that best suit his players. Badger has experience in a number of offensive styles, from the split-back backfield to a veer offense to a passing-dominated system. So there are plenty of possibilities available.

He has a better idea about what he wants to do on defense.

"There are a lot of running teams in the league and we'll do all we can to stop them," Badger said.

Badger said most of his playing and coaching experience has come on the offensive side of the ball, but he's spent time learning defenses in planning to someday become a head coach.

Badger has met extensively with former Tiger head coach Jason Eckert to learn about the players and coaches in the program.

As far as coaching styles, Badger will bring a different style than the low-key style the Tigers saw from Eckert.

"Football is a loud, in-your-face, energetic, high-intensity sport," Badger said. "I intend to coach the same way."

Badger said there are four aspects that he believes are most important for football success: attitude, effort, character and commitment.

"Our ultimate goal is to win a state championship. Our primary focus is to win football games," he said.

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