Former Park, St. Scholastica skier hired as new district-wide Nordic coachJoe Wacker, a 2007 Park graduate, has been hired as the new boys and girls Nordic ski coach for District 833 schools East Ridge, Park and Woodbury.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
The district-wide Nordic ski program is welcoming back one of its own.
Joe Wacker, a 2007 Park graduate, has been hired as the new boys and girls Nordic ski coach for District 833 schools East Ridge, Park and Woodbury.
Wacker, 22, replaces Will Stoltz, who resigned from the position this summer. Stoltz served as the head coach for the past two seasons after taking over the program from longtime head coach James Kyes.
“Will worked hard to build and develop teams at all three high schools,” Park activities director Phil Kuemmel said. “I appreciate all that he has done for our Nordic ski program. Joe comes in with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and as a proud alumnus of our Nordic ski program, will do whatever it takes to build the program throughout the district.”
After 11 years of leading both the Royals and Wolfpack, Kyes — a 1992 graduate of Woodbury — stepped down as head coach after the 2008-09 season in order to move to Duluth with his family. One of Kyes’ pupils was Wacker, who also skied competitively for four years for the College of St. Scholastica, where Kyes is an assistant coach.
“He taught me a lot,” Wacker said. “I had him as a coach even more at St. Scholastica. I got to know him as a person, too, and have a very good relationship with him. At Park, we had a lot of good assistant coaches too, like Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Maher, that I learned a lot from too.”
This will be Wacker’s first high school coaching job. He is currently a substitute teacher in District 833, along with the South St. Paul and West St. Paul school districts. He mainly teaches grade s5-12 social studies and is hoping to become a fulltime teacher “sooner rather than later.”
Wacker lives in Cottage Grove and played football and competed in track for Park in addition to skiing.
“I’ve always wanted to be a coach and a teacher,” Wacker said. “I always thought I’d end up coaching football, but I fell in love with skiing – I love the sport, love the culture and everything about it – and decided that’s what I’d want to coach. I just want to share skiing with other people. It’s a small sport, but I want to spread the word. You get what you put into it. If you’re dedicated, you can get a lot out of the sport. ”
Wacker said his immediate goal is to boost the level of skiers in the program and said he wants to give Nordic skiing “a footprint in the district again.”
“As far as the program goes, we’ve lost a lot of numbers – especially at Woodbury and Park – and I want to bring back excitement in the sport,” Wacker said. “It’s a great lifelong sport. I want to get kids started in it and have them love it. Once we start getting more competitive, then we can start focusing on higher echelon training plans. Obviously I want competitive skiers and I know how to teach a high-level skier, but we need to get kids here first.”
Wacker said he moved home after college, because he “loves the community,” including Woodbury, adding that participating in a district-wide program like Nordic skiing provides a unique opportunity to its members.
“I played football for Park and that first year I thought there’d be no way that I’d like any of the Woodbury people, but by the end of the year my really good friends were from Woodbury,” he said. “That’s a great thing you get from the Nordic team that you can’t get from any other sport in the area.”
Wacker plans on holding an informational meeting in early November with current and potential skiers. The season begins mid-November.
“I’ve very excited and very happy,” Wacker said. “It’s a new challenge. I’m looking forward to putting everything I have into it and seeing what comes out.”