Raiders youth coach is getting set to hang up his shoes

Sports

Dave Schmidt has coached the South Range Little Raiders for 40 years

GREENFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – Saying goodbye is always a hard thing to do.  Especially when you have dedicated a lifetime to something that you love, knowing it’s time to leave.

For the past 40 years, Dave Schmidt has paced the sidelines for the South Range Little Raiders football program while also serving on the Board of Directors many of those years.  Saturday was his last regular-season game, retiring from the sport he dearly loves.

“Like any good book, the final chapter is always the best.  That is where I’m at,” the 68-year old Schmidt said.

With some relief, Schmidt looks forward to hanging up the same game shoes he has worn for the past 25 years on the sidelines.  He explained that they hurt his feet these days, and following his last game in the playoffs, he will leave the shoes on the field and walk away.

Schmidt started as an assistant coach with the North Lima Vikings, then once the Vikings and the Greenford Rams merged in 1973, due to the bigger South Range School District merger in 1969, he would help start the Little Raiders program along with George Toy.  He would eventually serve as a head coach for 32 of the 40 years he has been coaching youth football.

“The thing I have enjoyed the most is watching them go to junior high and high school.  I go to a high school game and 80 to 90 percent of them are still playing, and pretty much in the same positions in a lot of cases.  That makes me feel good that they kept playing and have gotten better.  It’s an incredible feeling to watch that,” he said.

Throughout his tenure, he has stressed the fundamentals of football.  The basic blocking and tackling techniques and forms.  Something that translates right up to the high school level.  But according to Schmidt, it goes even beyond that.

“We meet with all of our coaches before the season even starts, and starting with the little guys in Batam, and JV.  It’s not all about winning, it’s about getting these kids ready for the next level.  Batam gets them ready for JV, JV gets them ready for varsity.  My job is to get them ready for junior high and so on.  That means basic fundamentals.  To tackle properly, block properly, be a good teammate, and a good student.  That’s one of my big things.  I tell them that they are not an athlete-student, you’re a student-athlete,” Schmidt explained stressing the student part.

Schmidt has three children who have either played football or participated as a cheerleader.  He also has had a few of his grandchildren play for him, including his oldest grandson JD Crouse, who is an outstanding junior tight end on the Raiders state-ranked high school team.  His oldest granddaughter, Hannah is a senior forward on the Raiders girls basketball team, while another grandson Heath is a freshman lineman also on the football team.

His no-nonsense approach to football and life has left an imprint on the many young boys and girls that have participated in the program over those four decades.  That stamp has been left on many fathers and sons that have played for Schmidt in that time.

“Some people call it old-fashioned coaching.  If you don’t teach the youth a little bit of discipline now, then where will it go in the future?  I demand a little bit of respect and I think I have accomplished that,” Schmidt remarked.

Scott Valentine played for Schmidt back in his youth, and consequently Valentine’s son Tommy also played for Schmidt in the program.  In Addition, Valentine’s two younger brothers also played for Schmidt in the Raiders youth program.

“That was 20 plus years ago now,” Valentine said.  “But I still learn from those days every day.  And I was super happy to have my youngest play for him.  He is a generational coach, coaching for 40 years is just an unbelievable task.  It’s a great service to the community.  You learn to be a part of your community as much as blocking and tackling.  Caring about your teammates, family, and community.”

“I remember getting hurt one time and he called me after the game in his deep voice and I thought it was a higher power calling the house phone,” Scott said with a chuckle.  “But he just called to check up on me to make sure that I was okay.  Those are the type of things you take away, it was a good experience.”

What the future holds for the South Range Little Raiders football program remains to be seen.  One thing is for sure, they will miss a foundation of the program that has been there for so long.  Coach Schmidt will be enjoying some time watching those grandkids.

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