Beloved state title-winning coach dies shoveling snow in midst of season

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Tragedy struck a Minnesota community blanketed in an early winter snow when a longtime decorated girls gymnastics and golf coach died while shoveling snow at his home.

As reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a handful of other sources, 54-year-old Matt Shetka died while attempting to clear snow at his home following the recent massive snow storm in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Shetka was a beloved teacher at New Prague (Minn.) High, spending the entirety of his 33-year teaching and coaching career within the New Prague School District.

Yet while Shetka was equally devoted to his work in the classroom and in leading two of the district's most successful sports programs, he's likely to be remembered more for the latter. Shetka served as the head coach of the girls gymnastics team and the girls golf team. He led New Prague's programs to state titles in both disciplines, winning three state titles in gymnastics (1984, 2001 and 2003) and two in girls golf (in 2010 and 2012). Shetka coached teams that captured five of the nine state titles won in school history.

In a testament to his commitment to the education of his students, Shetka was also the New Prague middle school girls volleyball coach in fall 2012. Though volleyball wasn't as much of a specialty for Shetka as gymnastics or golf, he took on the role because he thought he could help.

"There wasn't a finer person that cared more about the kids and dedicated his life to making the gymnastics experience a quality one," Winona State gymnastics coach Beckie Rolbiecki told the Star Tribune. "He didn't care just about development, but he was the kind of coach that cared about the people involved. He was competitive, but that was good for gymnastics. It was a way of raising the bar for everybody else. We had to ask more of our kids, so he ended up making things better for all of us."

It's fairly typical for health officials to issue warnings exhorting those in a blizzard-struck area to avoid overextending themselves shoveling. Still, it's always a shock when a healthy and active adult like Shetka falls victim to snow-related overexertion.

In the aftermath of Shetka's loss, the New Prague community has rallied around the school and those most affected by his death. Still, those who knew him continue to be mystified by his sudden passing.

"This last Friday, he was catching 115-120-pound gymnasts flying through the air, and then shoveling snow he collapses, it just doesn't, there's no sense," New Prague assistant gymnastics coach Doug Amundsen told Twin Cities ABC affiliate KAAL. "He tried to get the best from you, he encouraged you to do the best you could do."

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