Jul. 15—MITCHELL — Kent Van Overschelde has spent much of his adult life as a coach and is dedicated to ensuring future generations can successfully do the same through his involvement with the South Dakota High School Coaches Association.
A longtime SDHSCA member, Van Overschelde's one-year term as president of the organization ends Sunday, but the motivation for the Mitchell High School football and baseball coach's involvement has always extended beyond the position of leadership.
"It was the idea of being part of the process that continues the tradition," Van Overschelde said. "I have such an interest in the history of our state, so I definitely wanted to be a part of the group that maintains it and continue to serve the association."
In Van Overschelde's own words, the SDHSCA's mission has always been centered around "supporting, honoring and educating" all coaches from all activities across the state. Those pillars take on several forms, including but not limited to mentorship programs, various awards and an annual summer coaching clinic — the 71st edition of which is taking place July 17-19 in Mitchell.
It's the type of event that Van Overschelde remembers being of particular benefit earlier in his career and he wants to continue to make available, particularly for newer, younger coaches.
"Our focus now is to continue what we've done as a coaches association, but also try to get younger coaches involved so they can continue to carry the torch for the profession of coaching in South Dakota," explained Van Overschelde, whose career coaching experience includes football, baseball, softball, wrestling and basketball.
Since taking over the Mitchell High School football head coaching position in 2007, Van Overschelde has guided the Kernels to 68 total wins and the 2016 Class 11AA state championship — Mitchell's first title in the playoff era. Additionally, Van Overshelde has coaching connections with Mitchell varsity baseball dating back to 1991 and his time as an assistant under Shane Thill, which predates even his first head football coaching position at Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster (1996-2003) in southwest Minnesota.
Following the recent sanctioning of a new spring sport, Van Overschelde will soon start building another program as the first-ever MHS softball coach, adding another line to his already lengthy resume.
While it might be easier to list the high school sports Van Overschelde hasn't been involved with, being involved with the association and hearing everything from the triumphs to the challenges for coaches of all activities has granted him greater perspective.
Whether the coaches are new, veterans or retired, forming relationships and learning from them has been a significant draw for Van Overschelde both prior to and during his time as president. Given Van Overschelde's background as a social studies teacher and affinity for history, perhaps it's no surprise that his favorite experiences has been learning from the state's hall of fame coaches in an attempt to help better preserve and pass on important lessons through the SDHSCA.
"To assume a leadership role, that's all about developing relationships, I've been lucky to develop relationships with people who have been around a long time, been successful and have always coached for the right reasons," Van Overschelde said. "I love listening to the passion from those who have earned that [hall of fame] status and how they focused on serving their athletes, schools and communities."
While Van Overschelde's time as a president is coming to a close, he's soon to gain past president status. As a past president, Van Overschelde will maintain a place on the association's board where he'll continue to help push the organization forward under the next president — Chamberlain gymnastics coach Sherri Knippling — and beyond.
Van Overschelde joins Bob Brooks (1966), Deb Thill (2009) and Travis Carpenter (2016) as Mitchell coaches to serve a term as SDHSCA president.
"I've been so privileged to be connected with the organization and believe wholeheartedly in what they're doing," he said. "Contributing to the legacy of the association is something I take a lot of pride in."