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Prep coaches getting younger and Bees are stepping up

Ashley Dexter
St. Ambrose senior Ashley Dexter is playing two sports, completing work toward a degree in business and also is head girls soccer coach at Central DeWitt High School in DeWitt, Iowa.

October 2012 | by Craig DeVrieze

Read the October AmbroseZine Sports Page

Dusty Drenth '10 showed up for his first meet as the new North Scott High School boys head golf coach with nothing but his team.

"I didn't even bring a pen," the former St. Ambrose three-time All-American NAIA golfer said of his first reminder that coaching is a little bit different than playing. "A lot of the little things - like filling out scorecards, calling scores to the newspapers - are things I didn't even think about because I have always just played."

At a couple of Moline High School golf meets, Ryan Sergeant, Drenth's former teammate, said older coaches actually wondered why he wasn't playing.

"One guy said, ‘Who's your coach now?" recalled the 23-year-old Sergeant, who is due to graduate in December. "I said, ‘That would be me.'"

The two former golfers this year joined a growing group of former and current St. Ambrose athletes who are stepping into head coaching roles at the high school level at a fairly young age.

At 13 high schools in the Quad City metro area alone, nearly a dozen varsity head coaching positions now are manned by alumni who competed at St. Ambrose within the past decade. At least a dozen more current and former Bees are assistant coaches at those schools.

Many more alumni, of course, are coaching young athletes across the country.

Sergeant is one of three QC head coaches still working toward their degrees. The others are second-year Davenport Central girls head soccer coach Jordan Hahn, now an SAU senior, and a two-sport senior standout Ashley Dexter.

This past summer, Dexter coached the Central DeWitt Lady Sabers to the best soccer season in school history. She then stepped back onto the SAU pitch this fall. She had spent the previous two springs and summers working at her former high school, North Scott in Eldridge, Iowa, as a volunteer assistant coach. She was planning to return in that role when the rivals from DeWitt found themselves in need of a head coach.

"The opportunity came around," said Dexter, a finance and accounting major who plans to continue coaching beyond graduation. "You can't really turn down a head coaching opportunity somewhere."

Dexter, who also is a two-year women's basketball starter, said it was tough to manage her spring semester course load around her coaching schedule, while also fitting three days per week of rehabilitating a badly injured knee. But manage she did. Central's 12 wins were the most in school history and the Saber girls also advanced to the second round of the substate playoffs for the first time.

Neither Drenth nor Sergeant expected to take the reins of a prep program when opportunity came knocking last summer. Drenth hadn't thought a lot about coaching, at North Scott or anywhere, but Sergeant had grown up dreaming of being a coach at Moline High since his days as an athlete there.

Despite his relative youth, Sergeant said he felt ready to lead a team, having assisted the Black Hawk College golf team in Moline for several years while also coaching basketball in a volunteer capacity at numerous levels.

Ready or not, more and more 20-somethings are getting head prep coaching calls these days, a trend Steve Smithers '79, a former prep basketball coach and now the athletic director at Alleman High School, attributed to the increasing year-round demands of the coaching profession in virtually every sport.

"Any number of sports are just becoming more demanding at the high school level and young people are willing to do it," said Smithers, whose Alleman girls golf program is helmed by Megan (Heller) Ahlgren '09. "They have fewer conflicts. And, let's be honest, they have the energy."

Veteran St. Ambrose Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Ray Shovlain '79, '82 MBA said it is no accident that former (and current) St. Ambrose athletes are proving they are more than up to the challenge.

"I think the reason they are fairly well prepared is that, while there is an emphasis on winning here, we also challenge them in other areas where they have matured as individuals," Shovlain said. "Our graduates make excellent coaches."



Alumni Head Coachies in QC

William Argo '98, Assumption baseball
Joe Barrer '03, Assumption boys basketball
Curtis Clark '04, Bettendorf boys basketball
Kyle Condon '11, Assumption girls volleyball
Dave DeJaegher '91 MBA, Alleman football
Dusty Drenth '10, North Scott boys golf
Rob Eckert '07, Assumption girls soccer
Jennifer Goetz ‘'07, '10 MOL Pleasant Valley girls basketball
Amber Hall '05, Davenport Central girls volleyball
Blake Hanna '98, North Scott baseball
Megan Heller Ahlgren ‘09, Alleman girls golf
Chad Jones '04, Davenport West baseball
Jason Jones '06, Moline boys tennis
Karma Kelly '83, Bettendorf girls and boys bowling
Ed Lillis '68, Rock Island track and field
Crick Sant Amour '90, Moline football
Craig Schimmel '95, Moline baseball
Amy Schubert '97, North Scott girls volleyball

Current students
Senior Ashley Dexter, Central DeWitt soccer
Senior Jordan Hahn, Davenport Central soccer
Senior Ryan Sergeant , Moline boys golf



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