BCLUW Athletic Director John Schill will be busy over the next few months after two varsity coaches put in their letters of resignation recently.
Varsity football and girls basketball coach Jess VanderWeerdt and boys basketball coach Austin Schlatter will not be back on a Comet sideline or bench next season after both decided to step away from their positions of two years.
VanderWeerdt has accepted a teaching position in Puyallup, Wash., while Schlatter will concentrate on finding his way onto a collegiate bench.
"We are sad to see both coaches go," said Schill, who also hired long-time sub-varsity track coach Theresa Penick as the new girls track and field coach effective next year. "Both Jess and Austin had the programs going in the right direction."
VanderWeerdt spent two seasons as both the football coach and girls' basketball coach after spending the previous three years as an assistant football coach and assistant boys' basketball coach. He guided the Comet gridders to the playoffs for the first time since 2003 this past season when they went 5-5. That was a three-game improvement from his first season as head coach.
As girls' basketball coach, VanderWeerdt led a young and inexperienced squad in back-to-back seasons. The Comets won just one game in 2012-13 but improved that number to five this past season. Three of those wins came against NICL West runner-up South Hardin as well as AGWSR and Grundy Center.
VanderWeerdt accepted a science teacher position at one of the three high schools in the district in Washington. He does not know at this point where his coaching career will take him, but he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.
"(My wife and I) are both from Iowa, but we spent several years in Montana before coming to BCLUW," said VanderWeerdt. "We like the coast and we like hiking in the mountains. We'll be a short 40-minute train ride to Seattle, too."
VanderWeerdt admitted that coaching took up a lot of time and was stressful at times. But he will miss the student-athletes he coached and will miss being a part of the BCLUW community.
"I have great relationships with the kids both as a coach and a teacher," said VanderWeerdt. "Coaching is a lot of work, and I looking forward to spending more time with my family."
Schlatter came to BCLUW fresh out of college. He spent two seasons as head boys' basketball coach and was the NICL West Division Coach of the Year this past season after leading the Comets to a 9-14 mark. BCLUW was 8-13 in his first season.
Schlatter is still looking for his next job. His goal is to find a graduate assistant coaching position at a university.
"I loved coaching the kids and the community embraced me," said Schlatter. "It really came down to me having more of a passion for coaching then I do for teaching. I don't have any ties to the area and it's as good of a time as any to do this. I am still young in this business and you have to do what you feel like your meant to do."
Schlatter, who teaches high school social studies, will miss the high school game. He enjoyed the cerebral side of coaching players he couldn't recruit.
"I will miss the challenge of maximizing the talent that you have at a particular school," said Schlatter. "You have to work your magic around them, and that is going to be different at the college level."
What Schlatter decides to study in graduate school will ultimately depend on where he finds a coaching position. But if collegiate coaching doesn't work out, he could see himself working as a physical education teacher or in sports management.
"Eventually, I am going to want to settle down and I won't be coaching forever," said Schlatter. "I could then see myself as a PE teacher because I have a passion for physical education and I think the one thing that kids are missing out on these days is the knowledge of physical wellness."
Schill said Penick will replace current girls track and field coach Dave Welden next season. Welden is leaving the district as well.
Penick will be familiar with the program. She served as BCLUW's junior high coach for 10 years and then was a varsity assistant for seven. She is spending this year back at the junior high level but will return to high school next year.
"She has been with the district a long time and that is a plus as far as I'm concerned," said Schill. "She has done a lot of coaching in her career and we are very comfortable with her as our new varsity girls track coach."
Penick, whose husband Les has been the boys track coach for 19 years at BCLUW, is excited for the opportunity to keep a strong program heading in the right direction.
"We have a strong program all around," said Penick. "There is lots of interest, too. I'm I will make some changes but I also will keep a lot of stuff the same. I just hope to keep the strong tradition alive."
Schill said the process to fill three teaching positions and three coaching positions has already begun. The district typically announces the open positions to in-house candidates first and then opens it up for more candidates later.
VanderWeerdt and Penick were both in-house selections for their varsity coaching positions. And if Schill goes down that road with the football job or girls basketball position, VanderWeerdt is confident in the coaches already in the district.
"I am not sure if they are interested because they are busy just like I was," said VanderWeerdt. "But they are all very capable and it would be a smooth transition."