Dierks: 'Coach V' gave his all to Mitchell football and deserves to be celebrated
Kent Van Overschelde resigned as Mitchell High School head football coach this week, marking the end of two decades on the Kernels' sideline.
MITCHELL — I address Kent Van Overschelde as "Coach V." Always have, and likely always will.
This isn't uncommon, of course. Given his 16 years as head football coach at Mitchell High School and 20 years overall on the staff, Coach V was (and still is) an institution, and many refer to him this way.
However, I never played a down for the Kernels, nor did I ever have him as a teacher.
Even after returning to Mitchell and forming a professional relationship with Van Overschelde through the newspaper, it never felt right to call him anything other than Coach V out of respect. After all, his impact was felt beyond the bounds of the program and school since he fulfilled a prominent leadership role for the community. As a result, many hold the man in similarly high regard.
On the football field, Coach V delivered 70 wins and the school's lone state football championship during his tenure. He was willing and able to adapt to his personnel and embraced every challenge.
“I think a lot of the strength in what we did was the ability to meet the standard of what was expected,” Van Overschelde told me when I went to speak with him this week. “Sometimes we achieved what we wanted and sometimes we didn't, but we got out and went to work every day and I think there’s something in that, too.”
In the words of Mitchell activities director Cory Aadland, “Kent was always evolving the program, doing things differently and tweaking things based on what he felt needed to be done each year.
“He’ll be the first one to be his own critic, maybe even to a fault,” Aadland continued. “He’s always trying to do better and get better. The way he goes about his business, runs his program and the expectation level he has for the program, he’s a one-of-a-kind, that’s for sure.”
But what endeared Coach V to so many was everything else off the field.
He regarded his role as the head football coach as a privilege and opportunity and frequently expressed gratitude by noting he was blessed and fortunate to hold the position.
Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes in conversation with Coach V knows those sentiments come from a truly genuine place. He cared a great deal about the health of the football program, but what mattered to him far more was the well-being of the humans that comprised that program.
When asked about the human element he takes away from 16 years as the head coach, he choked up momentarily before giving a response that perfectly illustrates where his heart was over the past decade and a half.
“It’s really emotional because I’ve sat and thought about kids that I haven’t in a while. I’ve had people reach out that I haven’t heard from in a while,” he said. “The biggest and best byproduct has been the relationships I’ve built with players, their families, coaches here and around the state. … I’ve definitely been blessed to have this role, this platform. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, we made a positive difference because that’s what I set out to do from the beginning.”
Ask around, and you'll find he made that positive difference and then some.
From a media perspective, it's hard to imagine a more ideal person to work with than Coach V has been. Win, loss, scheduled meeting or unannounced drop-in after practice, he always made the time to talk. Down to the manner and timing of his resignation, which gives Aadland and the school ample time to find the next leader of Kernel football, Coach V remains all class.
"That wasn't by accident," Aadland was quick to note. "That was intentional on his part to make sure we have the time and ability to bring someone in."
Now, while he continues to teach and exchanges the gridiron for the softball diamond, Coach V is prepared for his new fall Friday night duties.
“My role is going to change from being the head football coach to the No. 1 fan and supporter,” he said.
He'll strive to be the best in that role, too, no doubt.
Salute to you, Coach V.