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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Obermann follows father's footsteps

Aug 10, 2018
Washington head softball coach and assistant football coach Ben Obermann

By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports

In a way, it was pre-ordained, the career of Ben Obermann. Growing up in Cresco watching his father as a coach, Obermann saw a path he wanted to take in his life.

“Growing up I had a lot of good coaches, a lot of good role models and the first one and foremost one was my dad. I would say I got into coaching a little bit because of my dad,” Obermann said. “I started keeping stats for him when I was in elementary school when he coached basketball.”

Being around sports, growing up around coaching, and seeing the time and effort that it takes to have a successful program made a big impression on Obermann.

“I would go to practices after school as a kid and watch my dad,” Obermann said. “Basketball was my first love really, because that’s what I grew up around.”

His high school basketball team went 18-2 his senior year when he averaged 8.3 points a game. He led the baseball team in runs batted in with 20, hit six doubles and had three of his team’s five home runs. His on-base percentage was .426.

Obermann, who teaches English at Washington High School, is the head softball coach. The Demons won a share of the Southeast Conference title this season. He is an assistant football coach, the head coach of the ninth-grade football team and the running backs coach.

Obermann graduated from Crestwood High School, where his dad still coaches, in 2009 and went to Luther College to play baseball.

He started as an infielder and also played some outfield.

“That was so awesome, being around college athletics,” Obermann said. “It was a great experience and I made some lifelong friends.”

The experience also helped him focus on becoming a coach.

“Since I grew up around that career, going into college I knew that was something I wanted to do,” Obermann said.

He was able to get a taste of coaching right away, helping with a middle school basketball team as a college freshman.

“It definitely grew from there,” Obermann said. “I just can’t see myself doing anything different.”

Playing football in high school, Obermann spent time on both sides of the ball. As a running back his senior year, he averaged 4.6 yards a carry his senior year as the team made the playoffs. He was also a defensive back and led his team in interceptions as the Cadets advanced through the Class 3A playoffs, losing in the quarterfinals to Decorah.

“Our senior year was a really special season for us,” Obermann said.

It didn’t start that way. The Cadets were 4-5 his junior season and lost the first two games his senior year, but won four in a row. The team lost its final regular season game to Decorah, 38-0, but made the playoffs and won its first game on the road. then went on the road again to face New Hampton, a team it barely defeated, 16-14, in the regular season.

“My most memorable moment playing, I think the game in the second round of the playoffs that we won to get us into the quarterfinals was it,” Obermann said.

Obermann had three catches, one for a touchdown in a 21-10 win.

The quarterfinal was a rematch of the Decorah loss and it was a close game as the Cadets fell 21-10.

“Just that run we made my senior year was really special,” Obermann said. “Playing Decorah, who had Brett Van Sloten playing for them, who played for Iowa and made it to the NFL, I got hit pretty hard by him a couple times. I definitely remember those type of battles that I had. Playing against really good kids, I think raises your level of play.”

That is one thing that helps makes sports special.

“I knew when I grew up I would have to be around sports in some way,” Obermann said.

Sports takes a commitment, but the time and effort make it rewarding.

“I really enjoy being around the kids and watching them grow,” Obermann said. “When they mature from their eighth-grade year through their senior season, it is fun to see. Watching them be successful and reaching their goals is worth it.”

His favorite part of coaching happens every day.

“It is working with the kids day in and day out and seeing them grow from the beginning of the season to the end,” Obermann said. “It is fun working with them from a skill standpoint, but also just being around them.”

The two sports he is a part of coaching vary widely in a number of ways.

“Working with football players and softball, I get to see a wide range of kids, so there are a lot of differences that I see and I really like that,” Obermann said. “Working with different groups of kids each year is rewarding and being around different personalities and getting to know them on the field and in the classroom is fun. It is just a lot of fun to be around young kids that have the passion of competing.”

With so many personalities and the wide range of disparity in kids, there is a difference in the motivation for each kid. Obermann loves the challenge of finding various ways to inspire diverse personalities, finding distinctive approaches for contrasting athletes.

“I spend a lot of time talking with the kids in preseason meetings to find out how they like to be coached,” Obermann said. “There is a difference in how they want to be approached, how they receive coaching and whether it is individual corrections when they need to do something or as a group. So it is important to get to know them on an individual level.”

Obermann’s favorite part of football is being out under the lights Friday nights.

“Especially in a small community, not that Washington is that small, it is just a special feeling,” he said. “You get great crowds. The crowds at the high school games are bigger than if you go off to a small college and play.”

The coach enjoys the atmosphere of a game. “Practices are not always all that fun, so when you get to experience the result of all those hard times and hard work that the kids put in over the summer and in practice, then it’s a great reward for the Friday night game. It’s great to see them reap the rewards during those 60 minutes on the field. It is awesome to see.”

Football teaches a number of things that are relevant to life. It teaches accountability, overcoming adversity and how to set goals and achive them.

“I think accountability is number one,” Obermann said. “Coach (Garrison) Carter in the past and coach (James) Harris now have made accountability a major thing in this program. We want to teach them to be a good person. We want them to learn things on the field that they can take into their life. There will be challenges during the game and during the season. It is important to know how to go about overcoming those challenges. There are negatives and things that you can’t control, so it is important to know how to control the controllables. I think once they are done with football, they will face adversity and they will have learned how to be accountable and that should help them with life.”

Life matters and Obermann wants his athletes to be prepared for it.

“There are negative things that happen in life and in games that you can’t control and it is important to put it behind you and move on,” he said.

Sports helps one prepare for life.

“You have to focus on the things that you can control,” Obermann said. “You can’t control how the other team is playing in football. You can’t control officials’ calls. You can’t control the weather. You can control your attitude. You can control the effort you put forth every day. It’s important as the coach to get the kids to buy into that. I think it is a big moment for them when they get to that point.”

It is a point Obermann treasures.

“I have always loved working with kids. It is a passion of mine to give back to the kids.”

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