Building and maintaining an athletic program

When I first came to Polson in the summer of 1976 I never knew that I had found a home where I would spend the rest of my life. I was a math teacher at the high school and an assistant boys basketball coach and head track coach. Having never had the reigns of a boys track and field program, I was most apprehensive in that area. I knew that Polson had a pretty good history of fielding competitive teams in track and field with their most recent championship coming in 1974. That first year was a learning experience. Only two of the returning boys had been to the state track meet the year before and less than 20 turned out for track that spring. At the divisional that year, I was able to watch a veteran coach from Hamilton named Lloyd Clark. He had one of the top programs in Western Montana and his teams were consistently at the top of the Western A division. I absorbed as much from him as I could during the meets that first year.

After attending STATE that year I knew that I would have to do something different with our program to build it back to being a consistent contender. The task ahead for me as a head coach seemed awesome and I felt a little apprehensive as to whether it could be accomplished. We needed to get more kids out and the coaching staff had to be knowledgeable and effective and motivated. My goal in the beginning and throughout all the years was to create a program where kids were successful as individuals and team oriented as a group. Although track and field is a sport made up of a number of individual events, I soon found out that team success was huge when it came to motivating kids to do give their best effort. Track and field events are technique events and each event requires a lot of practice and hard work. Leadership is extremely important. I needed leadership in the athletes and the coaches to build success. Polson was good to me in both areas. Over the years we gathered an outstanding group of coaches and the Polson area provided us with quality athletes to work with.

Question was, what could I do that might go above and beyond what had been done in the past to build and maintain a successful program. I wanted the athletes at PHS to be motivated and want to be part of our program. I needed the athletes in our school to come out and want to be part of a program in the spring of the year. Many were ready to take a break at that time. I very much needed the cooperation of coaches in other programs and the encouragement they could provide to compete in the spring. This is harder than it sounds as many coaches are centered in “their” programs.

How do I begin? First I decided to attend coaching clinics on a regular basis and encouraged my assistants to do likewise. I decided to have an overall plan for the many parts of the season with individual planning for every practice. I started with a publication that I placed in the commons on a weekly basis called “Pirate Tracks”. It was totally about the kids in our program. Individuals were highlighted on a weekly basis and team and individual results appeared in every issue throughout the season. I also started keeping track of every athlete in every event for every class A athlete in the state of Montana. I ranked them and kids in our program and provided a weekly update. These updates were handed out at a meeting that I started having every Monday before the weeks practices started. Kids were able to see where they stood statewide in their events. All athletes were rewarded for “personal best performances” at these meetings. The goal was to be ranked in the top six in the state in each event. I also kept fantasy team scores based on the marks that were recorded. Athletes always knew exactly where they stood on a statewide basis. Needless to say, I never ran out of things to do on Sundays throughout the season.

I worked hard at obtaining complete uniforms and equipment for the program. Anyone that has coached a field event knows the importance of the “right” discus or the “correct” pole for the pole vault. And we wanted our athletes to look good and to represent the community of Polson in the best possible way. I said many times that when arriving at a meet I wanted other schools to see us coming and know that they would be in for a battle that day. PRIDE in themselves and the program they were part of was a huge part of our success over the years.

Coaches going home early from practice was not an option. Flexibility was important when dealing with our individual athletes. I encourage multiple events but it was not a requirement. Get them out for something, get them interested, and maybe multiple events would happened for them. Many times you could find our coaches working past 7:00 at night (practice started at 3:45) with individual athletes. I can’t begin to thank all of the coaches for the effort that they put forth. As the head coach, I was always the last one out and locked the gate and closed down the locker room.

At some point about 2/3 of the way through the season the entire team went to one of the local “ice cream” shops where I treated them to whatever they wanted (within reason of course). Was kind of expensive when the turnout in the boys program alone stretched into the 60’s and 70’s but the fellowship and memories were priceless.

It was amazing how fast things started heading in the right direction. We had some very good seasons and some great seasons over the next 30 plus years. Our coaching staff underwent some changes over those years but I was always able to fill positions with qualified people. Some of the people came from the ranks of athletes that had gone through the program at PHS. Once again I reflect on how “lucky” I was to be coaching at PHS and to be a member of the Polson community.

In 2008 my friend and Girls Head Coach Bruce Thomas headed off to Alaska. We shared assistant coaches during his days as a head coach and each of us assisted the other in our programs. In order to organize practices a little better the programs were united that year and I was the head of both programs. All that I was doing for the boys I now did for the girl program also. Sunday for me involved even more time on the job essentially doubling my workload. What a pleasure though, working with such a great group of talented girls. Many great memories.

I would encourage coaches trying to build or rebuild a program to go the extra mile if that is really what they intend to do. The hill is sometimes steep but not impossible to climb. Be creative. Never quit searching for ways to get kids involved with you and your program. Always put the kids first. Their success is your success. Reaching the top is one of the most satisfying experiences you will ever experience.


Frissell excels at Polson ABC Invite

By JASON BLASCO, Lake County Leader

The Polson and Ronan High School track teams are stockpiled with talent all throughout the events, and in particular, the distance events for both teams are especially strong.

Both teams showcased their ability in multiple events at the ABC-Invite Saturday afternoon in Polson.

Both of the teams proved they had the athleticism to excel in all 17 events, and the proof is in the results as these teams get closer and closer to the Montana High School Association’s biggest stage.

Barney, Ducharme excel in 100

Ronan’s Kinsley Barney and Mikaela Ducharme both excelled in the 100-meter run. Barney, who finished second in the 100, recorded a time of 12.93, and Ducharme placed fifth recording a time of 13.51. Barney set a personal record en route to her first-place finish in the 200, recording a time of 26.28.

Frissel PRs in 1,600

Bea Frissell is now officially one of the most decorated athletes in the recent history of Lady Pirates cross country, and the senior continues to stockpile more firstplace finishes to her resume.

Frissell, who captured second in the 800, recorded a time of 2:23.00.

Frissell placed first in the 1,600, recording a time of 5:05.38, setting a personal record and breaking her own PHS school record set earlier this year.

Ducharme excels long, high jump

Polson track participant Mikaela Ducharme had two top-five finishes in the jumping events.

Ducharme captured first-place in the long jump recording a distance of 17-03, setting a personal record. Durcharme, and her Lady Pirates teammate Maggie Todd, also finished strong in the triple jump. Ducharme recorded a cumulative distance of 34-09.00 for second place, and Todd finished third with a distance of 32-02.50.

Lady Pirates dominate Combo tourney in Butte

By JASON BLASCO. Lake County Leader

The Polson Lady Pirates softball showcased the strength of the Western portion of the Montana High School Association Northwest-A conference by sweeping all contest in the Laverne Combo Tournament Friday and Saturday at Butte.
The Pirates outscored Havre, Park County, Glasgow, and Miles City by a score of 45-4, which is indicative of the team’s momentum as they approach the Montana High School Association state softball tournament May 23-24.

In the first game against Havre, the Pirates continued to pressure their defense, in the 11-4 victory. Polson scored three-consecutive runs in the first two innings, and the proceeded to score eight runs in the final three innings to end the contest quickly.

Pirates pitcher Lauren Vergeront pitched three innings with four strikeouts.
Katelyn Druyvestein relieved Vergeront for the last two innings, had one strikeout and allowed one hit. The Lady Pirates’ Kobbey Smith hit 2-for-3 at the plate, with a home run. Other top hitters included Paige Noyes and Lisa Costilla. Costilla was 3-for-3 at the plate, and Vergeront was 2-for-3, with a triple, in the victory over the Blue Ponies.

The Lady Pirates also dominated Park County High School (Livingston) on Friday by a score of 9-0.

In Saturday’s games Vergeront continued her dominant pitching with wins over Glasgow and Miles City. The Lady Pirate pitcher didn’t allow a single run in either contest. Vergeront allowed five hits in the shutout in which she got plenty of offensive support from her Lady Pirates team. Kaylanna DesJarlais had back-to-back home runs against Miles City. DesJarlais blasted two home run in the victory and contributed to half of the Lady Pirates’ run total with her six-RBi performance. Lady Pirates’ player Lexi Orien also had a home run, with her two-RBI performance.

Polson boys, girls tennis prepares for MHSA Divisional, state

By JASON BLASCO, Lake County Leader

To understand the fiercely competitive landscape of Montana High School girls tennis take a glance at Polson Lady Pirates No. 1 Shea McGuinness’s win-loss record this year.

Last season, McGuinness went virtually unchallenged and won over 30-consecutive matches on her way to capturing the Montana High School Class A state singles championship.

McGuinness, who faced Whitefish’s No. 1 singles player Gracie Smyley, earned the respect of Whitefish tennis coach Chris Schwaderer, who was very complimentary of McGuinness’s play, according to Pirates coach Bob Hislop.

Smyley, a transfer from the state of Florida, is one of the perennial favorites to capture a Montana High School Association state singles title this season but challenged by McGuinness.

“There were 10 or 15 shot rallies, and (Shea) competed with Gracey point after point,” Hislop said. “Even though she fell short on the better portion of those rallies, moving forward if you are realistic and if you are a positive person, you look at two points here, or two points there, and (your perspective) begins to change. The more you win those points, the pressure gets tighter on the other person, and it becomes harder to win.”

The Lady Pirates, who are the defending MHSA team champions from the 2018 season, hope to have an opportunity to defend their title, and it will start with the Montana High School Association Northwestern-A Divisionals May 17-18 in Columbia Falls.

Some of the top-tier teams that will contend with Polson for the MSHA crown include Hardin, Whitefish, Corvallis, Dillon.

“Our division is just stacked in singles and doubles,” Hislop said.

The Pirates have one of the top doubles teams emerging in Berkley Ellis and Qia Harlan. The pair won a tight three-set match against one of the top Whitefish doubles teams.

“(Berkley and Qia) had a great year, they understand each other and they play well together,” Hislop said. Hislop said he’s noticed improvement from Megan Rost, Ara Mercer, Sarah Kinzel, Taylor Bloomfield, and Taylor Collinge.

“Those four girls have all played a ton, Sarah and Taylor are only sophomores, and they are still learning the game,” Hislop said. “Learning tennis is a lot of hard work, and it’s pretty complex. The next couple of years are going to be fun. You have to some patience, and you can’t string them along too fast. These players have to bring themselves up to speed, and when they are ready for that will be the fun part.”

Pirates get ready for the next step

The Polson High School boys tennis team got an opportunity for a tune-up with Whitefish before entering the Montana High School Association Northwest-A Divisionals in Columbia Falls on May 17-18.

Both of the Whitefish girls and boys teams are two of the top-tier teams in tennis, and Pirates coach Bob Hislop admits his team won’t face too many opponents tougher than them heading into the postseason.

The Pirates boys team, by Hislop’s admission, is young and inexperienced, but continues to grow from their experiences in recent matches.

“We had some rough losses, but at the same token, (our team) had some nice wins,” Hislop said. “Some of the kids that lost in individual and single games really showed their mettle and played way better in the dual session. I like what happened, and how the kids competed.”

Hislop said he was pleased with the performance of his top-three boys singles players and how they responded to playing the Bulldogs, one of the top-tier teams in the state of Montana.

The Pirates, who are getting ready to enter Divisional competition, have continued to get a strong performance from their No. 1 player Joe McDonald.

“Joe did a nice job and is almost in every game,” Hislop said. “It was just a matter of winning, getting more seasoned, trying to win those points and playing up to your potential.”

Hislop said he was also pleased with the performance of Matt Hobbs, who played a tough match against a future University of Montana Grizzly football player, and showcased his athleticism in the loss.

The Pirates will take the next step as they continue to march forward into the postseason and will face new challenges in their quest to qualify for state, both as individuals and as a team.

“During the tournament format, there are a lot of changes,” Hislop said. “Divisionals are different, and playing at state is monumentally different.”

Polson High School “PIRATE TRACKS”

Bob GundersonWelcome to “Pirate Tracks”, where you will be able to “TRACK” recent results of PHS athletic activities.  Our “Tracking the Pirates” links in the left column show up-to-date results of pirate athletic activities.  “Pirate Treasures” links has information about recent and past divisional and state competitions, All Conference and All State selections,  as well as previews (when possible) of teams currently competing in their season.  There are also photo galleries of the Pirates and Lady Pirates, again separated by seasons Fall 2021 – Winter 2021 – Spring 2021 – Posters.  I am continually gathering pictures for the galleries. If you have a picture that can be added to the gallery or comments in general about our PHS Athletic Blog, please email them to [email protected]