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The interview process was fairly elaborate, but Nelson said he was happy that he seemingly passed all the tests.
“It was pretty thorough,” he said. “There were three different rounds of interviews. The first one was a big interview with a panel, the second one was more of a meeting with students and other school officials, and the third one was with board members and other people involved in the school and community.”
The challenge of the head coaching position isn’t new to Nelson, as he has served as the program’s junior varsity coach, as well as the boys track and field coach, for the past five years.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” Nelson said of being a head coach at the varsity level. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. I love coaching football, it’s something I’m passionate about, and I feel like it’s the right time to lead the program into a new direction. It’s a program that needs to be re-energized, and that starts with attracting more kids to play.”
It’s also a program that Nelson cares deeply about as he himself is a former Grand Haven Buccaneer football player.
“I played linebacker and fullback here, then went on to play one year at Grand Valley State University,” he said. “I then decided to take an assistant coaching job at Grand Haven while I was still in college, and I stuck with that for 17 years. After that, I coached as an assistant at Hope College for seven years, and then came back here about three years ago.
“So, this is a program I know very well and a program that I want to help get back to being a competitor in the O-K Red Conference.”
Nelson knows competing in the O-K Red won’t be easy, but his competitive nature makes that a moot point.
“There’s no question it’s one of the toughest conferences in the state, but I’m a competitive person,” he said. “I want to play the best teams in the area, and I want to push myself as a coach to be the best I can be, and I want my players to push themselves to be the best football players they can be.”
In order to do that, Nelson believes the difference is in the details.
“In everything we do, there needs to be a sense of urgency,” he explained. “You don’t always have to train longer in order to get better. If you do things with a sense of purpose and an attention to detail, you can’t be much more efficient with what you do.”
Nelson believes his experience as a coach will make the transition easier than it would have otherwise been.
“I’ve got a lot of experience in the field, and I’ve seen a lot of coaches come and go,” he continued. “I’m in contact with a lot of coaches that I respect, and I’ve already been bouncing ideas off of them in order to be a better coach. The biggest thing for me is that I’m willing to learn, and I want to pass that on to the kids that I coach. If they’re willing to learn with me, then the entire program will benefit in the long run.
“I’m excited for the challenge, and I’m ready to get to work.”
The next challenge for Nelson will be assembling a full coaching staff and developing his own philosophies as the captain of the ship for the Buccaneers.
Nelson and his wife, Kristin, have four children: McKenzie, 19; Adam, 17; Elijah, 14; and Camden, 9.