Former Trucker football coach Brian Dunlavy is enjoying his first season of retirement after coaching for 35 years in Clintonville.
“I started coaching in 1977 and I worked with the freshmen team for 19 years,” Dunlavy recalled. “I went out scouting, helped paint the lines on the field, and worked things out so I could go to my son’s games when he was in high school. Then, I tried to get out of coaching, but I couldn’t, so they told me I’d better just apply for the varsity coaching job.
“We went 0-7 during my first year as head coach. I had worked with Bill Kinziger for five or six years as co-coach, but I knew that first year that it would be a transition season,” Dunlavy said. “We had most of the previous year’s athletes return the next year, despite not winning. I said, ‘Ok, I’ll come in and run the spread offense’ and I think we were ahead of our time. We had lots of fun with it and the kids got to score lots of points. The games were a lot closer contests, and it made Friday night fun again.
“I remember one particular Friday night when we beat DePere. We were still playing down at W.A. Olen Athletic Field back then, and the kids threw us in the river to celebrate,” Dunlavy stated. “The kids played hard, and we won enough games to make the playoffs the next year. The kids began to believe that they could win, and that was the turning point.”
Dunlavy said the early seasons were some of the most memorable. “Clintonville always had good enough kids that if they believed in themselves, they could win,” said Dunlavy. “They learned that they could do it-and then they went out and did it.”
The 2007 season also was a memorable one for Dunlavy, as the Truckers drove all the way to a level 4 playoff game, just one win away from a trip to state.
“We didn’t quite make it all the way, but it was a really fun season for the kids,” Dunlavy commented. “They played hard, and just getting to that point was a huge success.”
From a coaching standpoint, Dunlavy said the hardest part was seeing hardworking players not get to experience success.
“We have had some pretty good players that put in a ton of effort but never got to experience much success,” Dunlavy said. “It’s hard to see them fall short. As a coach, it’s tough to see that happen.”
On the other side of the coin, Dunlavy said seeing players achieve their goals was one of the most rewarding parts of being a coach.
“The best part is having these kids come up and hug you and smile as they celebrate achieving all the things they worked so hard for,” stated Dunlavy. “What makes it all worthwhile is seeing the kids experience success.”
While football games always drew a crowd, Dunlavy said some of the most important moments in his coaching career came on the practice field or in the locker room, where he worked to instill valuable life lessons in his players.
“I always tried to preach not just athletics but also hard work and how it will help them down the road,” said Dunlavy. “There were always schedules, workouts, and opportunities for them to learn how to work hard, be on time, and take responsibility. We talked about those things on a daily basis. I tried to show them that it takes teamwork to really be successful.”
As much as he coached and taught his teams, Dunlavy said he learned many things from each season and each group of players.
“I learned that whether you’re piling up wins or losses, you always have to be humble,” he said. “Once you get to the top, it’s easy to fall off that plateau. It’s better to take things on an even keel and not get too high.”
As another homecoming game approaches, Dunlavy said he will enjoy this one from the stands-if he isn’t out scouting for the Truckers’ next game.
“It’s more relaxing to be able to just watch the game,” Dunlavy said. “Sometimes people see me and ask me ‘what would you do in that situation?’ But it’s on someone else’s shoulders now, so I don’t have to worry about it. I am also enjoying being able to watch more college football and NFL games, rather than studying game film or planning for the next opponent.”
Overall, Dunlavy said his coaching career has been wonderful.
“It was made for me. I was made to lead the kids and teach. Even when I wasn’t coaching varsity, it was still my calling to teach and coach kids at any level,” Dunlavy said. “There are always ups and downs, but you take everything with a grain of salt and keep moving on.
“I want to thank the Clintonville community for being so supportive over all the years, whether our teams were winning or losing,” Dunlavy commented. “We’ve always tried to put a good team together, and I’m thankful to the Clintonville community for giving me the opportunity to do what I did for so many years.”