Sautbine finds same joy in coaching 28 years laterCurrently in his 28th year coaching the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School volleyball team, Dale Sautbine has just as much fun nowadays as he did back on day one. That was 1983.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Currently in his 28th year coaching the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School volleyball team, Dale Sautbine has just as much fun nowadays as he did back on day one.
That was 1983.
“I’m getting old,” he said with a chuckle.
The 51-year-old Sautbine has been instrumental in the program’s expansion and longevity throughout the nearly three decades he’s coached the Ogichidaa.
“I just like the sport,” said Sautbine, an art teacher in grades 7-12 at the reservation school. “I wanted to pick a sport I liked most, and that was volleyball.”
Sautbine said he began coaching and teaching at FDL immediately after his graduation from Bemidji State University. Back then, the school’s sports programs were just beginning.
Twenty-eight years later, Sautbine is still going strong.
“I have no clue what my win-loss record is,” he said, and laughed. “I began coaching with little to no volleyball experience, and back then, the game wasn’t nearly as fast-paced as it is now. It was a little slower back then.”
But for Sautbine – who had to take a couple years away from coaching due to school policies years ago – the sport never gets old, even after all of these years of practices and countless matches.
For the longtime coach, his players make it all worthwhile.
“I like the girls’ attitudes, they really seem to like volleyball,” said Sautbine, who also coached basketball but put it aside to more closely focus on volleyball. “They really do make it fun.”
Yet coaching at FDL can be a tall task. At times, the small tribal school has trouble fielding kids in sports due to its miniscule population, said Sautbine.
“It’s a challenge,” Sautbine said. “We’ve had some real small numbers before. I remember when we had six girls on the floor and no subs.”
This fall, that’s not the case. Roughly 20 girls are out for the FDL program that features both junior varsity and varsity teams this year.
This season, Sautbine said he’s also gotten some guidance from new FDL Athletic Manager Mike Patenaude, a former Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College coach.
Entering the season, Sautbine, also assisted by Lois Oakman, said key returnees for FDL included seniors Francene LaDeaux and Racquel White, along with juniors Jaelisa Northrup, Shana Peacock and Kaitlyn Miller.
Juniors Samantha LaDeaux, Jordan White, Keeli Bennett, Natasha Reynolds and Taylor Drift fill out the 10-girl FDL varsity roster featuring no underclassmen.
Currently, the Ogichidaa are 1-3 on the hardwood with losses to the Home School Hurricanes and Lac Courte Oreilles, as well as a win at Indus. Most recently, Sautbine’s bunch were swept by Red Lake at home 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 21-15) Tuesday afternoon in Cloquet.
“We were flat against Red Lake,” Sautbine said, noting his squad’s competitiveness, however. “We had the lead for a short while, but lost it.”
Captain Francene LaDeaux agreed.
“Red Lake had some pretty good servers, and we had a tough time picking the ball up,” said the middle hitter, now in her fourth year on varsity. “We lost some players from last year and have some new ones this year. But we’re all best friends and are getting used to things.”
And although LaDeaux said times can get tough, Sautbine is there to keep their confidence up, no matter what the score.
“Sometimes we can get angry,” LaDeaux said, “but he keeps us positive and tells us never to give up. He’s a very good coach.”
“That’s my job,” said Sautbine. “I want their focus on the game.”
When it’s time to practice, LaDeaux said her coach keeps things enjoyable, while constantly striving to improve his players’ skills.
“He always has a bunch of different drills for us,” she said, “and he’s always finding new things for us to work on.”
Because, to Sautbine, that’s volleyball. And volleyball is fun.
Just like it’s been since day one.