Our Neighbors... Dave Battaglia
When thinking about coaching and teaching in Carlton County, one name usually comes to mind first - Dave Battaglia. That's because Battaglia has been part of both the Carlton and Cloquet communities for most of his life. Whether it was in the cla...
When thinking about coaching and teaching in Carlton County, one name usually comes to mind first - Dave Battaglia.
That's because Battaglia has been part of both the Carlton and Cloquet communities for most of his life. Whether it was in the classroom, on the court, or on the field, Battaglia has made teaching and coaching his way of life.
But now, after teaching for 33 years and coaching for 32, Battaglia is setting both aside. He announced his retirement from coaching, and come this August he will officially retire from teaching as well.
"The time was just right for me to step down," said the 14-year Carlton High School principal about his successful career working with students and athletes. "But I am hoping to work part time next year if that can be worked out."
Battaglia, who was born in Hibbing in 1952, got his interest in teaching from his father.
"My dad was a teacher," said Battaglia. "And I just remember teachers playing a big role in my life, so that's what I wanted to bring to others. I really enjoy teaching and it just means a lot to me being a positive role model for people."
His passion for coaching started early as well.
"I always liked sports and enjoyed coaching," he said. "It just never got old."
Battaglia grew up in Two Harbors, graduated in 1971 and was a three-sport athlete, excelling in football, baseball and basketball. During his senior year, Battaglia guided the Agates to the state basketball tournament for their first time since 1924, marking the only other time in school history that Two Harbors has advanced to state.
After his days on the North Shore, Battaglia enrolled at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he was again an all-star basketball and football player. After five years, he graduated with a degree in social studies and physical education in 1976.
At age 23, Battaglia then moved to Mankato, Minn., where he picked up his first teaching job. He was also hired for his first coaching gig with a junior high football team and a ninth-grade girls basketball squad.
Call it the start of a mastermind.
A year in Mankato was enough for Battaglia, and he moved back north in 1977 to begin his reign in Carlton, where he has stayed to this day. In 1978, he married his college sweetheart, Nancy, and his career really began to take off.
Since taking the job in Carlton, Battaglia has over time been the Bulldogs' head boys basketball coach for nine years, head girls basketball coach for five, head boys and girls track coach for five and head football coach for four and has assisted for the football and basketball teams as well.
"I was very fortunate to have great kids and supportive parents," said Battaglia. "And I don't think a lot of coaches get that these days."
Battaglia, who was also the athletic director in Carlton for two years, brought his coaching talents to Cloquet as well while his own three children - Steve, Tim and Samantha - were growing up. While in Cloquet, Battaglia was the head football coach for nine years, as well as the assistant coach for four. In addition, he was an assistant coach for boys basketball for six years and girls basketball for four.
"Both communities really understood and were very supportive of me," said Battaglia. "I had to spend some time with my own kids and both communities did a good job understanding that."
Over time, Battaglia easily racked up a record of over .500 in all of his years coaching different sports, while in assistant coaching, he brought the Lumberjacks to the three boys basketball state tournaments in 1997, 1998 and 2000. He guided Cloquet to the state tournament in girls hoops in 2001 and 2004.
With a handful of state tournament appearances and numerous trips deep into section playoffs, to call Battaglia a coaching mastermind would almost be putting it lightly.
"You really see the kids in a different light while coaching compared to teaching," said Battaglia, who taught social studies and a few years of physical education at Carlton. "They really just enjoy being out there."
Some enjoyed playing for Battaglia so much, they've come back to talk about memories.
"I've heard from kids 20 years past and how they remember things I taught them while coaching," he said. "And that's just really nice to hear."
But over all the years, Battaglia can't single out any one moment.
"To mention one stood out more than another would be unfair," he said. "There were so many great moments and it has all just been a lot of fun."
However, having fun coaching wasn't just about winning and losing for Battaglia, but about something much more important - the kids.
"It was always enjoyable coaching the kids," said Battaglia. "It was more than just wins and losses - it was about the influence you made on their lives."
Battaglia's children are following in his footsteps, as all three were standout high school athletes, UMD graduates and are currently either head or assistant coaches for one or more high school sports in the area. His oldest son, Steve, is currently the head boys basketball coach in Cloquet, while Tim assists. Samantha assists the Carlton girls basketball program.
Battaglia just hopes they enjoy holding practices a little more than he did over the years.
"I enjoyed the games much more than the practices," he laughed. "I really liked matching wits against another coach. Wondering what he or she would do next versus what I would do was very exciting."
Nonetheless, one can bet that Battaglia's children will take a page or two out of their dad's playbook every now and then. But you can't blame them - with his resume, Battaglia is hands down one of the best.
And with Battaglia leaving both the Carlton football and girls basketball program, current Bulldog baseball coach Scott Battaglia will takeover as the head football coach, while Lisa Johnson, who was the assistant coach for Battaglia, will be head girls basketball coach.
Even though the long-time coach, teacher and principal is retiring, that doesn't mean Battaglia is putting his passion towards kids and coaching away for good. Much to everyone's liking he'll definitely still have a presence in both Carlton and Cloquet.
"I will continue to be visible in both communities and follow both Carlton and Cloquet athletics, that's for sure," he said. "I've really enjoyed both communities a lot and they've always both been very supportive and understanding of me."
Now that he's become a local teaching and coaching legend in Carlton County, Battaglia couldn't be happier about his career choice.
"It has been a fun, enjoyable career," smiled Battaglia. "And just a good fit."