A rich past of experience makes Jason Schondelmyer’s job of building a football program at Tri-Village a labor of love. He is…loving it!
New Madison – If life, indeed, is like a three-act play, the stakes aren’t quite as high as they used to be at Arcanum and Versailles, Jason Schondelmyer’s first two head coaching jobs.
Now, assigned not to rebuild, but to actually build the fledgling program at Tri-Village High School in the Cross County Conference, Schondelmyer has taken a more mellow, hands-on teaching approach to football.
There are no expectations for the time being, just to contruct, encourage, and infuse the shared athletes in the tiny school with enthusiasm for a different sport, and the task at hand.
“It’s different,” he admitted Thursday during a passing scrimmage at neighboring Arcanum, where he resigned after the 2004 season to replace Al Hetrick as the head coach at Versailles.
“It’s like starting a clean slate. There are no old traditions here, so there’s nothing left from the previous coach for the kids to unlearn and so they can buy into a new system. What we’re doing right now is all they know, and all they’ve ever known. That makes it nice.
“Plus, it’s just the excitement of everything else that’s going on. We’re building a new field, the stands, the weight room…things that you have a hand in with the designing. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
It has been better, in a sense, for Schondelmyer, now in his twenty third year of coaching. Once his Arcanum program competed with kingpin Covington on a yearly basis for the Cross County title in football. And owing to the current task at hand, when he took over the Trojan program it had but 18 players. So few, in fact, that Schondelmyer had to put on the pads and a helmet to assist with practice.
In 2005 he left to take the “dream job”, replacing the venerable Hetrick at Versailles…a dream that turned into a nightmare as a result of the cycle of athletes and higher-than-necessary expectations.
After two years he moved from there back into assistant positions, at the University of Dayton, and at Kettering Alter with his old mentor, Ed Domsitz. But he couldn’t escape the emotional rush, and challenge, of being a head coach. When Tri-Village called three years ago, he answered in the affirmative.
“There are just some guys who want theirs butts on the line, for lack of a better word,” he says. “They want the extra pressure of being the head coach and I’ve always been that way. I’ve always thought I had a lot to give to the kids.
“But, the thing is I enjoyed those years of going back and being an assistant, of it being a learning experience. There’s always so much to learn in football, even if you’ve been doing it for 23 years. I still picked up things at UD and Alter, so that’s what’s great about being back here doing it.”
When he was at Arcanum he made it a football school. When he was at Versailles, it was already a football school. Now, he assumes the culture of a community that’s never known another Friday night special other than basketball, state champions in boys Division IV in 2015. So the question becomes…can he borrow, or pull, from that culture?
“I think so,” he says with confidence. “One thing about it, the administration, the superintendent, everyone, has been all in on this from day one. But there’s no doubt about that Tri-Village (New Madison) is a basketball town and this will be an ongoing process, because not everyone there has bitten hook, line and sinker. The thing is we’re gonna’ need all our basketball athletes to be involved with football and they’re out here now. That’s going to help us out tremendously.
“Plus, people will come to understand that it sure is nice to have a gathering point in a small town on a Friday night in the fall, something you’re not used to, and football will provide that. No more waiting for basketball. This will be great.”
It is his third act as a head coach, decidedly under the radar as kids work to replace basketball skills and learn the nuances of football, and soon, hopefully, a new tradition. It’s a work in progress; it’ll take a while. But they don’t come more enthusiastic, or more affable.
“We’ve got to get stronger, and our line is improving rapidly,” cautions ‘Schondo’, putting perspective on the job at hand. “But already we’ve got the skill position kids to compete right now. As long as physically we can get stronger in the weight room, pretty soon we’ll be OK.”
It’s one of the few concessions you’ll ever hear from him, a guy who’s accustomed to the pressures of competing, and winning…at schools where there was no alternative. Baby steps for now as he smiled and moved away.
They’ll play like men soon enough.