Ron Stolski, BRAINERD coach
By Mike Bialka
The Brainerd Daily Dispatch
BRAINERD, Minn. -- The month was August, the year was 1962 in the tiny town of Kensington, about 30 miles west of Alexandria.
A 22-year-old Ron Stolski, one assistant coach and three players showed up for the first day of eight-man football practice.
The field had no goalposts, which Stolski would later help build. That's how Stolski's first season as a head football coach began. He remembers it as if it was yesterday.
By the time Kensington played its first game, a few more players had joined the team. After an 0-4 start, Kensington finished 4-4.
"The first game we had 11 players," said Stolski, beginning his 29th season as head coach of the Brainerd Warriors, and his 42nd season overall.
"We had 13 on the team," Stolski said. "Two of them took a job mowing hay that day rather than come to the game and we lost to Marietta 31-18."
These days, Stolski presides over a staff of 11 assistant coaches and more than 100 players in the top three grades. He guides a program that, since 1989, has compiled a stunning 116-37-0 record (.758).
During that stretch the Warriors have won or tied for five conference championships, have been section runners-up seven times and played in three state tournaments. Stolski's career mark of 283-129-5 (.687) makes him the winningest active football coach in the Minnesota State High School League, the fourth-winningest in MSHSL football history.
"I think it's a matter of longevity, that's all," Stolski said of his career record. "I think it's a tribute to our coaching staff and the kids we've got. We've had an incredible run over the last how many years. That's partly due to good coaching, because we have good coaches on our staff, and it's partly due to getting our system in place.
"We have good athletes in town, and thankfully they're playing football. I hope we never get to a point where specialization in one activity takes over. We've never tried to do that in football. Our mantra always has been: Be a multiple-sport athlete, a multiple activity kid, be a good student. That will continue until the day I retire."
Retirement not in plans
The 64-year-old has no plans to retire, and not just because he's on the verge of the MSHSL win record.
"I hope to keep doing it as long as the school district allows me," he said, "and as long as we continue to believe we're doing good things for kids. I think you know when you're no longer doing what you ought to be doing for kids. When we do know that, when that time comes, we'll know and we'll be gone.
"I believe our staff still has the energy and enthusiasm and we know how to contribute to the well-being of kids. I don't see any lack of commitment to that end. I just don't see it. I don't feel it in myself, I don't feel it in the staff. I don't see an end to this for a while."
Stolski has never missed a game or practice. He never missed a day of work in his 37 years in education.
Stolski points to the evolution of strength training, the advent of women in sports and the regulation of offseason student activities by amateur groups as significant changes that have occurred in high school sports during his tenure.
In football, Stolski says the advent of videotape instead of film, or not filming games at all, is the biggest change. He says it's also more difficult to play the game because the coaching is better; consequently every team is better.
"The kids generally are every bit as good or better than when we started coaching," Stolski said. "There are different pressures on kids which, with every passing year, we see as more defined. These pressures on kids to satisfy the demands of whatever, is something that bothers me a great deal.
"The athlete of today has all the heart, desire, strength and skill of the athlete of yesterday. The difference is the athlete of today is asked to be spread so thin. I believe that to be unfair. I wish we had seasons again."