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Life lessons keep K-M coach Swanson coming back for more

Kasson-Mantorville football coach Joel Swanson was not in a complaining mood after his team lost to Hutchinson in the state championship game. There is always too much to gain -- win over lose -- for that.

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Kasson-Mantorville head coach Joel Swanson during the Class AAAA state football championship game against Hutchinson on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Andrew Link / Post Bulletin

MINNEAPOLIS -- Joel Swanson's goal was the same as any coach directing a team in a state championship game.

The Kasson-Mantorville football coach wanted to win it.

That didn't work out for Swanson, who is in his 23rd year overall as a head football coach. Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, No. 2-ranked Hutchinson lived up to its ranking and running-game dominant reputation, powering and sprinting past the No. 9 KoMets 42-14 in the Class AAAA title game.

It left K-M 9-4 overall this season and still in search of the school's first state football championship.

But one thing it didn't do was leave the 58-year-old Swanson fruitlessly searching for meaning from this outcome.

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He found it, all right, as he always does.

Losses, Swanson admits, are less fun than wins. But when it comes to growth in teenagers --- or any human being -- losses are so often the best teacher.

And teaching life lessons is precisely why Swanson has devoted so much of his life to coaching high school athletics.

"Our guys peaked at the end of the year, and I'm really proud of them for that," Swanson said, addressing about six reporters at the post championship game press conference.

Swanson then reminded his audience that his team had endured three regular-season losses. He said they lived and learned from all of them, leaving them playing their best football the final month of the season.

And now, here they were again, left to live and learn one more time.

Instead of complaining about it, or looking lost himself, Swanson embraced this opportunity. He did it while thanking the three K-M football players who sat at the press conference with him, also fielding questions -- seniors Anthony Moe-Tucker, Kellen Wilke and Matthew Donovan.

Swanson used the opportunity to pat them on the shoulder pads as he spoke, to thank them for their fight and unity, and to praise them for their courage in the face of a loss.

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"Anyone can come up here when things are good," Swanson said. "But it's how you fight back when things are tough in life that matters. And these guys, they've battled and battled."

Swanson finished by insisting that it's for these kinds of times -- when things aren't just right -- that he's forever wanted to stay in coaching.

It's then that he really wants to go to work and have his players to do the same.

"I don't coach for celebrations," he said. "In fact, I coach for times when we need to overcome adversity. Life is going to throw you curveballs. But it's how you react to them that matters. That's how it is in the game of life. And it's why I love these guys so much. They always learned from their mistakes and they kept moving along. These guys love each other."

Moe-Tucker, the KoMets' star linebacker and running back, took the occasion to size things up. His words were just as Swanson had hoped.

"Us guys, we've always been there for each other, no matter what," Moe-Tucker said.

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