Elsbecker will be new Fort Dodge AAD

Matt Elsbecker expects to carry a passion for teaching and coaching right into the next phase of his professional life, where the responsibilities will change but the purpose remains the same.

Elsbecker was officially named Fort Dodge Senior High’s next athletic and activities director at Monday night’s school board meeting. The Dodgers’ decorated baseball coach will replace Tom Kinseth, who is retiring on June 30.

Elsbecker’s first day on the job will be July 1.

During the interview process, his father’s words of wisdom guided Elsbecker as they had when he first sought the head baseball position at FDSH over a decade ago.

”My dad’s always said that if you show young people you truly care about them and believe in them, wonderful things can happen,” the 43-year-old Elsbecker said. ”I’ve done my best to follow that advice as a parent, a teacher and a coach, and will do the same now (as the athletic and activities director).

”I’m very proud to be a Dodger, and I have so much respect and admiration for this community – past, present and future. I’m excited to see what we can do as a school, and I’m humbled by the opportunity to be a part of it in this way. I want to thank the (selection) committee, the school board and (FDCSD superintendent) Dr. (Doug) Van Zyl for showing the belief, trust and confidence in me.”

Elsbecker directed one of the more successful coaching turnarounds in Fort Dodge history, resurrecting a program that had hit rock bottom for all intents and purposes. The Dodger baseball team held a 36-125 overall record in the four years prior to Elsbecker’s 2002 arrival; in the last eight seasons, FDSH is 120 games over .500 with five state tournament appearances, four semifinal berths and an appearance in last summer’s 4A championship game.

”Anyone who knows Matt understands that his passion is truly special,” Van Zyl said. ”His drive to do what’s best for kids and his overall work ethic is second to none.

”Matt’s sincerity in wanting everything Fort Dodge-related to succeed was evident (throughout the interview process). as were his high morals and insistence on doing things the right way. He did amazing things for our baseball program, and we’re looking forward to that same type of leadership as an overseer of all athletic and activities at Senior High.”

Elsbecker is a 1987 graduate of Bancroft-St. John High School. He holds Bachelor of Arts degrees from Briar Cliff University and Buena Vista University, and a Master of Arts in Education/Administration from the University of Northern Iowa.

Elsbecker coached baseball at Granville Spalding (1997-99) and Benton Community (2000-01) before coming to FDSH, where he currently teaches American Studies and Journalism.

”If Matt leads the athletics and activities the way he’s run his baseball program – and I think he will – (the position) is in very good and capable hands,” said Kinseth, who has been the AAD since 2002. ”He put Dodger baseball back on the map and is very well-respected in the coaching community across the state.

”Of course there will be a learning curve, as there was for myself, Don (Miller), Dutch (Huseman) and everyone who came before us. But we’re all in town and a phone call away. I am confident that Matt has the kind of energy and enthusiasm to do great things for Senior High.”

Leaving the baseball program will be ”incredibly emotional,” according to Elsbecker.

”It was tough – very tough – to tell the seniors and the rest of the program,” Elsbecker said. ”You want your kids to know that you’re not abandoning them. I’m going to miss it, definitely, and I care about all of my players deeply. They built this program through the years, and words can’t express how proud I am of them.

”I told my guys that you choose your own path in life. I really want to try to have a positive impact on as many kids and activities as possible, and I feel like this is my chance.”

Elsbecker credited many people for inspiring him to apply.

”My wife and my family, first and foremost,” Elsbecker said. ”Melissa has been incredibly instrumental in every decision I’ve made – I appreciate how supportive and honest she is in every step we’ve taken together.

”I talked to Zach (Elsbecker’s oldest son). I talked to Chloe and Mackenzie (his two oldest daughters). I had a conversation with (former Dodger baseball coach and current Iowa Central athletic director) Rick Sandquist, who is a role model and such a positive influence on people. I sat down with Tom (Kinseth), (FDSH softball coach) Andi (Adams), (Dodger football coach) Matt (Miller) – we have so many good leaders in this community who I respect and admire.

”I also want to thank (Center Point-Urbana athletic and transportation director) Scott Kriegel, a good friend of mine who has always been very candid with me. I will be seeking advice from him quite a bit in the future.”

Elsbecker understands the challenges ahead, but it’s ”not going to stop me from pushing the envelope.”

”When I first came here, I heard all of the reasons and excuses why we couldn’t get the baseball program turned back around,” Elsbecker said. ”If you’re willing to believe and work hard, success will follow. If you hold your kids and programs to a higher standard and push each other to succeed, success will follow.

”We have so many things to be proud of in this community. The events that we host – from state softball to state cross country to the many districts and regional meets – are unique and special. The level of involvement from the workers and volunteers is special. In many ways, Fort Dodge already expects so much from itself for a town our size. I want to make sure that continues through our athletic and activities (at FDSH). I will stay true to that mission and always remember dad’s advice.”