Ex-Dodger Eslick finds comfort zone

Mitch Eslick was always willing to take control on the athletic field.

Now, as the head coach of the Sigourney boys basketball team, the Fort Dodge Senior High graduate is still adjusting to a different kind of role in the game.

Eslick is in his third year at the helm with the Savages, who are 2-5 overall after a 60-51 victory over English Valleys to conclude the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule.

“I didn’t realize how hard it was to coach,” admitted Eslick, a graduate of Wartburg College who played basketball for the Knights. “I saw a lot of my playing days from a different light when I first got into this – especially when I became a head coach.

“The lack of control during games took some getting used to. Luckily, I’ve had great kids to work with, but I definitely take losses a lot harder as a coach than I ever did as a player.”

Last winter, Eslick directed Sigourney to the substate final after claiming a conference title. They had a 21-win campaign come to a halt at the hands of Danville, which went on to place third at state.

Eslick earned a state doubles title in tennis during his playing days as a Dodger, and placed three other times. He also helped FDSH qualify for the state basketball tournament his senior year, and currently ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring charts.

The athletic road took Eslick to Waverly, where he scored almost 800 points while battling knee injuries that cost him time during his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

“I knew coaching and teaching were what I wanted to do (after college),” said Eslick, who teaches kindergarten through sixth grade physical education. “I just really wanted to stay involved in basketball and I knew that was my way to do it.”

However, after just a few years of being an assistant, Eslick said, “I couldn’t have ever really imagined being a head varsity coach at the age of 24.”

Eslick credited his father, Marty, and Larry Boyd – the father of his former tennis partner Lucas – with “instilling the love of basketball in me and a lot of my classmates.

“They took us all over the state playing tournaments and taught us a ton about the game,” he added. “After those two, I had a ton of great coaches all the way through my time (at FDSH and then Wartburg). I picked so much up from them that I use to this day.”

Eslick and Sigourney return in the new year with back-to-back road games at Victor-HLV and Lynnville-Sully.