The Nike Coach of the Year football clinic kicked off yesterday afternoon at the Holiday Inn located in Fogelsville and in the process hit a pretty impressive milestone.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the clinic that has brought big time college football coaches to the area like Bobby Bowden, Urban Meyer, and Nick Saban.
The clinic was started a decade ago by coaches that are very familiar to the TIMES NEWS area in Jim Tkach (former Northern Lehigh coach) and Marian Colts head man Stan Dakosty. Both coaches have had immense success in coaching over the years at the high school ranks and serve as perfect pillars of football knowledge to run such an event.
The whole deal got started when Jim Tkach's son Bo was working at Bethlehem Sporting Goods. Bo overheard the Nike representative, who frequented the store talking about trying to find a veteran coach from the area to run a Nike sponsored coaching clinic to the store owner. Bo hearing this, turned to the rep and volunteered coach Tkach for the job. The rest from that point on has been history.
"Bo was just stacking shoes and turned around and said my dad will do it," said Tkach. "The guy that owned the store agreed with Bo and from there we called Chuck Rowe, who is the head of the Nike coaching clinics. He flew up from Orlando and we met and then we went to a couple venues. After that we got things started and the big thing for us right away was that PenTeleData and Blue Ridge Cable came with us from the get go. That gave us some legitimacy right out of the gate."
Although the event is such a success now, and everything runs very smoothly, coach Tkach will be the first one to tell you that their first year running the clinic was an overwhelming experience.
"We had the first clinic at the Days Inn over on route 309 and we had Bobby Bowden as the main speaker. I remember just being kind-of overwhelmed," said Tkach. "However, with my family and friends and coach Dakosty and his family being football people we knew what had to be done. To understand how much goes into this, I printed out a jobs list last night and there are 10 categories of just jobs that need to be done on a daily basis here. It's a lot of work, but it's most definitely worth it."
The clinic itself has a very homegrown feel to it and that is the way coach Tkach and coach Dakosty want it to be. They will be the to first say that this is a clinic about football, there is no casino setting or anything like that. They want it to be about promoting the game of football, while providing an educational setting.
"A common misconception people have is that this is a clinic run by Nike and that we sort of manage it," said Dakosty. "This is what I like to call a Mom and Pop operation. Our family and friends help us run this event. Nike gives us some support in that they give us five speakers, but we do the rest and we have to find other speakers to compliment the speakers Nike gives us."
"There are so many people that help us out here," said Tkach. "We even go as far as to cook the food for the coaches ourselves. My mother stays here the three days along with George Ebbert and they make all the food for the hospitality area. That's the kind-of atmosphere we want to create here. Another reason why we've been so successful is the cooperation we've received from the Holiday Inn here. They've been great and they literally go out of their way to help us with anything we need."
The Lehigh Valley and Coal Region area are very rich in football tradition and the clinic is a perfect opportunity for the two to come together. Coach Tkach and coach Dakosty both believe that a clinic like the one that resides in the Lehigh Valley area now is vital in protecting and promoting the game.
"All I can say is this clinic just fits this area," said Tkach. "It's like surfing down the shore or skiing in the Poconos. Football is in our DNA and it's just what a lot of us from this area grew up on. Football is important to our culture and myself and everyone involved loves doing this. Now that I'm retired it keeps me close to the game and everyone tells me, even the employees at the Holiday Inn that it's like a reunion when we all get together. It's just a really fun atmosphere."
Coach Dakosty also feels the clinic helps fight off some of the scrutiny that football has taken over the past couple seasons with the hard hits and concussion issues.
"This is a great game and I feel like this clinic does a lot in promoting how great of a game it really is," said Dakosty.
"There are so many intelligent guys that come and speak here and I would never hesitate to tell anyone to tell their child to play this game. Football is safer now than ever. As a matter of fact we have more youth coaches attending this year than we ever had before. That means the coaches at the younger levels want to get educated and that's a great thing for the future of football."