Steamboat Springs The key, Shawn Baumgartner said, is relationships, and that’s what he’ll try to build first as he takes over as head coach of the Steamboat Springs High School football team.
Baumgartner was announced Thursday as the new head coach of the Sailors, taking the position over after two years as the program’s offensive coordinator.
Baumgartner spent the 12 years before that as head football coach at Hayden High School before accepting a teaching job in Steamboat in 2015.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” Baumgartner said. “After spending a couple of seasons here and getting to know the kids, it will be fun to bring my personality and my vision and see where we can go.”
A rebuilding job awaits. The Sailors are coming off a 1-8 season, and they haven’t had a winning season since running to the 2010 state championship game.
Essential in progressing toward that success, Baumgartner said, is relationships, both with the players who will return this season and with younger players and their parents, who are considering tackling high school football in the future.
Steamboat has struggled to get athletes out for the team in recent seasons. Last fall, about 35 athletes participated.
“My biggest thing, vision-wise, is starting to build those relationships with younger kids,” he said. "It starts with the middle-school coaches, making sure we’re on the same page.”
Baumgartner replaces Lonn Clementson, who stepped down as head coach after seven seasons. The team was 17-52 during his tenure, playing four consecutive 4-6 seasons between two 0-10 campaigns and, after dropping from Class 3A to 2A, last year’s 1-8 autumn.
Steamboat athletic director Luke DeWolfe helped lead a hiring committee that included principal Kevin Taulman, high school boys and girls soccer coach Rob Bohlmann, two parents of football players and one high school senior.
Ten coaches applied.
“Shawn has a very clear vision for what the program should look like moving forward,” DeWolfe said. “He spoke to what a seventh grade-through-12th grade program should look like, what its vision for that should be, and that was a big piece of it for us.
“We wouldn’t have hired Shawn if he didn’t have a plan for a comprehensive seven through 12 program.”
The rest of the district’s football coaches will be hired now that Baumgartner’s in place, including four paid high school assistants, four assistants for junior high and a head coach and an assistant for an eighth-grade team and a seventh-grade team.
Baumgartner graduated from Weld Central High School, then started at defensive back for four years at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
He launched into coaching after that, logging three years at Highland High School, two of them as football head coach. He spent a year back in Weld County coaching eighth-grade football, was a graduate assistant with North Dakota State University for a year, then logged 13 years. He was head coach for 12 of those seasons, guiding the team to a 70-50 record.
After two years with the Sailors, Baumgartner doesn’t entirely represent a break from Steamboat’s recent program history. The team went 5-19 in that span and averaged 8.6 points per game.
Still, DeWolfe said the hire was a move toward a clean slate and a change in the program.
“This is moving in that direction,” he said. “Through the course of the interviews, it became clear to myself and the committee members that Shawn was definitely about moving us in a fresh direction, and this is a fresh start. I don’t think we would have gone down this road if we had felt it was just going to be a continuation of something that was here before. It wasn’t a negative, what was here before, but we are just ready for the next logical step and a fresh start.
“Shawn definitely had a clear vision for what that is, a real road map for how to get there. Those were the things that we really appreciated.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9