BOSCOBEL - Boscobel High School athletics begins a new era this fall as Wayne Otto takes the reigns of the Boscobel athletic program and will serve as the head coach of two key programs—football and wrestling.
Otto, 56, comes to Boscobel with 28 years of teaching and coaching experience. He will serve in the classroom as a physical and health education instructor along with handling the Activities Director position. Otto brings 15 years of football coaching and 26 years of wrestling leadership. In addition, he has also coached some track and field and even served one year as a junior high tennis coach.
Otto and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 23 years and her position in the world of finance has taken the couple to various states over the years, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Georgia. Three years ago, the couple returned to their native Minnesota after several years in Georgia in order to be closer to family.
Otto actually retired from teaching and coaching in 2017, with his last position being a two-year stint in northwest Minnesota. In describing his reasoning for coming to Boscobel, Otto was quick to point out that the decision was “fulfilling a want, not a need.”
What Wayne Otto, the teacher and coach, saw in the opening at Boscobel were some key components that created a challenge he was willing to accept. A former athlete himself followed by years of coaching tends to fuel the competitive fires, and the Boscobel position offered an opportunity worth exploring. What Otto saw in the position was the chance to head up football and wrestling programs that had largely suffered since the mid 1990’s. In addition, Boscobel offered an opportunity to administer an entire athletic program.
Otto has handled some site management and organizational duties in previous stints, but the position with the Bulldogs offered more. Otto did his research and was well aware of the programs that had some success in recent years and those that had not.
After interviewing for, and subsequently being offered the position, Otto did not accept immediately. He followed up the offer with discussions with Boscobel District Administrator Greg Bell and high school Principal Wally Byrne.
In his research and in discussions with community members, as well as others with some knowledge of the Boscobel community, Otto was convinced that the athletic program in Boscobel is in need of some real cultural changes. Otto needed to know that the administration was willing to support what may be some difficult changes in the overall athletic program. Once Otto believed that the Boscobel administrative team was supportive, he made the decision to accept the challenge and the position.
Otto began operating as the school’s Activities Director in an official capacity on July 8. Since that time, he has been busy making the traditional preparations for the beginning of the Fall sports seasons, checking competition schedules, travel schedules, double-checking officiating assignments, ordering supplies, and assisting those program’s coaches as needed.
So what are those cultural changes Otto sees he needs to address? The first thing the veteran coach feels that needs to be addressed is the general mind set. Otto believes that Boscobel has become accepting of not being successful.
“Losing becomes a learned behavior.” Said Otto. “We need to implement changes to address winning, and to enjoy the process that leads to winning.”
How do we accomplish that? According to Otto, “It needs to be a coordinated effort with a long term plan that incorporates all of those involved in a program, from the head coaches of the individual sports down through the youth programs, the participants and the parents.”
What Wayne Otto hopes to offer is organization and the ability to instill a sense of purpose and direction for Boscobel’s overall athletic program. To achieve this, Otto hopes to work through an expanded and more inclusive organization of the All Sports Booster Club. Otto knows the Boscobel Athletic Boosters have worked hard in the past to raise funds and provide things for the various sports programs, but Otto hopes to expand its depth.
Otto envisions an organization that would include officers for the Booster Club as an entity, meeting in concert with representatives from each of the individual sports booster clubs. By so doing, he believes that support for all programs will grow as the groups work together to support the overall Bulldog sports program. In addition, he hopes to organize the individual sport booster clubs in a manner that includes all levels under one umbrella, with the head coach serving as the overall leader.
“We need to develop and promote a ‘We not Me’ approach,” Otto said.
One aspect Otto clearly believes in is that it is his job to provide leadership overall and to insist upon leadership from the coaches within the various programs, with the varsity head coaches leading their overall programs at all levels.
Modeling his vision
In addition to his work with the overall athletic program, Otto the football coach has been busy securing and organizing his own coaching staff as he makes preparations for the opening of the football season. Practices for the varsity and junior varsity program, players in grades 9-12, began on Tuesday. As he works to build the football program within the framework he envisions for the overall athletic program, Otto sees an opportunity to model what he hopes to build throughout.
“We need to provide a vision for what we want to create,” he said.
Otto’s plan is to create a program that builds from the flag football program in fifth and sixth grade through the varsity program. To do so, he will use his high school players to coach, mentor, and model for the younger players. What he hopes to achieve in using this approach is to give those older student-athletes a sense of ownership in the overall program and to give them a better understanding of the game of football, techniques and strategies, as they must learn them in order to teach them to younger players.
As Otto termed it, “We need to get the football ‘curriculum’ to the younger players.”
Another aspect he wants to instill in football and all other programs is that to have success at the varsity level, the foundation must be formed at the lower levels. Players must learn to enjoy the nature of competition, not just on game night, but amongst themselves as they work with each other to improve their skills.
“Enjoy the game, the competition, knowing that the sounder the foundation, the greater the chances of success.” Otto says.
Otto hopes that by using his varsity players to work with the younger players on their game, and then inviting those younger players to assist the older team as ball boys, managers, and helpers when possible. The goal is to let the players at all levels know they are important to the program so they see themselves as a valued part of program. The “We not Me” concept has to be built.
As Otto laid out his vision and goals for Boscobel Athletics, he observed that in situations such as this the advice is often “Be patient; you can’t make change happen immediately.” Otto’s response is “Why not? We can’t afford to be patient.”
His meaning: If changes need to be made, why wait? In his view, he wants to provide the leadership that can lead to meaningful change and that must start immediately.
Wayne Otto is confident he can provide the leadership necessary to his coaches to promote positive changes—not change simply for change sake. He is quick to recognize those positive qualities and elements that may already be in existence. His thought is to build off what is positive, but not fear changing concepts or methods that may be blocking or limiting success.
Participation is key
As the Fall sports seasons near, Otto reminds Boscobel athletes that there is paper work that needs to be in place before they can begin practice for their various seasons. Furthermore, Otto extends an invitation to all the boys and girls of the Boscobel School District who may not be preparing to participate this fall. Numbers help create competition, and competition creates success.
In his presentation to those anticipating playing football this fall, Otto made it clear that “No one is given anything, everything will be earned.” A key take-away from that statement should be that competition within the program will drive decision-making.What will benefit Boscobel Athletics then is having as many athletes competing for spots and playing time as possible. That competition within can serve to drive the Bulldogs’ ability to compete with other teams. “We not Me” will work, when “we” are plentiful and committed to the work necessary to make the individual players competitors, working for a common goal, the success of their teams and Bulldog athletics.