DARLINGTON – When Scott Zywicki gets enshrined into the Wisconsin Football Coaches (WFCA) Hall of Fame, he will proudly cherish the honor not only for himself but for the entire community of Darlington.
Zywicki was recently announced as a member of the 2016 Hall of Fame class and will be enshrined among the 14 inductees at the 37th Annual WFCA Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday, April 9, 2016, at the Marriott West in Middleton.
Zywicki is being recognized for his 31-year coaching career– all of which was spent at Darlington High School. He served the first 21 years as an assistant coach for the Redbirds and the last 10 years were spent as Darlington’s head coach– a role he continues to hold heading into the 2015 season.
“Obviously I’m very proud of our program. Its really indicative of our kids and our community why I’m able to get into the Hall of Fame,” said a humble Zywicki. “This is because of the entire structure of the Darlington community and about how much support they supply to all athletics at the school, not just football. The level of support from everybody is phenomenal. It makes these kids want to be successful, and it makes me want to work as hard as I can to make them successful. It’s the community, not anything I’ve done.”
Zywicki graduated from Greendale High School in 1976 and went on to UW-La Crosse where he played defensive back on the UWL football team while earning his degree in education before graduating in 1981.
He came to Darlington right out of college and soon found himself coaching year round at the school– tackling football in the fall, wrestling in the winter and track and field in the spring– for the first 10 years of his career.
“(Superintendent) Howard Friske brought me in for an interview with Dave Chellvold and Tom Binder for the junior high physical education/health position and asked if I could help with athletics. I love football and I love track, so I said I’d help out wherever I could,” Zywicki remembered. “I had three sports on my plate. I was very busy, but it kept me out of trouble.”
Zywicki’s first year coaching football came in 1983 as a member of the late Gary Ringen’s staff– a season that saw the Redbirds finish 0-9.
Douglas McArthur took over for Ringen in 1984; and, following another 0-9 campaign that saw the program’s losing streak swell to 22 games, he started to turn things around for the Redbirds with Zywicki’s help.
After going 2-7 in 1985 and posting a 5-4 record in 1986, the Redbirds’ turnaround was completed in 1987 when they rebounded from a 17-8 loss to Cuba City in their season opener to win 12 straight games and capture the school’s first state title with a 28-17 victory over Florence.
With Zywicki serving as an assistant coach behind McArthur (117-37 record from 1984-1996) and then Dennis Bogacz (75-19 from 1997-2004), the Redbirds would run off a string of 18 consecutive playoff appearances that included state titles in 1990, 1991 and 1995, state runner-up finishes in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 and state semifinal appearances in 1988, 1989 and 1998.
Those Redbird teams claimed conference titles in 13 of those 18 seasons and won nine or more games 16 times with double-digit win totals in 12 seasons.
Zywicki became just the sixth head coach in Darlington High School history in 2005 and extended the ‘Birds playoff run to a then-state record 19 seasons after taking the ’05 squad to a share of the SWAL title and a Level 3 tournament appearance.
Darlington missed the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, but under Zywicki’s direction the program has rebounded with seven straight post-season appearances, including back-to-back WIAA Division 6 state runner-up finishes, and five SWAL titles over the past six seasons.
All told, the Redbirds went 192-65 in Zywicki’s 21 seasons as an assistant coach with 18 playoff appearances (45-14 record), 13 conference titles, four state titles and four state runner-up finishes.
As a head coach, he has led the ‘Birds to a 78-36 overall record with eight playoff berths (17-8), six conference titles and two state runner-up finishes.
“If the kids believe in your system and if you as a coach can relate to the kids, I think you’ll be successful. I tell the kids the first day of practice, it’s not what you run it’s how well you do it. If you do it extremely well and pay attention to the finer points and details that go into it, that’s when you’ll be successful. You have to be willing to prepare,” he preached.
Zywicki feels that if his players learn to do that on the athletic field, they will also learn to do that beyond high school.
“Hopefully it bodes well for their future. Effort and preparation can go a long ways when dealing with a job and with a family,” said Zywicki, who has three children– two sons, Camron and Braden, and a daughter, Trisha– with his wife, Diane.
Zywicki joins legendary Darlington head coach Walter “Wadzy” Martens (183-61-14 from 1926-1960) and his friend and mentor McArthur as Redbird coaches in the WFCA Hall of Fame. Martens entered the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1980, while McArthur was inducted in 2007.
“I learned a lot from Doug. He was one of the most organized people I’ve ever been around. Attention to detail was his strength,” Zywicki said. “I’ve been involved in all facets (of coaching) before, so I know all the work our assistant coaches put in.”
While he’ll be the one getting inducted into the Hall of Fame in April, in his eyes the honor also belongs to all his former players, all the former coaches and all the Redbird fans around the Darlington community who helped him reach this milestone.
“It’s nice to share this with everybody because this isn’t just an award that goes to me. It goes to everybody who has had a hand in my successes. It’s great to see other people smile when they talk about it because its recognition for Darlington not just for me. I enjoy that as much as anything,” said Zywicki.
“Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate everything everybody has done for me. From the time I first came to Darlington through now has been one large family. It has been a fun, fun ride. I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for any other place.”