A Coach’s Drive: In midst of his 30th year as head football coach, Benson still as enthusiastic as ever

In rural communities, teachers and athletic coaches can change dramatically from year to year. But in Mott, one man has stood the test of time, Ron Benson.

Ron Benson, Head Coach of Mott-Regent Wildfire for the past 30 years, said that it is the relationships he treasures most about his time as coach. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | The Herald)
Ron Benson, Head Coach of Mott-Regent Wildfire for the past 30 years, said that it is the relationships he treasures most about his time as coach. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | The Herald)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

In rural communities, teachers and athletic coaches can change dramatically from year to year. But in Mott, one man has stood the test of time, Ron Benson.

Benson is in the middle of his 30th year as head football coach for Mott-Regent (Benson also coached for Mott prior to the Regent, Mott school co-op).

Benson got his start at Mott in 1986. The superintendent at the time—Darryl Remington—was looking to fill the coaching vacancy with the football team, he approached Benson.

“I was asked to coach, (and) if I wanted to try it,” Benson said. “I just said ‘yeah, why not.’”

Benson played high school football at Lakota near Devils Lake before attending Lake Region Junior College in Devils Lake and Valley City State University in Valley City. Benson didn’t play collegiate football but was on the track teams as a hurdler.

Following his time in college Benson went on to work in education at Butte for one year before coming to Mott. He would be in Mott until going into private business for 11 years before returning to education and coaching. During his first stint at Mott he coached the junior high team.

When asked if he saw coaching as a part of his professional future he said “oh yeah.”

“That was a big deal, I went to college for that,” Benson said.

Though Benson always planned to coach, he didn’t see football in that plan. Benson said he saw himself at the helm of a basketball team, or a track team. Football wasn’t on his radar, according to Benson.

But the chance he took in 1986 has led to a legacy of fun and winning.

While coaching, his teams have racked up five region championships, a state runner-up finish and one state championship. His team went an undefeated 12-0 the year they won the state championship in 2007.

He has coached 29 kids to All-State honors and has had 24 participate in the Shrine all-star football game, two numbers he is most proud of.

“To me, that’s a big deal,” Benson said.

Benson has also had a number of athletes under his direction go on to the collegiate level.

Benson has won Regional Coach of the Year multiple times and taken home a state Coach of the Year award, but he credits his athletes drive and dedication under his tutelage with those accolades. The awards also reflect how fellow coaches view him and his work, as they are voted on by his peers. It’s something he really enjoys about the process because it shows the respect others have for him and his teams.

During his 30 years, he has learned that you have to be yourself and bring your own personality to the job, and you need to make sure you’re challenging yourself to improve.

“You can coach the way you want to coach, your own personality, don’t be somebody that you’re not,” Benson said. “Always try to make things fun, and new. What else can (we) learn, what else can we do to make the program better, I’ve always tried that.”

He had a simple, yet meaningful answer when asked what his favorite part of coaching was—the relationships.

“The relationships with the kids, there’s no doubt about it,” Benson said. “When you go out there and see kids work like this and work hard and it’s important and it’s a passion, it’s really rewarding and I just really enjoy that.”

He also mentioned the camaraderie with coaches around the state as something he enjoys.

Throughout his tenure he has been able to meet many people in the industry through state meetings and coaching seminars.

Benson has been at the helm long enough to see kids of former players coming through his system. He knows more are coming at the elementary level, but he isn’t sure he will be coaching when they get to the high school level.

Many of his former players are still around the Mott area, and Benson enjoys beating them on the golf course.

“Lessons aren’t cheap,” Benson said.

This is Benson’s last year of teaching (he is currently the guidance counselor and junior high health and science teacher), but his coaching future isn’t determined. He is going to wait and see if there is a need for him still, or if someone else is interested in taking over. Either way he knows it won’t be easy to give up.

“It’s something that’s hard to walk away from,” Benson said.

For now, Benson is focused on his team this year. As of this printing, the Wildfire are 4-0 in the region and includes handing New Salem/Almont their first regional lost. The Wildfire are beating their opponents by an average of 29.5 points this season. He said they have a great team and a great coaching staff with incredible enthusiasm, which has lead to the successes of this season.

As Benson reflects on his tenure with his football team, he said he wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“I’ve been blessed,” Benson said. “If I could do it over again I’d do the same thing.”

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