Wildfire head coach has his team winning, and he’s committed to building a culture of ‘Noble Men’
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor
Nate Zachmann is early in his coaching career, but he’s already having a major impact on the players he leads. His team is currently enjoying a 6-game winning streak and sitting at an 11-2 overall record, but his story began six years ago.
He was watching a Mott-Regent basketball game with his then-girlfriend, now wife, who’s brother was a member of the team. He noticed that there was only one coach on the bench, so he applied for the job and was hired under previous head coach Wayne Heckaman. Heckaman left two years later to pursue opportunities outside of the area, and Zachmann was given the helm.
Oddly enough, he was still in college, and drove 120 miles everyday for the better part of three years while he was beginning his tenure as a coach.
A collegiate football player at Dickinson State University, he still had a desire to hit the court.
“I’ve always wanted to coach,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for it.”
He found early inspiration from an old coach in Beach where he attended high school, but he wasn’t hesitant to reach out to others for advice either.
“I’m not afraid to ask questions,” he said. “I think what’s cool about basketball is that everyone is open to share.”
Zachmann began looking at successful schools around the area, and picked the brains of the people running those programs. He realized early that if he wanted to build a good team, he would have to build good people.
Zachmann said his strengths aren’t necessarily the x’s and o’s, but that his ability to create and instill a positive culture with his team is his best coaching characteristic.
“I think that building a relationship with your players and creating a bond, making a team fight for each other, making them believe in each other, and making the team believe in their coach is definitely my philosophy,” he said. “I love the idea of the guys fighting for each other, and having good relationships, and having that culture and chemistry.”
Zachmann said that winning basketball games is a byproduct of this philosophy.
He definitely practices what he preaches.
He told The Herald that he constantly is talking to his players about body language. He knows that as soon as your opponent sees you hanging your head, they will capitalize on it.
“You can’t show that a team is getting to them,” he said.
Zachmann has even held practices on good habits, even if it isn’t about basketball.
“We have had practices where I teach them how to shake someone’s hand,” he said.
The coach undoubtably has the trust of his team, and he shows that trust right back to them.
“I can honestly say that these guys would run through the wall for me,” he said. “Because they know I’d do the same for them.”
The Wildfire are currently in the middle of one of their more successful seasons in recent history, but it wasn’t always sunshine and roses.
Early on they suffered bumps and bruises as the young players were getting to know their young coach, and as he was getting to know them. But four years later those underclassmen are now the leaders on the court for the coach, and Zachmann said that consistency of coach and player has been crucial.
“They understand the system and the know what I expect from them,” he said. “With me being able to be here for their whole career, and to have that stability, is crucial to our team’s success…It’s just been a fund ride.”
He keeps his team motivated everyday by giving them something new to think about, whether it’s an inspirational quote, or an anecdote, or something else, he just tries to keep the mind of his players always looking at the next step. Part of that is their team moto—be noble minded, it’s something Zachmann has preached often since the beginning of the season. And being noble minded means not letting the little things distract you, even a good win streak.
“Don’t get caught up on winning and losing, get caught up on competing,” he said.
He added that you can learn things even in a loss, but you have to be there to compete.
Zachmann is happy with where his team is currently at, and in the end he’s thankful to God for the players he’s coaching, and for the community that comes out every game to support the team and the program.