Kopydlowski (click for larger version)
Kluge (click for larger version)
November 06, 2012 | 04:25 PMAccording to Badger High School Principal Bob Kopydlowski and Athletic Director Jim Kluge, the buzz is not only in the hallways and the lunch room of the school but also in the streets of Lake Geneva.
After the football team's 14-7 playoff victory Friday, the gridiron boys have achieved a level never before seen in school history — a state semifinal game.
"I saw people I haven't seen for 10 or 12 years at Friday's game," said Kopydlowski, who has worked at Badger the last 24 years. "People in town are talking to the players and congratulating them. Football is our most visible sport. The students are excited. More are coming to games. With the team overcoming so many injuries, it makes the accomplishment that much more impressive."
Badger is 9-2 and has won three playoff games despite at least 15 starters missing games because of injuries, including the entire offensive line. Kluge, who is in his 12th year as athletic director, said this season is a testament to the players.
"It's work ethic," he said. "I've never seen guys work harder. They are a really great group of kids and are very deserving. There is great senior leadership. If they lose a player, the seniors don't let the team get down."
Not to be overlooked is the Badger swim team, which won its first sectional in school history Saturday (program started in 1960s). If the Badger football team makes it to Madison, it would be the fourth Badger team (wrestling, tennis, swimming) in eight months to advance to state for the first time in school history.
"I was a little surprised it was the first sectional title for the swimmers," Kopydlowski said. "It's an amazing accomplishment and a huge deal. I think our student-athletes are a little more committed than in the past. There are a lot more training in the offseason and taking care of their bodies. We are expecting more from them. We want them to be role models with character and high moral value."
Kluge credits the coaches, who he said have good rapport with the kids. Also, he said a big positive has been the "Life Of An Athlete" program, an American Athlete Institute initiative started two years ago that promotes good decisions by student-athletes off the field. The program, now 140 kids strong, sends Badger athletes to area elementary schools as positive role models.
"A few years back, the talk was, 'Where's the party this weekend?,'" Kluge said. "Now, we are giving kids who are doing the right things off the field the attention they deserve."
Badger volleyball coach Emily Soley-Johnson and football coach Matt Hensler have been phenomenal in getting the program rolling, Kluge said. Hensler knows his X's and O's on the field, but Kopydlowski said Hensler's extra attention to the students has helped the football team become so successful.
"I can't say enough positive things about Hensler," Kopydlowski said. "He breaks the mold of a football coach. He wants to win, but he's not a win-at-all-costs guy. He wins the right way. He supports school decisions and knows education comes first. He treats the kids like students and people first."
Kluge said there are 10 paid coaches on the football team and six volunteers. In Hensler's six seasons, the Badgers have qualified for the playoffs each year. But while the winning may come and go, it's the chemistry that draws people to the football program.
"The coaches get along so well," Kluge said. "That kind of camaraderie is very rare. They are almost like brothers. It's fun to watch. Matt is one of the better coaches around. He rubs off on the rest of the staff. I like to get out of the way and let them do their job."