Washington coach Chad Stadem on staying in touch with his former players.
Chad Stadem’s resume speaks for itself.
In his 17 seasons as a high school football head coach, the Dell Rapids native boasted a .702 winning percentage over 178 games with five state championships. He won Class 11B titles with Howard (2004) and Flandreau (2010) before moving to Sioux Falls, where he built upon Washington’s 11AAA success and became the first coach in the playoff era to win three consecutive titles in the state’s largest classification (2015-17).
“He was definitely a players’ coach,” said former Warriors standout Zach Heins. “He knew how to get the best out of everyone (but) didn’t want to overcoach things. He gave us the tools we needed to be successful, then let the players be themselves.”
“It’s always been a real good competition,” added Roosevelt coach Kim Nelson. “It’s a really good relationship. I think all the coaches in Sioux Falls are the same kind of guys. We all get along and respect each other — Chad was just a little more successful than the rest of us.”
By any measure, Stadem’s body of work is impressive. But when news broke Tuesday night that he had stepped down as Warriors coach to become activities director at the new Sioux Falls Jefferson, focus was primarily on his impact away from the field.
While that may sound like a cliche, it properly illustrates Stadem’s far-reaching legacy at Washington.
“Obviously he was a great football coach, but the biggest thing I hope people know is just how great of a person he was off the field and how much he had impacted his players,” Heins said. “It wasn’t just about football. He meant more in his players’ lives than some coaches do. He really, truly cared.”
Heins, whom Stadem nicknamed “Beaker” for his red hair, credited his high school coach with setting his football career on course. When he first entered the high school ranks, the 6-foot-7 standout planned on playing basketball in college, but Stadem helped nurture his love for football, telling Heins that with his size and frame, he could flourish on the gridiron.
“He really shaped who I am today,” said Heins, now a sophomore tight end at South Dakota State. “(Stadem did) a lot on the field in how much he taught and led us, but also off the field, with the life lessons he presented through football. He made everything really connect.”
Zach Heins and Logan Uttecht on playing for coach Chad Stadem. Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Stadem has also played a significant role in the life of junior linebacker Randolph Kpai.
Last May, Kpai described the strong relationship he’s developed with Chad and Tara Stadem, who would invite him to their home when his family didn’t have food and have looked out for him since he enrolled at WHS. “The Stadems have been doing so much for me,” he said. “I can’t even put it into words.”
At school, Stadem helped guide Kpai through the recruiting process, offering advice and accompanying him on recruiting visits. Earlier this year, the three-star recruit committed to Nebraska, becoming the latest in a line of Power 5 recruits produced under Stadem’s watch.
“He’s been a great mentor,” Kpai said Tuesday. “He means so much to me.”
The influence Stadem has had on his players was evident to opposing coaches as well.
Nelson said he “always admired” how Stadem composed himself during games, as well as his players’ dedication and their behavior after games. “They always shook your hand after the game and looked you in the eye,” he said. “I think that comes from the head coach.”
“I wish him well in his new venture,” Nelson added. “We’ll still be friends, but we’ll be again at rival schools, so that won’t change.”
Stadem’s departure leaves a significant vacancy at Washington and with the start of the season looming in early August, activities director Nate Malchow expects to have a new coach in place sooner rather than later.
“When you look at the timing of everything here, we have to get somebody in place,” Malchow said. “We understand the (amount of) time we have to work with, but we are still going to go through the process with the applications and the interviews. Then we will identify who that leader is going to be.”
For his part, Stadem is preparing to build an activities department from the ground up at Jefferson. While a unique (and certainly daunting) task, considering the on-the-field success and widespread impact he had as a football coach, there is ample reason to believe he will succeed in his new position.
“He’s going to do a great job at Jefferson,” Kpai said. “He did it at Washington and he’s going to do it over there, too. I just wish him nothing but the best. I’m so happy for him and his family.”
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.
Washington players talk about their relationship with head coach Chad Stadem.