Melissa and Mitchel VanWesten The Minneota 'C' squad boys’ basketball team are: (left to right) Braeden Panka, Bishop Curvin, Jackson Jeremiason, Ben Skorczewski, Coach Mitchel VanWesten, Jacob Citterman, Joseph Rybinski, LaShad Smith and Alex Josephson.  Not pictured was Cale Sorensen.

First-year coach comes in a winner

Ever since he was in high school at Round Lake-Brewster, Mitchel VanWesten wanted to be a coach. “I knew I wasn't that great as a player,” he said. “I wasn’t much of a scorer. I was more of a defensive player.”

“I knew I wasn’t going to prolong my career in college and I really wanted to help kids become better players, so I that’s why I wanted to become a coach.” Mission accomplished.

In his first year as coach of the Minneota ‘C’ squad boys basketball team, VanWesten guided the squad to a perfect 17-0 record.

But the 24-year-old wasn't taking any of the well-deserved credit. “It's the kids, really,” said the Brewster native.

“They came to practice every day dedicated to work hard and to get better. They had a good mindset and listened to what the coaches had to say.”

VanWesten also said his first year of coaching was a learning experience. “Dave (Busselman, the varsity coach) and ('B' team coach) Mike Hennen helped me tremendously,” VanWesten said.

“I learned so much from both of them.” VanWesten and his wife Melissa live outside of Minneota. Mitchel works on his father-in-law’s cattle farm, while Melissa works in Brookings.

It was VanWesten’s wife who saw an ad in the paper that Minneota was looking for a ‘B’ squad coach. So Mitchel decided to seek the job.

“They decided to bump Mike up to ‘B’ team and I became the ‘C’ team coach,” VanWesten said. “It worked out well for everyone.”

“Coaching is better than what I thought it would be. I had such a good time and the kids were great all year.” When first asked what his team’s record was this season, VanWesten hesitated.

“I honestly don’t know without looking in my book,” he admitted. “I didn’t concern myself so much with wins and losses.”

“My goal was to make sure the kids improved throughout the year and to prepare them for when they get to varsity.”

The future looks bright for the Minneota boys’ basketball team. The current varsity team has over 20 wins this season and there is plenty of rising stars on the horizon.

“We’ve got some quick players and we’ve got some kids I’m expecting to grow a lot,” he said. “But like I said before, the important thing about the season was not how many games we won. It was more rewarding to see how well they listened and how they were so willing to work hard.”

VanWesten is looking forward to next season to gain even more experience as a coach. “I really love it,” he said.

“I’d like to be a varsity coach someday. That’s a goal of mine.”

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