by Dennis Dalman
After trying to retire twice before, Sartell soccer coach Joe Perske is fairly certain this time they’ll let him do it, although he can’t help but chuckle, wondering if some crazy fluke would put him at the helm again.
But thanks to the appointment of a new coach, Perske can indeed rest easy. He will, in fact, retire from his 10-year job as head coach for the Sartell High School Girls Soccer Team. It’s a sure thing. For sure.
Many people have kidded Perske about his retirement “attempts.” In fact, some of them tease him by calling him the “Brett Favre of the Central Lakes Conference.” Twice, after he announced he would retire, there was nobody to take his place and so he was called upon to continue. Perske really didn’t mind continuing because he has always loved the job. But this time around, he was determined since he wants to spend more time on other pursuits, including more time with his family, his teaching job, his mayoral position and possibly a broadening involvement in the world of politics.
Perske has taught physical education at Sartell Middle School since 1990. He is now serving his second term as the mayor of Sartell.
The new head girls’ soccer coach is Cassie Raehsler, who was coached by Perske during his second year of coaching. (For more on Raehsler, see story in today’s paper.)
“She was a team captain and a great leader,” Perske said. “I’m sure she’ll continue that leadership.”
If Perske hadn’t had daughters, he probably would never have been a soccer coach. He and his wife, Janet, have three daughters: Michaela, Jenna and Greta. All were on the traveling soccer team at one time or another. Perske agreed to help coach the team, along with Josh Anderson, but first he had to learn the game, which he did in no time at all. Before that, Perske’s area of athletic expertise was as a runner.
Perske is happy and proud about his years as head soccer coach.
“It’s something I’m really going to miss,” he said. “The most satisfaction I’ve ever gotten is working with the girls on the soccer team.”
In 10 years, the team only had one non-winning year. Cumulatively, over that 10-year period, the record is 63-21-18. The best year was 2006, when the team had a record of 18-3-2 and went to the state tournament where they were beaten by Benilde-St. Margaret. They made it to state again in 2007 but lost to Totino-Grace.
This past season, the team was sailing along on a winning streak until they lost to Alexandria in a shoot-out.
As a coach, Perske’s philosophy has always been underscored by an emphasis on teamwork rather than on individuals.
“We always played – win or lose – as a team,” he said. “And the girls always understood that. There were so many outstanding girls, starters or not. I could name lots of names of outstanding players, but I won’t do that. It wouldn’t be fair to everyone. The team is what’s important.”
And Perske had teams galore to coach. Girls soccer quickly gained in popularity to the point that in some years there were four teams of 11 girls each. If any girl wanted to play soccer, Perske was determined to welcome her to a team. His approach to coaching has always been to give anyone and everyone a chance to play and to have fun.
And have fun they did, so much so that some people jokingly called the girls soccer team a “cult.” It’s not surprising because the teams developed all kinds of off-the-wall rituals, including counting how many mice would be trapped in the storage shed where soccer equipment was kept and upon which mice enjoyed dining. Another ritual, every season, was to take a quick dip in frigid Lake Superior water when the team would host an annual potluck get-together with the girls on the Proctor soccer team. Yet another ritual was to start every practice session by listening to a Fleetwood Mac song, and they would raucously parody the song, teasing coach Joe, by singing “Players only love you when they’re playing.” One of the rituals that wasn’t so much fun was the Sisyphus exercise during which the girls would coax soccer balls up to the top of a hill, where they would roll down, and the girls would have to coax them up once again and again. And again. They called it “Sisyphus” after the Greek king who was punished by the gods by having to roll a boulder up a hill over and over, repeating the futile action forever.
Perske and the girls called those rituals their “craziness,” something Perske said he will miss most of all.
“When we would cry after losing (sectional tournaments), it wasn’t so much that we lost,” Perske said. “We cried because we all knew the craziness – the fun – was over for that season.”
But, Perske quickly added, he cherishes the memories.
“You cannot imagine how much fun it was,” he said, “to coach those girls. It was more than playing soccer. So much more.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.