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In the opinion of Jason Spain
Minot State University's Jaxon Lundeen running the ball during a game in Minot [Photo: submitted]
In the opinion of Jason Spain
Minot State University's Jaxon Lundeen running the ball during a game in Minot [Photo: submitted]

Minot's Own "Coach Carter"

Jason Spain
 November 24, 2021
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I have been gone a few years since being the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Minot State University.  I am back in Minot now and wanted to tell a story about Minot State athletics that many may not know.  There is a considerable amount of “winning” going on within the Minot State Athletics department.  

Athletic Director Andy Carter’s commitment to people development is starting to take form.  His philosophy in investing in his staff and coaches and helping them develop is also trickling down to the coaches developing their players and assistant coaches.  I know many universities talk a big game in recruiting on this topic, but I lived this while at Minot State, and I am now watching it unfold from a distance.  In my twenty-five years as a head coach at the collegiate level, I have witnessed many collegiate recruiters talk about student development but never any action after they get their athlete.  Carter backs up his promises.   

“At the end of the day you have to love your people,” says Carter.  “The key is having balance on how hard you challenge somebody and how much you support them.  At the end of the day, the W and the L is just a small variable in a big equation of what we call success.  The win or the loss doesn’t give us the answer of whether or not we are successful, it’s just part of it.”  

In collegiate athletics you can press a reset button on sports programs every 3-4 years.  If resetting is the focus instead of developing your staff, then your new staff will come in with a stop watch on themselves and will begin to cut corners.  Because Carter and Minot State have been so committed to developing the staff, this philosophy has been trickling down to coaches with their staffs and players.  Other programs will attack the transfer portal to make quick fixes on the roster.  These student athletes will have not been brought up in the culture of the program and often are snuffing out the very opportunity that coaches promised to a freshman recruit.  At MSU most programs monitor the portal (as they should) but tend to steer clear.  As a parent of six children, this philosophy is refreshing to me.  Recruit athletes, stay committed, and let them succeed or fail at the opportunity presented to them.   

In talking with Head Football Coach Mike Aldrich, he says he does his best to stay committed to his athletes.  “Build better men, better men make better Beavers,” he says.  “We have to find the players that have the potential to be impact players.  They don’t have to be impact players tomorrow; they just have to have the potential to get there.”   

That very philosophy is the outline for student development.  This was echoed when I had the opportunity to sit down with Jaxon Lundeen, a fifth-year senior at MSU.  “Coach always says ‘Do right! Be a better man! Do right!’” Lundeen also adds, “He [assistant coach Derek Edholm] is always pushing me to be perfect. There are times when I felt like I had a great rep or great play and [he] would tell me I could have got an extra hand on him or something.  I really respect how much he cared for me and drove me to strive for perfection.”  This is a great example of a coach knowing how hard to challenge his player.   

MSU offered Lundeen a $3,000 scholarship coming out of Class B Bishop Ryan, which equates to roughly 20% scholarship.  His freshman year he ripped up his knee on a conveyor belt causing him to miss his first year.  He worked hard to get back to the field.  His second year he was buried on depth chart and had to make his mark on special teams.  He kept working hard until he climbed into the tight end rotation. COVID wiped out the 2020 season, but Lundeen kept training and moving up the depth chart, so he entered his final season in a battle for the starting spot.  He entered Minot State with a 4.96 forty yard dash, and his senior year he ran a 4.58 forty. He improved .4 seconds in his career and climbed from injured freshman from a class B school to his senior year only 7 yards off from leading the NSIC in Tight End receiving yards and being named to the All-Conference team.   

“When I was in high school, all I heard about Minot State Football was they were a bunch of bad dudes.  My freshman year coach removed a bunch of guys and now the team is full of good guys,” Lundeen adds.   

Minot State Football has more than 100 players, and the team GPA is almost a full point higher now than when Coach Aldrich arrived.  They have next to none off-the-field incidents. Aldrich has given local athletes the chance to compete for starting spots on a NCAA level football team, and they have seized the opportunity.  

These local athletes are starters at Minot State. There are many other locals on the roster getting snaps or working their way up.  Many will likely be successful, because of Coach Aldrich’s approach to develop versus just hire a mercenary from the portal. 

Minot High School: 

Peyton Lamoureux 

Ben Bolinkse 

Logan Kruger 

Bishop Ryan: 

Jaxon Lundeen 

Jordan Will 

Rugby: 

DJ Schneibel 

Powers Lake: 

Kyle Van Berkom 

Williston: 

JJ Williams 

“We know what we are doing, the only way this gets better is that it gets ugly first,” Aldrich says.  “We must be able to have an appetite for it.  I trust the decision we made to do it. This is all part of the plan.  It’s going to get ugly before it gets better.”   

Aldrich went on to say in 2016 Minot gave up 436 yards rushing to Bemidji State, this year the rushing total went down to 241, and Minot rushed over 100 yards.  The battle in the trenches gap is closing.  Next year should be better as almost 90% of the snaps taken this year were by freshman and sophomores.  He says he thinks this team is very close to a break through, adds this would not happen without the philosophy of developing people.  

Carter stresses, “Be present at home when you are at home, be present at work when you are at work.” If you look at the retention of football players in the Aldrich era, it’s improving.  The academics are improving and the focus on the field is improving.  Developing players and having them stay until they are upperclassmen will begin to pay dividends in the upcoming years.   

Wrestling Coach Evan Forde began at MSU in 2015 prior to Andy Carter's arrival. Minot State is his first head coaching opportunity.  Forde’s early seasons were a struggle, and Carter could have easily pushed a reset button on men’s wrestling after Forde’s first two seasons of no conference wins.  But Carter chose to develop Coach Forde.  His patience and efforts are paying off in a big way.  Forde has increased his wins total every year since Carter arrived.  

The NSIC in men’s wrestling is filled with NCAA division 2 goliaths.  What Forde has accomplished these past 6 years is remarkable.  Pushing that reset button versus building a program with a solid foundation are two very different philosophies.  Athletic directors that choose the former usually are pressing that button every three-to-four years whether they win or lose.  With absolutely no plans for developing coaches, even if they hit a home run with a coach and that coach turns the program around, they will usually bolt for greener pastures anyway after a great season. 

“Andy knows when to pat me on the back, kick me in the rear, and when to help me get up off the mat,” says Forde. These words almost mirror exactly Carter’s own philosophy.  Forde’s time at Minot State as a coach parallel that of Jaxon Lundeen as a student athlete.  Both were given opportunities for success, and both have shown they have made the most of these opportunities.   

Forde also has a long list of local North Dakota wrestlers that have made his starting lineup, which includes Jordan Will from the football team and Shane Kennedy of West Fargo, Cristian Lagunes of Tioga, Brody Mohr of Fargo Davies, and Ethan Wonser of Tioga.  Forde’s athletes have increased the Team GPA by more than a full grade point.   

Carter is a coach of coaches, but it’s more than just that.  He shows he cares about the coaches and teaches them to care about their staff and players.  This athletic program is winning in so many ways and is on the verge of breaking through program wide into top of NSIC.  I know what I see, I have coached for more than two decades and can see the differences in the areas that matter.  I see the positive changes that precede winning on the field.  But winning on the field like Carter says is only a small part of the equation.  Building better adults is the “real game,” and Coach Carter and Minot State athletics are winning that game.   

jason.spain@stage.mydakotan.com

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