Gustavus Football walked away from this season with not only seven wins for the first time since 2001, but also its first MIAC Coach-of-the-Year award since 1987. Head coach Peter Haugen was a co-recipient of the award this year along with St. Thomas’s Glenn Caruso. This was Haugen’s seventh season at the reigns of Gustie Football, a season that led the team to new and exciting heights.
Haugen led the team to third place in the MIAC standings, marking a large turnaround from their seventh place finish in his first year as coach. So what were the biggest factors of the program’s one-eighty?
“Staying focused on the process of continuous improvement and staying committed to learning and adjusting our style to the players we coach and recruit. Taking more time each year to focus on mental training and the positive impact it can have on performing at a consistently high level,” Haugen said.
The biggest challenges to success? “Being patient and keeping our focus on the small steps. We play in the finest league in division 3 in the country so every week is difficult and demands that we stay focused on the things that are within our control,” Haugen said.
As for the award, Haugen kept humble.
“It means a lot to our program and I am thankful to our players, staff, athletic trainers and support staff for all their work and dedication in growing our program and honoring the legacy of Gustie football,” Haugen said.
Of course, Haugen’s extensive experience couldn’t have hurt his chances at receiving Coach-of-the-Year either. Prior to his time at Gustavus, Haugen served as the head coach at Washburn High School in Minneapolis for fifteen years. Originally drawn to coaching by his parents’ influence, both of his parents were teachers and his father was also a coach. Haugen watched them growingup and adopted their philosophy.
“They both loved their work and were committed to relationship building and using the classroom and athletic field to challenge growth and foster an environment of positivity, honesty and encouragement,” Haugen said.
Haugen’s experience has taught him a great deal, and he continues to grow as a coach every year.
“I have learned a lot. There was certainly a transition period that was difficult in relation to getting acclimated to the college game and recruiting, but we worked to learn and solve problems along the way and set a clear vision for where we needed to go. I believe you improve when you honestly assess your work. For me that is always a work in progress and one we as a staff are committed to,” Haugen said.
With this historic season just barely visible from the back window, Haugen is already looking into the future.
“Our goal is always to improve each year. We can build on this season by staying committed to the process, continuing to recruit the best student-athletes and by looking at ways to improve how we prepare our student athletes for competition both physically and mentally,” Haugen said.
So what does Haugen stress when he recruits the best student-athletes?
“We want young men to choose Gustavus for all it has to offer (academics, athletics, campus community) not just one component. We also stress a personalized environment within our program. We are a tight family of players and coaches who are committed to championship football and building relationships that will last a lifetime. Finally, we want each young man we recruit to understand that he will be expected to grow as a leader, student and servant. This is core to our Gustavus tradition,” Haugen said.
If the Gusties can keep building on their success, Haugen may be looking at a few more MIAC Coach-of-the-Year awards down the road, but for now he offers a piece of advice to prospective coaches everywhere.
“Have thick skin and a soft heart,” Haugen said.