Shaun Ryan Visser started playing football in Preston at a young age and fell in love with the sport.
“Football is the ultimate team game,” he said. “As a young kid, playing football was a way to be part of something bigger than yourself. The sport teaches a lot of life lessons. Plus you get to hit someone and not get in trouble.”
He grew up a fan of the Green Bay Packers. “Especially watching Brett Favre, the way the guy played, the love of the game and excitement he showed.”
Then Visser excelled on the field playing for the Preston High School Visser had the opportunity to play college ball, but decided to start a family following his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After his mission, Visser’s former head coach offered him a position as an assistant coach. Visser also enrolled at Utah State University and commuted the 30 miles from Preston to attend school during the day and coached in the evening and on weekends.
Visser received his degree in social studies teaching. He got a teaching job at his alma mater in Preston and continued to coach. For six years, Visser served as an assistant with three different head coaches.
“I learned a lot working under different coaches,” he said. “I got a very well-rounded understanding of what goes into a successful high school program.”
Visser will take his experience to Big Piney High School, in Wyoming, this fall as the new head coach.
Respecting the past and moving forward
Visser recognized the work of outgoing Head Coach Aaron Makelky and the rest of the staff for building a strong team. Respecting the past legacy of the previous head coach’s program will be the starting point, Visser said.
“The (previous) program did an awesome job,” he said. “I want to build upon that.”
Creating a culture is an important part of Visser’s coaching philosophy. Every team has a culture that is either cultivated or formed by “default,” Visser said. His goal is to cultivate a culture of positivity on the team instead of allowing that culture to default into negativity.
“This doesn’t mean lowering expectations or giving them a pat on the back every time they do something,” he said. “But it is about creating energy and positivity to prevent negative thinking.”
Another important concept for Visser is developing commitment among his players. This means dedication both during the season and the off-season in the weight room and at camps. Since the team is more important than the individual in football, Visser said that part of building commitment is putting the team above everything else.
Talent is not always necessary to make a good player. Visser believes that a young person with toughness, effort and discipline “can prevail over talent.”
Visser has already met team members a few times on visits to Big Piney. He said that it is too early to have specific schemes worked out for the field, but said he will develop schemes around the individual talent of his players.
“You can expect to see us run spread offense and aggressive defense with many fronts,” he explained.
Stepping up as a role model is a crucial part of any head coach’s job, Visser said.
“Leadership is a very important part of team culture,” he explained. “The kids will take on the identity of their head coach. I don’t take my role as a leader on the sideline lightly.”
Visser also plans to foster leadership among the players. Each athlete will be assigned to a unit led by a team captain, providing plenty of leadership opportunity on the team. The units will cross class lines to prevent cliques forming among the freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors, he said.
“I want a team where every kid has a home,” he said. Part of this involves getting to know each player outside the gridiron. Visser plans to continue with team building activities outside of practice and games. He also will personally interview each player to get to know them before the season commences.
The rewards of coaching come down to the camaraderie formed between players and coaches.
“Every coach who gets in this, we don’t do it for the pay,” he explained. “We do it for the awesome bonds formed on a team. Some of my best memories as a football player come not only from playing, but from the bus rides, the pregame meals, the talks with teammates.”
Visser will also provide leadership in the classroom, filling the social studies vacancy at Big Piney High School. Visser is passionate about social studies, and believes that the subject is just as important as science, technology, engineering and math.
“Not everyone is going to become a scientist, but everyone will be a citizen,” he said.
Visser is also working toward getting his physical education certification to help kids get in better shape.
Visser is looking forward to moving with his family to Big Piney. He said district administrators and staff members he met have been “very kind and accommodating.”
“I’m excited for the adventure it will be and look forward to the challenge of coaching at a small school,” he said. “I lived in the Cache Valley (Utah) most of my life, and am very excited to be (in Big Piney). I plan to hit the ground running.”