Coaches Corner

Mark Mueller, head coach New Albany High School

Tuesday October 21, 2008 3:59 PM
When Mark Mueller was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach of the New Albany High School football team before the 2005 season, he took over a Division IV program that spent most of its time playing smaller Licking County teams and guided it through a time of rapid growth.

New Albany has grown into a Division II program and is in the OCC. The Eagles have made the playoffs in three out of five seasons, including an appearance in a Division III state semifinal in 2006.

High School/ Graduation year: Cincinnati Finneytown/1989
College/Degree Attained: Ashland/1993 (education)
Day job: Wellness teacher, New Albany High School
Family: Married 10 years to Elyse. Three children: Kyler, 9; Keegan, 6; Kerrine, 3

Q: Tell us about your football experience as a player?
A: I ended up starting the 10th game of my freshman year. I ended up starting in basketball midway through the season. I got thrown into the fire early. It was kind of bloody at first. Then we got better. We were 0-10 my freshman year. Then we won three games as a sophomore and four games my junior year and five my senior year.

Q: What position did you play?
A: Tight end, linebacker, a little fullback.

Q: You said it was kind of bloody your first year, why is that?
A: The first game I started, I started against a kid that ended up going to Kentucky and I was playing outside linebacker and he was playing tight end and it was a very good learning experience. When you're getting thrown around a lot it's a good learning experience.

Q: He put you down a few times?
A: Multiple.

Q: What school was that?
A: Madeira. We called it the Blue Bowl. It was 0-9 versus 0-9.

Q: Who kind of ruled that league back then?
A: Wyoming. We had (Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education) when CAPE was around. They were great. I was on (ESPN's show Scholastic Sports American) three times and not for winning. We were getting beat by CAPE, Vinny Clark and Carlos Snow and those guys. Carlos - he went to Ohio State - broke Herschel Walker's high school record against us, so they stopped the game and ESPN was there. So that was fun.

Q: So then you went on to play football in college, was there a point you realized that this was as far as you were going to go and that's when you decided to go into coaching? Did you ever aspire to be a pro?
A: The NFL came there and I took the test. We ran for them and stuff and I knew. It kind of happened quick. One of the assistant coaches at Ashland took the job in Mansfield, Stan Jefferson - he works down at Ohio State now - just asked a couple of us that were in education to come back and coach with him. It was like here's the money, let's go make some money, and wham, bam it happened quick.

Q: So you were at Mansfield?
A: Mansfield Senior. I was there seven years and he was the head coach there for eight years.

Q: So it wasn't something where when you were growing up you were like, 'I'm definitely doing coaching.' It's just something that kind of happened?
A: I went through a couple of business classes and just decided it's not for me and I switched over to education, which I had a couple of buddies doing it and it just kind of rolled into one.

Q: Was there a point where you were coaching that you were like, 'I like this,' and what did you like about it?
A: As soon as I started coaching it just kind of took over what I was doing. I actually coached my fifth year of college while I was playing for the basketball team. So I was coaching high school football and still training and playing basketball for Ashland. It kind of took over and you start growing attached to kids and I really liked being around the game of football.

Q: Once you started liking coaching and liking being around the kids, was it just high school coaching that you wanted to do? Did you think about going to college?
A: One of my assistants, Pat Samanich, coached for Ohio Wesleyan, and after seven years at Mansfield I knew I needed to make a move and I wanted to be a head coach. I was going to go to Ohio Wesleyan, I interviewed there. I had a position there and then Jamie Masi received the job at New Albany. I never got to coach at the college level, but I knew if you wanted to do that, you have to starve and at that time I had a family already and it just wasn't in the books.

Q:  As far as your own experience at high school football, you've been the head coach of a team, a successful team, a team that's been to the playoffs, how much of a difference do you see between days that you played and what the kids are going through now?
A: The coaching. The fact that I have three or four former head coaches on my staff. My coach in high school knew what he was talking about, but the assistants, they weren't too knowledgeable. Now all of a sudden the people I get to surround around me are very knowledgeable and very passionate. That just makes it you don't need to do everything. You just kind of oversee and you monitor stuff.

Q: It's just the caliber of assistants?
A: The caliber of assistants and the caliber of athlete are a little bit better. The caliber of training, there's not as many three-sport athletes. Nowadays the three-sport athletes, there were like one or two on last year's teams. Girls and guys that play three sports, they're gone. You have to get at least one good session. For us its two, summer or either spring or winter where you train.

Q: You talk about Masi getting the job here and you didn't even coach in college, did you have a relationship before?
A: I was going to Ohio Wesleyan and knew Jamie at Ohio Wesleyan. I knew him a little bit.

Q: You just feel like this was the right place to go for you?
A: It was a nice place. I got here the year after they won the league title and coach (Jack Hatem) had moved on and they had a good group of kids coming back and can't lie the money was something that brought you here too.

Q: Now that you've been a head coach, is it pretty much what you expected it to be? Was there anything you didn't really realize came with the job?
A: When you're an assistant coach, when you're coaching a group of kids, you're really bonding to those kids and as a head coach you can bond to them, but you also have to be a disciplinarian.  You have to be that stern force. The separation of the relationships that you used to build as an assistant coach, that's something you kind of miss. Plus, you got friends on the staff that you coached side-by-side with and now you have to be the boss. That's kind of a litter weird too. But as long as everyone checks their ego at the door, we're all fine.

Comments