By Jessica Steger, Current Staff
Talk about the ultimate all-sports all-star.
Dennis Ziegler, the new East athletic director, has committed to a year-long challenge. He has extended an invitation to all East sports teams to give him an athletic challenge, and he will fulfill that request at their practice for that day.
On Tuesday, Ziegler joined the boys varsity soccer team for a pk5 shootout, acting as both a goalie and a shooter. He previously ran with the girls cross country team, running eight Decorah Hills, and joined the girls volleyball team by performing a five-ball drill with them.
“The other teams have not come forward with any challenges yet, but I would expect that to change now with winter sports approaching,” Ziegler said.
This is Ziegler’s first year as the East athletic director. He has defined many purposes for initiating this challenge, such as evaluating what the coaches are teaching and how they are challenging the students, showing support to all the sport programs, and, of course, testing his own athletic capabilities.
“I am trying to demonstrate to students and coaches what we are trying to accomplish by being mentally tough and not using BCD behavior—blame, complain, and defend,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler has noticed a positive response from the students and coaches alike.
“Some students and coaches are surprised that I am doing it and some coaches think I’m crazy. But others have been thankful as it shows them that I truly care and support the program and the athletes in the program,” Ziegler said.
Maggie Ciriacks, an East junior on the cross country team, has noticed this.
“We had the meeting and food, and he was at the practice, so he’s much more involved with the community,” Ciriacks said.
Ziegler also made an impact with the volleyball team, and caught the attention of Elizabeth Odness, an East senior on the team.
“I like that he is trying to make changes, like changing the environment of the whole school,” Odness said.
“Some students and coaches are surprised that I am doing it and some coaches think I’m crazy.”
– Dennis Ziegler, East Athletic Director
Alaina Michels, another East senior on the volleyball team, was particularly impressed with Ziegler’s effort to connect with the team, and his diving skills.
“He came in and he tries to dive and he looks weird because it’s not normal for him to do that,” Michels said.
Ziegler has also made an impression with the coaches who have participated in the challenge so far. Rob Sanborn, the East girls cross country head coach, appreciates Ziegler’s effort.
“It’s great that he gets out and sees and is seen by the athletes regardless of the sport. I think that makes him more connected to the school and the people he is in charge of,” Sanborn said.
Kara Moran, the assistant coach of the East girls cross country team, has also noticed the benefits of Ziegler performing the challenges.
“I think it was a great idea because our team got to know him and it felt like he actually cared about them and cared about what we were doing. He is very involved and is really thinking about how to move us forward,” Moran said.
In addition to connecting with his teams, Ziegler has found enjoyment in performing the challenges as well.
“It’s fun for me and lets me get my mind off other things. It’s my escape from my ordinary job and gives me something different. I love learning about different sports and learning about athletes and programs,” Ziegler said.
But Ziegler’s main focus is still on improving the athletic department.
“Most of all, the challenges allow me to engage students and learn about things we as a department can do to support the programs better and how to continuously improve the department and all sports,” Ziegler said.
(Video: East Athletic Director Dennis Ziegler accepts an athletic challenge from the boys varsity soccer team on Tuesday. Video by Jessica Steger, Current Staff.)