ANSONIA – After 38 years as the head varsity football coach of the Ansonia Tigers, the Dean of Darke County coaches, Eugene (Gene) Hoening made the difficult decision to not return to the sidelines for the 2019 season.
“This spring I could just feel I didn’t have the fire that I once had to do the job,” said Hoening. “When you coach football you just have to have that fire or that drive to do it, I just didn’t feel like I had that fire and I didn’t want to shortchange the coaches or the boys if I couldn’t give it my all.”
With 38 years at the helm, Coach Hoening has experienced undefeated seasons and a few down years record wise.
“The coaching staff has always coached the best Ansonia had to offer in terms of the boys in high school to play football,” Hoening stated. “You have to be motivated and you have to be willing to do things otherwise you would not do. Our boys always worked hard for us. The good teams worked hard. The teams that weren’t so good, they also worked hard if not harder. Sometimes you just got to face the fact the other guy across from you is better than you are.”
Recalling his first season as head coach at Ansonia, Hoening believes his first year ended with a 4-5-1 record.
“We were ok, but when you first start coaching you don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. “Even the first couple of years you still don’t know what you don’t know and every year you find something new that you can incorporate into what you’re already doing – coaching you never stop learning. There is always something you can do better.”
Hoening played football for Coach Bill Schuette at Ansonia and went on to play offensive tackle for Coach Bill Ramseyer at Wilmington College after graduating from high school in 1975.
“The four years I was at Wilmington were all winning records,” Hoening noted. “We never won the conference championship but we were contenders.”
After graduating from Wilmington, Coach Hoening returned to Ansonia to teach biology with no thought of coaching.
“I kind of got into coaching by accident,” said Hoening. “I had played college football. I never took any coaching classes in college. I majored in biology and my secondary emphasis was english literature.”
“The coaching position came open and I had been here a year – hey, you played college football – ok, so I signed up,” Hoening said with a chuckle. “I knew nothing about coaching football, so you have to learn. Never think you know it all because you don’t.”
The young Ansonia coach reached out to neighboring Versailles coach Al Hetrick and soon built a good relationship with the legendary coach.
“There were some summers I liked to visit him just to try to get some nuggets of wisdom from him and he would always say, ‘anybody can coach football’, shared Hoening. “That’s easy for him to say – look at the success the guy had. He definitely was an influence on me.”
“The past ten years I pretty much ran the same style of offense he ran. My second or third year of coaching, Bill Schuette was an assistant for me when I started coaching and he said, ‘you know Versailles runs this defense. It works for them, maybe it’s something we should try’. At the time we were running a 6-2 which we ran when I was in high school and we started running that Versailles split-4 and we stuck with that for 36 years – that was a great defense for us from the other Tigers down the road.”
“Coach Hetrick and his staff had a big influence on me,” Hoening stated. “Also Dave Schmitz (current Greenville assistant coach) and Tom Donnelly more than once took timeout to share things about that defense with us and that was invaluable.”
As with Coach Hetrick, Hoening was known for discipline and a no-nonsense program.
“Dave (Schmitz) coached with Coach Hetrick, Bart (head Greenville football coach) played under him and by golly, Coach Hetrick is a hardnosed football coach. It’s his way or the highway, and rightly so.’
“Football is not a democracy – its football,” Hoening continued. “It’s not a joking have fun game. I don’t know if you can really call football fun. You go out there in the summer, it’s hot, you’re sweating, guys are knocking you around, your sore, but I think it’s a challenge. Guys like the challenge and guys like the discipline. They want that routine, they want that order.”
Advice from Coach Hoening to junior high and high school football players: “for a young fellow who is playing football in high school – stick with it. You’ll never regret playing football but if you give it up you will. I have talked to so many boys who went out for football; they decided it wasn’t for them, then they might see me years later and they will tell me, ‘you know I wish I would have stuck it out’.
Hoening has seen noticeable changes in 38 years of coaching, but to Coach Hoening football is still football at the high school level.
“We see more gun teams, more spread offenses than we use to see,” said Hoening. “I can remember in college we ran a little gun but not like you see today. When we ran gun in college, it was kind of an afterthought where it was a way to give the quarterback a little more time, but now the whole offense is where you go the entire game and the offense may never be under center.”
“For other schools that might be a change for them, but to me, I’m still snap the ball from the center to the quarterback, hand it off to somebody and run most of your plays with a lead blocker – get more people at the point of attack than the defense.”
Most athletes remember all their coaches years after graduation and the influence the coach had on them.
“I always look at it the other way – how did some of those boys influence me,” said Hoening. “I’ve coached the best and brightest of Ansonia. They have become good fathers, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, family men – couldn’t have done it without them…just a great bunch of boys to work with.”
The “military style jungle gym” built by Hoening out of 2×4 and 4x4s have been in view at the Ansonia football practice field for years, used to get his teams in top physical condition.
“I read it in an old Vince Dooley coaching book from the 1960’s,” noted Hoening. “He made his out of pipe at the University of Georgia and I thought, I work at the lumber yard in the summer, I can buy my lumber there and make my own – so that’s what I did.”
Hoening built parts of the contraption low to the ground making it difficult to navigate.
“It wasn’t supposed to be easy,” Hoening said with a grin. “We don’t have them anymore, but I made our own tire tunnel out of lumber as well. My dad (Gene Hoening) helped me with that, so that was kind of fun.”
Coach Hoening was quick to encourage young people to get in the coaching ranks.
“Absolutely, sure, yes,” he said. “It’s very rewarding, not money wise but the satisfaction you get from working with the boys, working with your fellow coaches and seeing the boys come together and execute as a team. Finally when they run that play right, that’s it – you can’t beat that.”
Coach Hoening will not be assisting from the sidelines this year at Ansonia but does plan to be in the stadium watching the Tigers compete.
“An old coach said when you retire, you need to separate yourself from it for a year so it’s the other guys program – if you’re still in there, you haven’t made that separation yet,” explained Hoening.
The retired coach has no intentions of retiring from the Ansonia classroom where he now teaches Current Events while serving as the Dean of Students.
Coach Hoening and his wife Sandy are the parents of twins, daughter Erin, a nurse in Nashville, TN and son Ethan who works at Superior in Russia, OH.
The list was long of people Coach Hoening thanked for making his coaching career a success as well as a memorable one.
“If your wife doesn’t support you coaching, you can’t do it,” Hoening said first of Sandy. “My dad. He has passed away but he gave me a love for sports. Bill Schuette, my high school coach. Bill Ramseyer, my college coach, he’s retired now. When it comes to coaching, I always thought of those guys. What would they do, how would they do this – two great individuals.”
“I want to recognize all the great assistants that I have worked with through the years – you can’t beat them. Just great guys to work with, great guys to have around the boys.”
“The administration at Ansonia has been more than supportive of any of the athletic programs, great people to work with from the get go.”
“The parents have been super supportive,” added Hoening. “They go above and beyond expectations and I tell the boys; that is how your parents demonstrate their love for you, by getting you here to practice, washing your uniform, fixing your meals on Thursdays before a game. You don’t coach alone, that is for sure.”
Hoening has no plans in the near future of retiring from Ansonia High School.
“I’ll be here until they kick me out,” smiled Hoening. “I’m only 62. I don’t have any hobbies. If I’m not working here, I work at the lumber company in the summer. I have good health – I talk to too many guys that retire and after about the first month or so they’ll regret retiring. They have told me; if you are healthy, keep working, don’t stop.”
Coach Hoening continues to believe in the youth of Ansonia as well as the youth of our country.
“I don’t know where people get the misconception that the kids today are any different than they were before,” stated Hoening. “Maybe their interests are different but 99 percent of them are good kids – come from good families.”
One final comment from the old coach – “I bleed orange and black.”
Contact Sports Editor Gaylen Blosser at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 853-6390-Ext. 1751. Read more news, features and sports a DarkeCountyMedia.com.