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Schumacher lived the dream for three decades

John Schumacher said he was able to live the dream during his 31 years in various capacities in the Park Rapids Area School district. Schumacher, who recently retired after serving the last 14 years as Park Rapids' activities director, will stay involved in athletics as the new Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

John Schumacher said the timing was right to retire as Park Rapids' activities director.

After serving 31 years in different capacities for District 309, including the last 14 as the activities director, Schumacher officially retired on July 1.

"All the stars aligned," said Schumacher. "It was time. My health was a big factor and the job as Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association came up. Since 1987, I've either been coaching two or three sports or being the head coach in one sport or serving as AD. That's a lot of hours away from my family. My wife (Bernie) sacrificed a ton. I couldn't have done my job without her sacrificing so much. I have two grandsons with another on the way, so I decided it was time to enjoy more time with my family."

Health scares

Two health scares put things into perspective for Schumacher.

In 2010, Schumacher was diagnosed with throat cancer. After making a full recovery from that, Schumacher suffered a stroke in January.

"That made me feel vulnerable. Not being able to be here and do my job at the level I wanted was tough," said Schumacher. "I lost 62 pounds during the cancer radiation treatments and I was tired all the time. Not being able to do anything was frustrating. The stroke was the scariest thing. Stress didn't cause the stroke. I had a clogged artery caused by the radiation from the cancer. I don't even remember the helicopter ride to Fargo. I'm very fortunate that I don't have any long-term side effects from the stroke. I had a lot of guardian angels looking after me."

Man of many hats

Schumacher wore many hats during his 31 years at Park Rapids.

Schumacher began as an aquatics instructor in 1987 and taught physical education before becoming the AD in 2004. In his three decades at Park Rapids, Schumacher served as an assistant coach in gymnastics, girls track and field, boys basketball and football and served as the head girls basketball coach and head football coach. Schumacher served as the Panthers' head football coach from 1999-2002 and was the Panthers' head girls basketball coach on three different occasions. Schumacher compiled a 10-25 record (including a 6-3 mark in 2000) as the Panthers' head football coach. As the head girls basketball coach, Schumacher compiled 165 career wins in 14 seasons from 1991-92 to 1997-98, from 2002-03 to 2006-07, and from 2008-09 to 2009-10. Highlighting that tenure were a 14-10 season in 1993-94, a 20-6 season in 1994-95, a 21-5 season in 1995-96, a 13-9 season in 1996-97, a 19-8 season in 2003-04 and a 22-5 season in 2005-06. The Panthers won back-to-back subsection titles in 1994-95 and 1995-96 and advanced to the Section 8AAA semifinals in 2005-06.

"There was not a day where I hated my job. There wasn't a day where I didn't want to go to work," said Schumacher. "The administration, the teachers and the kids made me want to come to work every day. I couldn't wait to walk the halls."

Dream job

Taking over as the Park Rapids activities director from Tom Conzemius in 2004 proved to be a dream job for Schumacher.

"TC was a great mentor. I tried to model myself after him," said Schumacher. "After the first year, I saw just how much all co-curriculars, not just athletics, make up the school district. Park Rapids offers so many avenues for kids to showcase their talents. It was so satisfying watching the kids work hard, find their niche and find success. That was so cool."

Over the last 31 years, Schumacher has seen or been a part of several memorable moments in Park Rapids athletic history.

"There are so many good memories. I was fortunate enough to coach with or have (Panther Athletic) Hall of Fame coaches mentor me. I was able to coach Hall of Fame athletes, who I may have influenced a little bit or played a small part in their success. I'm the fortunate one," said Schumacher. "There are too many memorable moments to list, but one of the most memorable was being able to coach both my daughters (Tavia and Nikki) when I was coaching girls basketball. The coolest thing about my job was I was able to live the dream for 31 years."

Schumacher did his job as AD well, earning the respect of his peers by being named Minnesota's Activities Director of the Year in 2011.

"That was unbelievable," said Schumacher. "There are so many ADs in the state who are so deserving of that award. To be recognized by your peers for the job you're doing was a huge honor."

New role

Even though he won't be in charge of activities at Park Rapids Schools, Schumacher will still be involved in athletics as the new Executive Director of the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

Schumacher took over as the association's sixth Executive Director since 1936 on June 25 when he headed up the annual summer meeting. Schumacher will oversee the MSHSCA, which has grown to a membership of more than 9,000 coaches and represents every sport in the state of Minnesota.

"The Executive Committee was excited to name John with his wealth of experience in high school sports," said John Erickson, who served as the Executive Director of the MSHSCA the past 18 years. "John has coached and served in administrative roles as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota State High School League. The committee made a good decision selecting John."

"The thing I'm looking forward to the most with the Coaches Association is it keeps me in the mix. I made so many friends over the years and I'll be able to continue to have contact with coaches in Minnesota," said Schumacher. "I can't thank the administration enough for having the faith in me and giving me the opportunity to be the AD in a great, great school district. I can't thank the people of Park Rapids enough for their support of out student-athletes. I will be forever indebted to them. I'll still be around. I've bled orange and black for the last 31 years and I'll continue to bleed orange and black."

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