Cowgirls On The Court = Coaching Legend
Coaching isn’t all glory, it’s the art of turning blood, sweat and tears into glory. It’s late nights, long weekends, emotional rollercoasters and miles upon miles in a bus. It’s an underpaid job one does for the passion of a game and the thrill of the victories. Today we celebrate a coach who knew how to bring talent to the surface by digging down deep and pulling out all his tricks to make athletes believe in themselves and his methods. A coach that did this with some boys, and a LOT of girls. Not just any girls, but tough, thick skinned, girls from a ranching community. Cowgirls on the court.
You’ve heard the phrase “you can take the girl outa the country but you can’t take the country outa the girl.” Why would you want to when you have the mountain of memories Coach Randy Hodgson has compiled from transforming these tough chics from cattle rustlers to spiking machines. Over the course of 30+ years Coach Hodgson found a way to finesse the ranchy girls of North Park into putting aside the muck boots and ropes and turn his court into a different type of wide open space.
The determination and grit the Lady Cats put out brought many a winning season to decorate NPHS. Those banners and trophies came with some great laughs and memories only a coach of ranch girls can appreciate. This started with early morning practices that were scheduled to work around the hayfield, and his first sign that he had dedication from young women that were up at the break of dawn regularly. Once after an early practice one of his girls left the school, forgetting she wasn’t in the hayfield anymore and she turned her ’71 Impala right into Coaches car. Her hours behind the wheel of a tractor took over when she realized power steering in the car is a little easier than muscling an old John Deere tractor.
The “Circus Drills” had nothing on bucking bales but the rhythm of the motion and skills gained will stick with his protégés for life. A proficient shot came as naturally to these girls as swinging a rope from the hours of free throw practice spent in the barn. Coach had a way of tapping into this hard-headed brood and bringing out the best. I asked Coach what made ranch girls different to coach. His reply, “they always dug a little deeper and I could push them farther.” One example was Jolene Evans, a stellar athlete who Coach knew he could push to the limits and she’d play even tougher, regardless of her asthma that plagued her. Jolene was named 2A Player of the year in 1993.
“Ranch girls expected to be pushed. They were the only players whose parents asked me NOT to play them so much.”
Regardless where his “crew” was, Coach was always reminded he was surrounded by ranchy girls. Like the season the bus couldn’t stop at McDonalds because their beef came from Argentina. ANYWHERE but McDonalds! The mixture of Electric Youth and Aqua Net laced with manure to waft through the locker room from the boots strewn on the floor was a natural mix. He knew that meant toughness, mentally and physically. A different type of adrenaline surge came from those girls.
These antics often went beyond just the players, like the time that local cowgirl was named the 2A Basketball player of the year. Dressed in high style and her Dad sporting a Stetson the family went with Coach to receive the honor at a banquet. Many laughs ensued when “Dad” left hungry because, being a cattleman, he refused the chicken dinner served for the guest of honor.
It was on the court when Coach really got the best of his players. They weren’t afraid to hustle like they were running from a bull or tackle like they were taking down a calf. His players carried over the endurance from staying in a saddle for 12 hours into grueling tournament matches that yielded trophies. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes their mouths even made Coach blush. Some of them were so hard headed and tough on Coach they didn’t dare share the stories of what they put HIM through.
In Chris LeDoux fashion, we tip our hat at a great coach and say “It ain’t all the years Coach, it’s the miles” we were graced with you leading our outfit. Congratulation’s to Coach Randy Hodgson who, TODAY, is being inducted in the Colorado Coaching Hall of Fame.
Read on for a few stories shared by Coach Hodgson's athletes:
WE CHALLENGED EACH OTHER~ Jolene Evans-Condit
I was blessed to have Mr. Hodgson as a coach.
We had a pretty close and unique athlete/coach relationship. Even though I did get hollered at a lot, I remembered one day he said "the day I stop hollering at you is the day I give up on you" and I never wanted that.
As he challenged me to always be better, I tended to challenge him by pushing the boundaries as much as possible probably making him age a little and work hard at keeping me in those boundaries!!!
Mr. Hodgson pushed me hard as an athlete but made the sport so much fun, he went the extra mile as a coach to see me succeed and further my career into college. Sports was my saving grace and what molded my future from high school to college and a lot of that credit goes to having a great coach in your life that knows and loves the sport and his athletes as well. So I'll say it again, I was blessed to have a coach like Mr. Hodgson in my life.
THICK SKIN & BIG HEARTS~ Kelcey Souza-Landis
Coach Hodgson was “blessed” with many ranch girls during his coaching reign at North Park. I happen to be one of those special few. While every girl who played for Hodgson was unique, talented, and strong in her own way, there’s just something extra distinctive about a ranch girl proudly wearing the blue and gold.
During my time at NPHS, we constantly talked about having to have thick skin with Coach Hodgson. He ALWAYS meant well and was doing what any great coach does during practices and games – being passionate; however, there were definitely a few select girls who seemed to be the regular recipients of Coach’s passionate shouting. Those few girls were usually ranch girls. Coincidence? Nah. Ranch girls have the thickest of thick skin.
As a ranch girl, I had that thick skin both figuratively and literally. I learned early from my dad to “get back on the horse after getting bucked off”, and that carried over to the court. Hodgson coached in the same manner. If I failed at something, he encouraged me and raised me up so I could prevent it from getting the best of me. As a Ladycat, I would move forward and dominate in the next half, the next game, or the next season. There was no time to dwell, only time to work harder. And if I focused on the job I needed to do, the fear of failure would fade away anyways. When Coach passionately asked me to leave it all on the court time after time, you can guarantee I did just that. I can’t count the number of hardwoods out there on the Western Slope and the select special courts on the Front Range that literally collected my blood, sweat, and tears.
At the end of my high school career, there are two things I will always look back on and think to myself “that’s what built me”. And those two things are the fact that I grew up with amazing parents on a ranch in North Park and that Coach Hodgson always believed in me and what I could accomplish with some thick skin and a big heart.
COACHING IS A DIRTY JOB- Kaitlyn Hanson-Eberle
Connecting March as Beef month, North Park as beef country, and Coach Randy Hodgson as the Hall of Fame Coach from North Park isn’t really that much of a stretch. Coach Hodgson not only accepted “ranch kids” on his teams, he embraced them. Coach understood what these kids were made of. He understood the hard work ethic, the determination ( or sometimes referred to as stubbornness), the idea of “getting dirty” to do a job. He used that background and applied it to the game. Ranch kids were not afraid to hit the floor for a loose ball, hit our backside when blocking a spike, or take a charge. Even the biggest opponent wasn’t a match for a 1300 pound 4-H steer. Coach understood ranching was life to these young athletes. He even respected that from his players.
Scheduling volleyball games around fair every year was a challenge, but he made it work. He didn’t even say too much if we had to run into the locker room with a pig or steer barn smell still on our boots. He would get us focused for the game and be grateful we were there contributing to the win. Later during fair weekend, his “ranch kids” would find him at the show or sale supporting them.
After finishing my freshman basketball season,
2nd in state, and heartbroken at the time, Coach explained something to me. He said, “Kait, if we have to play basketball year round to win state, that may not happen. North Park players have jobs. They have to work. They are in hayfields in the summer and calving barns in the spring, and I am fine with that. I am proud of that.”
I have a million things to thank Coach Hodgson for, but this is a big one. Thank you Coach for allowing us “ranch kids” to play sports for you. Thank you for being flexible enough so we could experience sports, winning, teamwork, and many life lessons through you and your program. Thank you for giving us the chance to blend work and play and be “ranch kids” and athletes at the same time. In my heart, I will always be a North Park Wildcat and a “ranch kid” and because of Coach Hodgson I had the best of both worlds.