Bill Bentson: Brainerd Dispatch features ‘Q&A’ with son the coach

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Bill Bentson
Wheelin' with WEB

No drama this week. No ambulance trip and no truck breakdown, which has highlighted the WEB the past two weeks. The hose on my “sleep machine” came out during the night, so only got a little more than three hours on my machine. Other than that, there are no issues to report.

Carol and I did drive down to Grove City (Roberta’s) last Sunday for a family get-together. It was a belated/early birthday and anniversary celebration for the two of us. Six of the eight “Great 8” were there and all four of the “Fab 4” made it.

Also, a big thank you to my Facebook connections for all their birthday wishes. It was a pretty uneventful birthday celebration (July 2) for me. I updated the softball and baseball records in my notebook, watched “Price Is Right” and “Get UP” on the “tellie” and finally got out of my pajamas about two o’clock. I went 1-2 in my pinochle games at the local Cenex and then drove to Fertile for an American Legion baseball game between Ada and Fertile.

When I got home from the game I tuned-in to the Twins and watched them lose to the A’s. If you’ve noticed, I’m not getting really excited about the Twins just yet. I don’t want to get too excited right now, only to have those hopes dashed come September and October. It’s not that I’m not cheering for them, it’s just that I’m not bouncing off the walls in excitement just yet. It’s really early in the season, and a lot can happen between now and October. I’m not a big fan of professional sports, but of all the pro-teams in the Twin Cities, the Twins are one of my favorites (along with the Lynx).

I’m not a Twins bandwagon fan, because I like them all the time, and watch and listen to them regularly, but I want to keep my anxiety level in check. I hope everybody understands, and know I’m not alone in reserving my excitement, until it actually happens (winning the division, etc.).

Athletics: Bending the ear of Jim Bentson

A really nice article came out in the Brainerd Dispatch on July 2. It’s a Q and A, authored by Jeremy Millsop, sports editor for the Dispatch, with Jim Bentson. I thought I’d include a few of the questions, and Jim’s answers. Jim graduated from Preston-Fountain High School in 1990. Following graduation he joined the army, and after his tour of duty, he attended St. Cloud State. He just finished his 20th year of teaching at Pillager High School.

“Nobody toes the line between fiery competitor and a tad bit crazy better than Pillager’s Jim Bentson. Whether it’s jumping out of airplanes or coaching, Jim Bentson is an intense, but disciplined leader. The husband of Joslyn and father of Jack, Jada and Jena, he has coached basketball, track and field and football at Pillager.

“More importantly, he’s served his country. Bentson took time away from his Fourth of July plans to talk about his time in the military, coaching and an epic death scene.

“Q: For those that don’t know, you were a paratrooper before you came to Pillager. How and why did you sign up for that duty?

“JB: I read how Richard Coffey had grown six inches after he graduated and went into the military. He was a paratrooper and I thought I could do something other than just going into the Army. The recruiter said “jump pay” was an extra $100 a month. It sounded like a good time.

“Q: Tell me about jumping out of operating airplanes?

“JB: It’s an adrenaline rush like a big basketball or football game every time. Pre-jump and the eight hours before you execute the mission is the tough part. Once you get out of the airplane and are free of other paratroopers’ chutes it’s a fun 25-30 seconds. Then it's packing up the chute, orienting yourself on the drop zone and trying to find the Crunchies (Infantry) you support.

“Q: What was time like in the military?

“JB: Very rewarding. The Minnesota National Guard and 34th Infantry Division is one of the most professional organizations out there. I had many great mentors. The 82nd Airborne replaced us in Iraq and I just shook my head between the difference of the National Guard and regular Army. They were much younger, we were definitely better prepared and more seasoned in life.

“Q: What prompted you to join the military?

“JB: Money for college. Then George H. W. Bush and the boys in Washington thought we should help Kuwait. Oil. Then I re-enlisted a number of times in the National Guard. They almost always offered a bonus and paid most of my tuition up to my Masters Degree. I enjoyed the challenges.

“Q: You were in the National Guard. What was your rank and responsibilities?

“JB: I retired after 26 years in 2016. I attained the rank of Command Sergeant Major in the 1-151 Field Artillery out of Montevideo. I retired as an E-8. Training and mentoring between 100-500 soldiers.

“Q: You’ve been stationed overseas a few times. What are those times like?

“JB: Hard on my family. My wife is a rock star. I was on active duty from 2003-2016, almost four years plus schools, weekends and whatever else the Guard needed. I had it easy. She had three kids to raise, but my family and hers were very supportive. We deployed to fight the Red River flood in 1997, to Norway north of the Arctic Circle in 1999, Belgium in 2003, Iraq in 2005-07 (two weeks shy of two straight years) and Kuwait in 2011. All with the 1-125 FA headquartered out of New Ulm.

“Q: What aspects of your military training have helped you with coaching?

“JB: Discipline is probably the first thing. People rely on you in the military and in sports as a coach. You must be responsible for yourself and them as well. I think firm and fair. In basic training a drill sergeant can only yell so much. In coaching it never works...

“Q: Discipline is one of the big things I think about with the military. How hard is it for you to deal with undisciplined students and athletes?

“JB: Not at all. I think every student/athlete wants discipline, some just have no structure at home. As a teacher and coach you have to be ready every day. My dad and wife are better at this than me.

“Q: What are your feelings about kneeling during the National Anthem or Team U.S.A. women’s soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe not singing during the anthem out of protest for inequality?

“JB: Good for them. I teach civics and they can choose to do that. However, I received a great book from coach Dan Johnson recently. It talks about the “covenant” we as U.S. citizens have to each other. One way we publicly acknowledge this is standing and singing the National Anthem. I think we need more of that. Teamwork pulls people together, not always acknowledging differences.

“Q: What does the Fourth of July mean to you?

“JB: A remembrance to thank where I am today. There is but one to thank and we all know who that is. I am proud to have helped support the freedoms we have with the soldiers I served with.

“Q: Is serving your country your proudest accomplishment?

“JB: No, my marriage and children and family. It's a daily process for all, and I try to do better each day. The military and coaching/teaching is icing on the cake.

“Q: You’ve coached football, basketball and track and field at Pillager. What is your favorite to coach and why?

“JB: Uffda...basketball has always been my favorite. Track and football is what we've had the most success coaching at Pillager.

“Q: Your son is now on the varsity teams. Is it harder being a coach or being a father in the stands?

“JB: Harder in the stands. This past football season and basketball season was tough. Paul Peterson and Brian Homan did a nice job. My son is the total opposite of me when it comes to body frame. He plays fullback, I played quarterback. He's a post/wing. I was point guard. He throws the shot and discus. I made fun of those guys and ran from them. I must have done it a lot, because it made me faster. My son and my oldest daughter are both very competitive and driven. Me and my wife are very proud of all three.

“Q: When you first got to Pillager, it was a small little Class 1A school still looking for its first state trip in many sports. Since you were hired the school district has exploded in size. The teams are now in Class 2A for almost everything. The Huskies have been to state in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. The one constant in that time has been you. Are you the reason for Pillager’s successes?

“JB: I've never coached baseball. No, great coaching staffs/athletes and parents. I do believe that good coaches ensure each coach/athlete understands their roles. Lynn Peterson at Staples-Motley, Dave Galovich at Crosby-Ironton, Brainerd and Pierz in football all have great leaders and developed a process to win within their programs. Pillager has always had great athletes. I'm proud to have been able to coach and be a part of a lot of those fun teams.

“Q: Seriously, what’s been the secret to Pillager’s continued growth and success?

“JB: Continuity in most of those programs. It has been me and Erik Fornshell for most of 20 years in basketball. Scott Mudgett (2) and Jerry Fornshell (1) while I was on military leave. Football had good runs with Pete Bothun, Lowell Scearcy and now Paul Peterson. Me and Terry Hollingsworth have been here for my entire 20 years in track. Ann Hutchison, Jessica Davoli and Dan Johnson have now been here for a long while doing the real work.”

Great job, Jeremy, and thanks, son, for your service and for our great relationship. The entire article is available in the July 2, Brainerd Dispatch.

That’s it for another week. Hope you had a great Fourth of July and a safe one. Fountain’s 150th is coming up the weekend of July 27. I’ll be there announcing the parade. Maybe I’ll see you too.

Have a great week, one day at a time. Hey to the Great 8, Fab 4 and my lovely wife, Carol. You guys are the greatest, along with Melissa and all of you. Can’t forget all the guys at the Silver Grille (you too Joe!). WEB.