Coaching is an art. While learned, there's something innate that allows exceptional coaches to get the most from an athlete. Be it communication, motivation or simply hard work, the best coaches have the perfect combination of them all, and the best players have the ability to recognize it.
First-year Hilhi head football coach Jon Helmandollar gets it. As a high school player in Idaho, a collegiate player at Boise State University and now as a coach with nearly a decade's worth of experience, he appreciates the coaches he's had and tries to apply those lessons himself.
"I was lucky to play under some really good coaches," said Helmandollar, who played for both Dan Hawkins and current Washington Husky head coach Chris Peterson at Boise State. "They knew how to maximize talent and motivate their players. And they always had time to listen."
Helmandollar grew up in Boise and played football at Eagle High School, where he was a four-year starter. His team won two state titles and Helmandollar was the Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year. He received a full ride scholarship to Boise State and played four years before graduating and moving on to coaching. He got his first head coaching opportunity at Wendell High School, a small school in southern Idaho, where he resurrected a struggling program and got his team to the state semifinals. From there, he and his wife Brooke moved to Newport, Ore., before settling in Springfield, where Helmandollar spent last season as head football coach for Springfield High School. But now he's at Hillsboro and Spartan Athletic Director Steve Drake couldn't be happier.
"Everyone we have spoken to about Coach Helmandollar expressed nothing but praise," said Drake. "They all gave him high character marks, and told us he was someone who will benefit our program, school and community."
The Boise product replaces outgoing coach Adam Reese, who was relieved of his duties near the end of last season due to behavior inconsistent with the school's and district's philosophy for athletics. Helmandollar said he appreciates what Reese built in his time at Hillsboro and hopes to build on that foundation.
"Reese did some good things, so I'm looking forward to building on that tradition and putting my own stamp on it," said Helmandollar. "It's about moving forward in a positive direction and doing what's best for the kids."
Helmandollar, who played running back at BSU, has an old-school approach and believes in wearing his opponent down via a strong running game. However, he also believes that a good coach adapts his approach based on his personnel, and expects his focus at Hilhi to revolve around the speed he has at the skill positions.
"We don't have a lot of size on the line right now," he said. "But we have a lot of speedy skill guys, so I'm having to adapt to the personnel and try and put our guys in positions to succeed."
Helmandollar spoke glowingly about his former Boise State coach Chris Peterson, and marveled at his willingness to talk to his players even in the busiest of times. He tries to take that same approach with his players and hopes to meet their high standards.
"It's that relationship with my coaches that led me to want to mentor kids," said Helmandollar. "They gave me the passion to coach and be an educator."