Kurt Taylor stepping down as football coach at Madras High School
When the Madras High School football team takes the field next season, a new head coach will be leading them out of the locker room.
Kurt Taylor, who has served as the White Buffalo head coach since 2016, is stepping down from that position after six seasons at the helm. Though he will be moving away from his roles as a football coach and physical education teacher, Taylor plans to stay at the school in a new role as Dean of Students and Intervention Specialist.
More importantly, says Taylor, the move will also allow him to spend more time with his two young children.
"At the end of the day, this is about family," said Taylor of his decision to step down as head coach. "That was it. There was no other reason why. I'm not taking another job anywhere else — that's the first question everybody has asked."
According to athletic director Daniel Barendse, Madras High School is now gearing up for its search for a new head coach. Barendse emphasized that the school is more focused on finding the right fit for the football program than on trying to fill the position as soon as possible.
"We don't (have a specific timetable)," confirmed Barendse, who is hopeful that opening the job up in the spring will help the school's chances of finding a good fit quickly. "Getting the right person is more important than putting it on a timeline. The position is open until filled — and we mean that. We would hope sooner than later, but we shall see."
Barendse added that he is happy that Taylor is sticking around at Madras High School.
"The great thing is, he isn't going anywhere," said Barendse. "He'll continue to be involved and engaged and part of our school as a whole. That's the good part — you don't lose him. He's such a good asset to our school and our community."
As for Taylor, he echoed that same happiness about staying here in Madras. He has felt drawn to this area and the high school ever since he first interviewed for the head coaching job back in 2016, and in fact, Taylor says he has turned down numerous employment offers due to his desire to remain in this community.
"I've always felt called to Madras," Taylor explained. "That's why I'm staying. That's why I've turned down countless job offers, and why I decided to stay (at MHS) in the role as Dean of Students and will hopefully move into an administration-type path when that time comes."
Under Taylor's guidance, the football team has experienced incredible growth in recent years. His first team went 0-8 in Class 4A during the 2016 campaign but improved to 2-7 the following year. Prior to the next season, Madras submitted a request to play down in the 3A classification. In each of Madras' two seasons in Class 3A, the White Buffalos went 6-4 and made the state playoffs.
Then, during the 2020 season that was shortened and played in the spring of 2021 due to COVID-19, the Buffs made the move back to 4A football. Madras was just 1-4 during its first foray back into Class 4A — though any results from that pandemic-stricken season should be taken with a grain of salt.
Last year, however, was the high-water mark for the program under Taylor. The White Buffalos went 4-4 in the regular season and earned their first trip to the 4A state playoffs since 2012, where they fell to eventual state champion Marshfield in the first round. This past October, the Buffs beat Crook County for the first time in 12 years, topping the Cowboys in a Homecoming Night thriller at MHS.
After all the success that he has had with this group, Taylor admitted that he may feel tinges of envy throughout next season. Next year's incoming senior class is one that he has worked with extensively since coming to Madras six years ago, and those soon-to-be seniors were part of the first youth football programs that Taylor helped set up.
As such, Taylor realizes that it may be strange to watch somebody else leading those boys on their quest for a state championship.
"My ego is telling me not to resign," admitted Taylor, "because next year, we're going to have arguably the most talent we've had since I've been here. To let that go, that bounces your ego a little bit — because these boys are good. It might be tough to see someone else have that success with them, but you've got to put your ego aside."
Still, despite how much this team has meant to Taylor — and how proud he is of the program's growth these past few years — he says he must prioritize family over work. That balance has been a struggle for Taylor throughout his coaching career. Those struggles culminated into personal tribulations in his family this past year, leading to what he calls 'the hardest time' of his life.
"Those boys got me through this season," Taylor said of his football team from this past fall. "They gave me grace. They gave me what I needed to heal during by far the hardest time of my life."
"I'm sure glad I didn't resign a year or two ago," he added, "because I don't know where I'd be without those boys and this coaching staff to help me get through those times."
Because of those strong bonds with his players and coaching staff, Taylor made sure to inform those groups of his decision before anyone else. Those conversations were difficult, of course, but Taylor wanted the team to hear the news directly from him.
"We are a family," Taylor said, adding that his close relationship with the players made the decision to step down especially hard. "I love those kids, and our parent group is unbelievable. I've never had parents that support us so much."
"That's why I'm staying," he continued, noting once more how important the community of Madras is to him. "I don't want to go work somewhere else. I want to be here."
Now, Taylor — who has been coaching non-stop since taking an assistant job at Aloha High School in 2005 — looks forward to being more available to his two young children.
"I missed birthdays, family vacations, anniversaries — I missed a lot of stuff — and that's on me," Taylor admits. With both of his children having summer birthdays, Taylor noted that coaching duties have pulled him away from those momentous occasions of fatherhood.
As a result — and after spending the better part of a decade helping his athletes develop strong character within the walls of the Madras High School locker room — Taylor's primary focus now shifts to doing the same for his own children.
"I've got to make good kids out of my kids, too," Taylor said. "I can't just ignore them and make everybody else's kids great, and then my kids don't get any of that."
Moreover, Taylor looks forward to spending more time with students that he may not have gotten to know in his previous roles at the high school. As the new Dean of Students, he will have that chance.
"Let's be honest, there's a ton of kids that aren't going to take weightlifting or play football," said Taylor, "and now I get to meet those kids and create relationships with them, to help them through the things that they're dealing with."
As for whether Taylor will ever return to the sidelines, that question is still up in the air — though he did drop a hint as to where his next coaching gig might be.
"I'm ready for the change," Taylor said. "I'm ready to spend that time with my kids, to take them camping, to coach my son's football team."
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