KALISPELL — Head coach Dan Hodge has brought endless passion and energy to the Kalispell Flathead track and field team for the last 50 years.
“He will be out here doing warmups with us, running across the track back and forth, he always has a ton of energy, it definitely reflects on us,” said Flathead track & field athlete Brody Thornsberry.
A Butte native, Hodge relocated to Kalispell in 1972, teaching business education and coaching track and field at Flathead High.
“Just the year before that I was in the army, in fact I was in Vietnam the year before that,” said Hodge.
After three years as an assistant, Hodge took over the head coaching title in 1976 and never looked back.
“I made some changes and went to some clinics and learned some things about what other people are doing around the country, involved those in my program and all of a sudden in 1982 we were one of the powerhouses in the state,” added Hodge.
Hodge has racked up every title imaginable over his career, being named Montana state coach of the year eight times and being inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“He’s just a great leader of men you know, really sets an example of like how to act and has so much experience going to divisional and going to state and leading teams and leading like state champions, that it’s like easy to get behind him,” said Flathead High School track & field athlete Dylan Zink.
Thornsberry said one word describes coach best.
“He brings a lot of joy … he always wants to be here, he’s here two or three hours before every practice, setting up before track meets,” said Thornsberry.
Coach Hodge figures he’s coached close to 5,000 kids during his five-decade span, and he loves running into former athletes the most.
“And you run into the kids on the street and it’s, 'Hi coach do you remember back in 1976, do you remember back in 1984 when we did this? We did that,' so it’s running into that former athlete, anywhere I go,” added Hodge.
Even though coach Hodge is retired from teaching, Zink can’t imagine Dan stepping away from coaching anytime soon.
“I don’t ever see him stopping, I think this is a thing he does for his entire life,” added Zink.
“As long as it’s respected, as long as I’m respected by the athletes I’ll keep coaching, and so far, they have been very respectful,” said Hodge.