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Korby's Connections: Retired Cloquet coach, teacher shares his story

Ken Schloer has been a retired Cloquet coach and educator for more than 20 years, and I recently visited with him to find out what drove him to having such a successful teaching and coaching career.

Schloer was born in Red Wing, grew up in the Twin Cities area, and graduated from the now closed Minneapolis Central High School. He had an older and a younger brother. They were all together in Boy Scouts growing up, but he was the only one who played organized sports. By the 10th grade, he quit Scouts and concentrated on sports - football, basketball and baseball. Schloer thought he was fortunate to have fantastic coaches and, by the time he had graduated from high school, decided that he, too, wanted to be a physical education teacher and coach.

Being a Minneapolis All City running back his senior year, Ken was recruited by several midsize colleges and universities. He and a few friends made a trip to the University of Minnesota Duluth in the spring of that year, just checking on potential "options." He still remembers UMD football coach Jim Malosky being in his kitchen with his parents, describing the benefits of becoming a Bulldog player. He was convinced he wanted to play in Duluth. The quarterback from Schloer's high school team came to UMD as well.

Malosky inspired Schloer to greatness. Like his parents, he was a no-nonsense coach, Schloer said. His parents used to say, "If you take a job, do it right, don't cut corners." Malosky also believed in the basic football fundamentals and his philosophy was to "hit them hard" and grind out yards on the ground. Being a running back, this was perfect for Schloer.

In 1961, UMD was 7-0 and MIAC conference champs, Schloer was all-conference and captain of the team his senior year in 1963, and led his team in rushing yardage again. Ken got a degree in physical education and health and subsequently a master's degree in guidance counseling.

Wanting to stay in northern Minnesota, Schloer's first post-college job was as a PE teacher and the head football coach at Littlefork-Big Falls High School. He coached there for three years. Then Malosky told him about a job opportunity in Cloquet in 1968 and suggested Schloer apply. "He was always trying to help us out," he said.

Schloer got the job in Cloquet and started that fall teaching and volunteering coaching for the seventh- and eighth-grade football players.

The next year, Schloer moved up to Cloquet's ninth-graders. He joined an established and highly successful coaching staff that included Rol Bromberg, Bill Kennedy, Dewey Johnson, Jim Zak and Mike Becker. He also coached basketball with Jerry Erickson. It was, for him, a great learning experience.

I had Ken as a PE instructor. He didn't remember me. Surprise. I had him as a teacher for gymnastics - the horse, the rope, the rings and tumbling and floor exercise, all specialties for my nimble body, hah.

He worked with me on perfecting a cartwheel. I was having issues. He didn't give up. Schloer told me if I didn't arch my back, point my toes straight up, that I was going to kick him in the head. My next attempt went well, with nearby "judges" giving me a 10.0 score. Schloer still didn't remember the momentous occasion, even with the 50-year-old reminder, but I was then impressed by him as a teacher and friend.

Schloer moved up to the head football coaching job, worked as assistant boys and head girls basketball coach, and taught driver education. He impacted a lot of lives. Ken and his wife had two kids, Dean and Jodi. In their senior high years, he coached both of them: Dean in football and Jodi in basketball. It was a great experience, he said, for all.

"It was in a football game that Dean slightly dislocated a finger. On the sidelines, we yanked on it and pulled it back into place" Schloer said. "I wanted to hug him but had to send him back into the game. That was tough love."

In basketball, he had to pull his daughter from a tight game to let her know, with a raised voice, the mistakes she had made. In private, Jodi told Ken, "Right now, I hate you as a coach, but I'll always love you as a dad."

Mike Bromberg (Rol's son), the rink manager of the Frogtown Curling Club in St. Paul, said this of Schloer: "He was my football and basketball coach and driver's education teacher. He was a great guy. ... He couldn't teach me how to slam dunk, but I think I've become a responsible car driver."

Ken has been in Cloquet for 60 years. His wife passed away a few years ago. He sold his bigger home and now lives in Suncrest apartments in Scanlon. His place is filled by pictures of his kids and grandkids' exploits. Sports are a big part of all their lives.

"My daughter married a football coach and coached her own kids as well. So did Dean," Ken said. "Many have become all-star players. You might not know this, but Dean is named after one of my favorite and most respected Cloquet athletes, Dean Levinski. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but I also was my future daughter-in-law's driver's education teacher."

Both kids live away from Cloquet, so Ken has to plan trips to see his grandkids. He thoroughly enjoys it.

In his 80s now, after overcoming a recent physical setback, Ken is back to his daily ritual of walking.

"If it's nice enough, I prefer to be outside. If not, I'll walk here at Suncrest or Walmart to get a couple of miles in."

He also has his "regular" schedule of coffee meetings with friends to share updates, the news and weather, and anything else that pops up.

Does he have any advice for today's high school and younger student athletes?

"I believe players should not become a year-round athlete dedicated to one sport. Maybe later, in life, at the college level. But at younger ages, be versatile, try other activities and have fun. You'll become better educated as a multisport athlete and use different muscles and thinking that helps overall in the long run."

Great advice from someone dedicated to the health and athletic field.

Steve Korby's interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. He welcomes ideas for human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans c/o [email protected].