Lansing Catholic Football Coach Jim Ahern stepping down
He spent 12 years at Lansing Catholic, and 53 as a coach
LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Lansing Catholic High School’s football coach is s calling it a career. Jim Ahern is deciding to retire after 53 years in football, 12 with the Cougars.
During that time he’s taken the team to three state final games, boasting one win.
Ahern says the hardware isn’t all he’s thankful for.
“I’ve been blessed with the kids that I have...They’ll fight to the end,” Ahern said. I remember when I first got the job, they asked if I was going to start a tradition. I said they already had it...My goal was to try to get us back at that same level.”
Ahern brought the Cougars to state contention; they were always in the playoffs and never ever a team you wanted to play.
The success he’s had didn’t come overnight, though; 53 years as a coach is a long time.
“To have a program that’s going to be successful, there really isn’t any down time,” Ahern said.
But he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been really fortunate here, we’ve had tremendous support from the administration and some good kids,” Ahern said.
Athletic Director Brian Wolcott says his successor has some big shoes to fill.
He says Ahern always saw the big picture, what mattered most to his team.
“If you ever had the privilege to be in the huddle at the end of the game, his prayer that he would say to the team was always so genuine, and it was right from the heart. And he would speak to things that you just didn’t think about, oftentimes to the players that didn’t get to play.”
Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook was one of Ahern’s players and followed in his coaching footsteps after college.
“Jim is one of the all time legends in Michigan high school football coaching history,” Hessbrook said. “I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to play for Jim, to coach with Jim, and to be his neighbor.”
Hessbrook says Ahern taught him how demanding the job is.
Both he and Wolcott say Ahern wasn’t just a coach, he was also a mentor and friend.
“We kid a lot about me helping break down film, which I know nothing about. It’s a good joke, we always laugh about that,” said Wolcott. “But in a very real way, he and I had an opportunity to talk a lot about leading young men. I got the chance to watch that.”
“Will he be missed? Unbelievably. And on a personal level. He’s an inspiration.”
Ahern says he’s going to spend more time with his family.
His grandson Zak is a quarterback at Rockford High School near Grand Rapids.
Ahern will be able to watch his senior season, and that’s what he’s looking forward to the most.
We’ll let you know when the Cougars have a new head coach.
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