Ross Els had an up-close view of what it meant to be a high school football coach when his father, Bob, was the Lincoln Northeast football coach.
Now, for the first time in his 27-year coaching career, Ross Els is finding out firsthand what it's like to coach at the high school level. He is an assistant to Mark King for the Lincoln Southwest Silver Hawks.
"I lived through it on the other end with my dad. He prepared me for a lot of things in life. I wouldn't be coaching without his influence," Els said. "I got to be with him in a professional environment when I played for him. We had success my junior year (Class A state runner-up) and I'll always remember that. Maybe Bo and I can establish something like that this season."
Els, who was an assistant coach at Nebraska the last four years, decided to stay in Lincoln so his son, Bo, and daughter, Taylor, could finish school at Southwest. Bo is projected to be the Silver Hawks' starting quarterback and Taylor starts for the volleyball team. She has committed to play at Northern Colorado.
"This summer, I was helping with the football team and I was also doing the conditioning program for the girls in the weight room," Ross Els said. "I'm not coaching Bo's position, but I've never hesitated giving my opinion. I'm able to spend more time with him. We meet every morning before he goes to school."
Els said he's happy to be part of King's staff. Another LSW assistant, Kevin Schrad, is married to Els' sister.
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"It's all in the family. The coaching staff at Southwest is fantastic. I have so much respect for high school coaches," Els said. "They are teaching all day long and then they get 100 or so kids to teach offense, defense, special teams, take care of the field and take care of the equipment. There's a lot of things that don't relate directly to the field."
There weren't really any surprises coaching high school football, according to Els.
"I don't know if I was surprised by anything, but the biggest challenge compared to college is that you teach one kid an offensive position and a special-teams position, which is not all that unusual for college," he said. "But then you also teach him a defensive position. Kids have to play on both sides of the ball. That's a lot of learning these kids have to do. So you have to cut your play package down."
Els became a graduate assistant at Northern Iowa after graduating from Nebraska-Omaha, where he played from 1984-87. He went back to UNO as secondary coach for four years before returning to Northern Iowa when UNO folded its program. Barney Cotton then hired him as an assistant at Hastings College, where he became head coach in 1997 and led the Broncos to a 32-9 mark, two undefeated regular seasons and two NAIA playoff appearances. Els then went to New Mexico State as an assistant to Tony Samuel for four years, finishing as defensive coordinator, before going to Ohio University to assist Frank Solich for five years. He was at Nebraska for four years, coaching linebackers and serving as recruiting coordinator for former Husker coach Bo Pelini.
"The biggest difference between high school and college is that you can't get very complex in high school," he said. "The players just haven't had the experiences and some are just learning the game."