MALTA — When the 2018-2019 school year opened at Malta High School this fall, there was a noticeable void on the staff. Longtime math teacher and coach Theodore “Tad” Schye was 300 miles away in his new home of Dickinson, North Dakota.
After serving as a Mustangs’ head track and field coach for nearly three decades, 26 as the head coach, as well as both assistant and head coaching duties with the Malta football program, Schye and his wife, Amy, moved this summer. Schye is the new assistant principal at Dickinson High School.
Schye guided the Malta girls to four Class B state track championships — 1998-2000, 2016 — and served as an assistant football coach on three championship teams — 1996, 2000, 2006.
MTN Sports caught up with Schye this summer to discuss the move, the memories in Malta and the hundreds of athletes, including his own children, that came through his athletic programs over the years.
Schye: “I’ve been the head track and field coach at Malta for the past 26 years, coached track and field here at Malta for 29 seasons, although it doesn’t seem that long. It seems like eight or nine, maybe. It all kind of melts together.”
MTN: What’s the biggest takeaway for you from your time here? What stands out the most from your time at Malta?
Schye: “Well, it’s been a lot of fun. What I really like and I coached football for 25 years. When I stepped away from coaching football, I realized how much I missed practice. After that, the last four or five years that I haven’t coached football, it made me realize how much I like practice, whether it’s track and field (or football). Being around the kids, being around the other coaches, those associations, the preparatory work and being able to interact with kids and fellow coaches. In the end of it all, that’s what’s come out of this so much, being able to work with young people and other adults motivated in that way.”
MTN: Whether it’s basketball, football or track, there has been a ton of success here, a ton of banners, but are the winning seasons the more memorable ones? Where does winning rank as far as memories?
Schye: “You know, winning is pretty good. It keeps you coming back, although there are times the process of getting yourself ready to win is sometimes way more fun than when you’re actually on top and you’re trying to stay in that position. I just think the success we’ve had is great, it’s a lot of fun. But also, our preparation to get kids to reach certain milestones in their careers, whether it’s with some of our athletes winning state championships, individual state championships or team state championships, or for others to succeed. We had a girl one time, the triple jump pit is 24 feet and we got her to jump 24 feet, 10 inches. That was huge. It was a milestone in her life. It was a great. We had another girl come out for track to run the two mile and I remember her running across the track to find me after she ran a 20-minute two mile, to hug me. I thought she was mad because I put her in the two mile, but really she was going into the Army and needed to run under 22 minutes. She had achieved her goal. Within those goals and talking to the kids, finding out what their goals are. But obviously, winning state championships is cool and everyone would love to do it every year.”
MTN: You talk about loving practice and preparation, in your new venture there is going to be no practice and preparation. What are you going to do in your spare time?
Schye: “We’ll be in Dickinson, it’s a college town, so I’ll be able to go watch some college athletics. They have lot of good high school athletics. I’m actually, this fall, I would like to sneak by and watch some practices at the collegiate or high school level. I’m really looking forward to, in the spring, going to some collegiate track meets. That, to me, will be pretty cool. I’ll find some ways to occupy my time. I know there are some certain aspects that I will definitely miss.”
MTN: You’re going from coach to fan then? Is that what I’m hearing?
Schye: “Well, I guess. I don’t know if it would be a fan, I guess it’s all dependent on how you look at what’s going on. If I do go to a football game right now, I prefer to be by myself because if I do have a comment, it’s my own comment. It’s comparing what we used to do to what’s going on. I by no means want to be out there. If I did I would still be doing it. I would have done it.”
MTN: Has (former Malta football coach and current athletic director) Scott (King) had to give you some advice on how that’s going to be? That’s completely different. You see all these coaches, they do, they go stand by themselves because they’re coaching to themselves out loud and saying those coach things.
Schye: “Actually, Coach King and I stand together at a football game, if we happen to be together. It’s almost like we’re back in the headsets back in the day. We have discussed things and I continued to coach a year after Coach King was done and I used him, I asked him for a lot of ideas. We discussed stuff. I think what people don’t realize, I would describe Coach King as my best friend. We, even today, if we go drive around together, we’re talking about rack and field, we’re talking about football. When someone says, ‘You make this much per hour,’ I think it’s even more than what you would says is a hobby or job. It’s way surpassed that because, here we’re both done now and it’s still one of our main topics of conversation. A good off-tackle power play, a zone blitz concept, if we’re watching college football we’ll get on the phone and say, ‘Hey, did you see this? What did you think about that, it’s a great play. How do you think they blocked that?’”
MTN: What’s it going to be like leaving this community and leaving guys like Coach King behind?
Schye: “One of the things, definitely with this community I’m going to miss the people. You guys talked to Sophia (Stiles) and she talked about how people in this community care about one another and they’re interested in each other and interested in each other doing well. That will be difficult to do. We’re going to Dickinson, it’s a change of pace. There’s a little bit of, of course, we’re excited to be doing this, but we also know that there are certain things, in particular the members of our community, that we’re going to miss. The friendships we’ve made.”
MTN: Was it ever a challenge, in a town like this that had the history, to get those kids to reach those individual potentials?
Schye: “One of the things with track and field in Class B, at the district level numbers are so very important to winning district championships. One of the things was, to begin with, we actually were better at a state track meet for a long time, a divisional or state track meet, than we were at a district track meet. Then we got our numbers built up, even when we were about 200 kids in school and had 60 kids out for track and field, that really aided us in winning our district track meets. We could win a divisional and place at state. One of the first years for myself as a head coach, we went to state and I think we placed at state with six girls, with six M-ettes. Everybody couldn’t believe how small of a team we had. Obviously in Class B and C, you can place at state with one athlete. We actually had that, Sophia Stiles placed third for us. We had other girls competing, but she happened to be the only one that placed and scored our points. That has gone on, but the challenge with track and field is that it’s in the spring and it’s an individual sport, (it’s a challenge) to get kids to continue because sometimes by that time of year kids are a little bit tired. One of the things in Malta, which is wonderful, our student-athletes really like to be involved. Our students like to be involved in activities.”
MTN: We’ve talked with a lot of coaches who have coached for two, three, more decades about the challenges and the way the job has changed. What did you notice? What was the difference form when you started, football or track, being here now, did it change? Was it more of a challenge?
Schye: “One of the things, just speaking about track and field, which has been interesting, as we have gotten better throughout the years, from 1993 on, people seem to care a lot more about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and what’s going on. That was very interesting from that point of view. As you become more successful, you have more care in the community. Some of the parents care more, which is good and bad. The buy-in to what is going on and the sincerity of everything, it can impact a program and it can be positive or negative, however you dwell on it as a coach. We’ve had kids whose parents want to work with them on certain events and I let them. ‘Go for it. We’ll work with you, but you’re more than welcome to do that.’ I don’t know if that’s my attitude as a math teacher, when I taught kids, I would tell them, ‘If you relate better to one of the other math teachers, you get help from them. I’m not offended.’ I really believe, with certain academic areas as well as sports where it’s individual, you can relate better with other people. I’ve been the head track coach for 26 years and I believe I had eight assistant coaches in 26 years. That’s pretty good. Scott King was for 20 years. Coach Glenn Flatt was for 25 years, and I think his first year of coaching in Malta was in 1959. Coach Flatt passed away at the state track meet a year ago, that was a pretty tough thing to have that happen. My wife, Amy Schye, she coached for 16 or 17 years with us. If you look at the turnover in our coaching staff, it’s very, very limited. That’s one of the things that leads to the success we’ve had. I firmly believe this, our success on the track and in the field is largely due to the assistants we were able to have on our staff. They’re so important to what we have going on.”
MTN: Do you know who they’ve hired to take over?
Schye: “Yeah, they’ve hired Jim Benn. He’ll be the next head track and field coach. He was an assistant last year. Last year was his first year of coaching at Malta, the head football coach and he was an assistant track coach.”