NOTE: This story is scheduled to appear in the March issue of the Heart River Voice, of which I am a contributing sports feature writer.
After Austin Dufault scored an interview to be a coaching associate for the Los Angeles Lakers, it took him about 10 minutes to realize the job opportunity was with one of the most storied franchises in professional sports, not its minor-league affiliate.
The confusion, laughable now, was created by the job history of the people who connected Dufault and Lakers head video coordinator Will Scott. Not to mention the National Basketball Association team shares a nickname with the G-League’s South Bay Lakers.
“For about the first 10 or 15 minutes I was on the phone, I just assumed he (Scott) was with the South Bay Lakers,” Dufault said. “We were talking for a while and he kept saying, ‘Luke likes things this way.’ … I’m like, ‘Wait, are you talking about the Los Angeles Lakers?’”
Dufault, a Killdeer High School graduate, didn’t hesitate when Scott eventually asked him to join Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s staff as a coaching associate. He handles video preparation and some scouting duties alongside two other coaching associates.
“It’s a paid internship,” Dufault said, describing his position. “We work all of our practices and all of our home games. We’re on the court helping guys out with pre-game workouts. They throw me in drills a lot. I’m used as a defender a lot when guys are working out.”
Continue reading “After playing days end, Dufault discovers new track as Lakers coaching associate”
NOTE: This story appears in the February issue of the Heart River Voice, of which I am a contributing sports feature writer.
For 36 years, Kent Van Ells has overseen a gymnastics program that annually boasts around 300 athletes from ages 3 to 18.
It’s a time-consuming role with a loaded year-round schedule of late hours and long weekends. But all that time has been worth it for Van Ells.
Dickinson High School has won five of the past six North Dakota state gymnastics titles and will go for its fourth straight championship later this month during the state meet in Jamestown.
“A culture develops,” said Van Ells, who is both Dickinson High School’s head coach and the Dickinson Gymnastics Club coach. “The girls expect the other girls who are coming into the program to keep up with them. They expect to win and to be the best out there.”
In Van Ells’ 36 years as head coach, the Midgets have won nine state championships. The program has 12 titles overall.
As the Midgets enter their final month of the 2018-19 season, they boast the top-two ranked all-around performers in the state — junior Ayanna Fossum and senior Dacia Rambousek — and have six gymnasts with top-five ratings in either the all-around or individual events.
“I’ve been in gymnastics for 10-plus years, and thinking of it being over in a month or two is really hard to take,” said Rambousek, who is also ranked first in the balance beam.
Continue reading “Culture of Champions: Van Ells has powerful Dickinson gymnastics team seeking fourth straight title”