Football and having fun, Kucera and Andres end coaching duties
Drive, determination, and dedication: From local leagues to NFL stars, all good football players have these traits in spades. Unlike raw talent, though, champion qualities are often learned from trusted mentors. As the Sleepy Eye Knights’ head and assistant football coaches, Brent Kucera and Matt Andres spent their careers instilling enthusiasm for football into their students — along with a good old-fashioned sense of fun.
Sheer love of the game originally led Kucera and Andres to apply for openings on the St. Mary’s coaching staff. Andres applied and was hired in 2003, and Kucera followed in 2010. They each had happy memories of playing the sport as high schoolers themselves and wanted to help other young men reach their potential on the field.
“I had great coaches I liked a lot,” said Kucera regarding his own experience playing quarterback and safety. “They really cared about the players and had fun with them, talking with them about non-football things outside of practice. I really think that was key.”
Kucera said that he tried to model his own coaching approach after the role models he had as a teenager, especially by showing interest in his students’ lives beyond their performance on the football field. He described his style as laid-back and receptive to input from the players themselves.
Andres said he thought that the staff’s openness and interest in the players’ lives created a one-of-a-kind team atmosphere.
“We’re very close as a staff and we’ve had great players, so the camaraderie we’ve developed with players and ex-players and staff is a big highlight,” he said. “We’ve made good friends.” In addition to creating a close-knit band of students, their inclusive approach to coaching helped make each game enjoyable for staff and players alike.
Over the years, Andres and Kucera have celebrated several achievements with their team, but their favorite coaching experience was hands-down the Knights’ first trip to State in 2011. Coaching and player talent gelled for an incredible experience that even the town didn’t see coming.
“That was by far my favorite memory,” Kucera said. “We were not expected to do that well.”
“That was one of those turning point years,” said Andres. “As a staff, we really came together. You keep coaching to try to capture that moment again. I’ve never had so much fun or had such a challenge coaching as I did that year.”
After 28 years of combined experience, Kucera and Andres decided to step down from their coaching positions when the Knights’ 2020 season ended.
“Life got busy,” said Kucera about his decision to retire. In addition to coaching for St. Mary’s, Kucera juggles a full-time job as president of River View Sanitation and Shredding.
Andres expressed a similar reason for laying down his coach clipboard. During the 16 years he spent as assistant coach, he married, had three kids, and became Sleepy Eye’s police chief. By 2020, he found that his time was becoming limited.
“It really got down to wanting more time with my family,” Andres said. “I feel like for those three months, my wife does all the work and I hardly ever see them. Something had to give somewhere, and [coaching] was the thing I had to cut out.”
Both Kucera and Andres said that they’ll miss creating new connections the most. Both coaches stay in contact with former players and remain friends with many of their students’ parents.
“It was a great place to coach football,” said Andres about St. Mary’s. “We had a lot of support from the parents and administration, and our kids are really easy to coach. We didn’t have a lot of issues to deal with year to year: It was really just football and having fun.”