3/5/2013 8:00:00 AM Rick Zelm resigns from girls' hockey coaching position Only coach girls' hockey program has had
Jamie Muenzner (center) skates in during a game last season. Muenzner, a junior, and the rest of the Lakeland girls’ hockey team will have a new coach for the first time in its history next season. Bryan Rose photograph
When Lakeland Union High School girls’ hockey coach Rick Zelm took a leave of absence for personal reasons from the team earlier this season, he said he would evaluate what his next move might be after the season.
With the season completed, Zelm has made his decision to resign as the first and only coach the Thunderbird girls’ program has known.
“The school board accepted my retirement request at their monthly meeting yesterday and so I am now officially retired,” Zelm said in a written statement to The Lakeland Times. “As you may or may not already know, I helped start the Lakeland Girls’ Youth Hockey program back in 2000 with Guy Roe and Jodi Mattke at the Lakeland Hawks Ice Association rink. I also started the Girls’ Varsity Hockey program at LUHS back in 2007 and have been the head coach there for the past six seasons.”
During that time, Zelm coached the U-19 and U-14 teams for the youth hockey programs while running the varsity squad.
“I was the head coach for both teams at the same time, which meant being at the rink for practices twice a day or at games seven days a week,” Zelm said. “Even though it was a lot for one person to handle, I truly enjoyed coaching both girls’ teams.”
But that workload weighed on the aspects of Zelm’s life which he will now focus on after resigning.
“Now it is time to retire from coaching hockey and spend some much-needed time running and growing my businesses,” Zelm said. “One of the reasons I had to take a leave of absence at the end of this season was due to the workload at my company, Meg-alert, Inc., demanding too much of my time. Most of all, I need to spend more time with my own family who has been very patient all these years letting me continue to coach hockey.”
Zelm said walking away from a program that he helped build from the ground up was not an easy decision.
“It has been an honor to provide LHIA and the high school with my time and financial support for girls hockey and I know I am going to miss it a lot next year,” he said. “I was lucky enough to meet some truly great parents as well as hockey players over the past years and it has been fun to watch those kids grow up into young adults.”
Zelm said he still keeps in touch with many of his ex-players.
“I still have many of them come back from time to time to thank me for the fun experiences and to tell me how they are doing now with their lives,” he said. “That’s what makes it all worthwhile for being a coach.”
With Zelm stepping down, the school will begin the search for the next coach to replace him.
“Our board of education accepted Rick’s letter of resignation, and subsequently there will be a posting of the girls’ hockey head coach position as available,” Lakeland athletic director Justin Szews said.
But the school may not have to go far to find a qualified candidate.
When Zelm took his leave of absence earlier in the season, assistant coach Steve Bucklew stepped in as interim coach.
Bucklew said he would be interested in keeping on with the program.
“I am applying for the position,” Bucklew said. “I would love the opportunity to stay with the team and keep progressing.”
Bryan Rose may be reached via email at email@example.com.