MURDOCK – One of the most decorated coaches in Cass County history will retire from Elmwood-Murdock at the end of the school year.
Elmwood-Murdock social studies teacher Leigh Schmale announced Monday morning that he would be retiring from the school district next spring. Schmale spent the past 26 seasons as head varsity football coach at Elmwood-Murdock. He also served as head varsity track and field coach in the district through the 2015 season.
Schmale said he felt the time was right to end a high school coaching career that has spanned 38 seasons. He began his coaching journey at Clarkson in 1980 and coached football at Archbishop Bergan from 1981-87. He was on the sidelines at Sidney, Iowa, for four seasons before taking the reins at Elmwood-Murdock in 1992.
“I chose to retire now because I still have good health and wanted to do some things I’ve been putting off,” Schmale said. “I would like to travel more and spend more time with family and friends.”
Schmale said he has tried to use his coaching and teaching positions as platforms to help students succeed. He said it has been rewarding to watch teenagers gain many positive character traits both at school and in extracurricular activities.
“What I have enjoyed most about teaching is observing students grow academically and develop confidence as they continue to achieve,” Schmale said. “Many of them just need some encouragement and positive feedback as they plan future goals.
“Coaching has provided another avenue as far as getting to know the student. Athletics can be an extension of the classroom and many great lessons can be learned. Values that can be taught include working toward team goals and developing a positive and never-quit attitude. I think students and athletes need to understand that anything worthwhile in life does not come easy. Preparation, discipline, commitment, sacrifice, loyalty and determination are attributes that will help them become successful in life.”
Schmale compiled a 215-118 overall football coaching record and a 172-82 mark at Elmwood-Murdock. He helped 132 students earn either All-East Central Nebraska Conference or All-District accolades during his tenure at E-M. Twenty-eight Knights secured All-State awards, five players participated in the Nebraska Shrine Bowl and two students were named to the Class C-2 2000-2009 All-Decade Team.
Elmwood-Murdock also generated a host of team accomplishments over the past 26 years. The program went 90-17 and won ten consecutive district championships from 2000-2009. E-M posted a 31-game regular-season winning streak from 2000-2003 and went undefeated in the regular season in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2008.
Schmale guided the Knights to 20 winning seasons and 16 playoff berths during his time on the sidelines. E-M produced a streak of 14 straight postseason appearances from 2000-2013, and the school won 12 district championships and six conference titles. Seven Elmwood-Murdock teams advanced to state playoff quarterfinals and the 2004 and 2008 squads played in the semifinals. Twelve of Schmale’s teams were ranked in the top ten in the state at the end of their seasons.
Schmale was an assistant coach in the 2003 Nebraska Shrine Bowl and was a head coach in the 2012 Nebraska Shrine Bowl. He became just the 41st football coach in Nebraska prep history to reach 200 career victories. He accomplished the prestigious milestone in 2013.
Schmale said he hopes he has been able to pass along the value of hard work and preparation to his students and players. He said he has been blessed with the opportunity to work with many motivated and talented young people at Elmwood-Murdock. Many of Schmale’s former students have thrived in their chosen professions and have become valuable members of their communities.
“Lessons I have tried to teach through academics and athletics begins with ‘There is no substitute for preparation,’” Schmale said. “Some people may have more ability than others but are they willing to do the work behind the scenes, are they willing to do the things that are not always fun? I don’t always agree with the idea that everything has to be fun.
“I think an instructor or coach can introduce innovative teaching and coaching strategies that can enhance performance, but at the same time young people must be willing to invest and prepare. If they are willing to prepare and persevere they tend to like the results.”