It’s about the hustle
Nate Kaiser (TheLorian)
The passion, intensity, and love for wrestling reflects itself in every aspect of Trevor Kittleson’s life. The assistant wrestling coach’s passion is visible in the connections he forms with his athletes.
“The relationships are deeper and more meaningful; every opportunity I get with one of my student-athletes is an opportunity to empower them,” Kittleson said.
He knows that winning is
always important, but it’s the habits and ideals he instills in his athletes that will last well beyond their time on the Loras wrestling team.
Kittleson grew up around wrestling. “My dad was my high school wrestling coach, so I’d go to all the highs school practices and all the meets,” he said. “My mom saved a thing I wrote in 3rd grade saying I wanted a job in wrestling [when I grew up], and look at me now.”
After graduating college to become a physics teacher, he had his sights set on student teaching in Wisconsin; however, an unexpected call would lead him to a town west of Des Moines.
“In June, I get a call from [a high school] principal in Perry, Iowa, they were looking for a head wrestling coach, so I went down and interviewed and ended up getting the job,” said Kittleson. What he didn’t know is, he was not prepared for the pressure of being a head coach at such a young age.
“[Here I am] 23 years old I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m [trying] to run a program, [and have no clue the steps to take],” said Kittleson. Fortunately, he was surrounded by a staff of coaches who wanted the program to succeed. “I learned to lean on them a lot, [in that time] I learned so much from those guys.”
While that first high school coaching gig wasn’t a great success, Kittleson says it did help him build a strong coaching foundation.
The thought of coaching at the collegiate level rolled around in Kittleson’s mind. “I brought my team to the “Iron Sharpens Iron” wrestling camp here at Loras, and that weekend the head coach for Loras resigned [and TJ Miller got the job].”
Miller asked Kittleson if he was interested in an assistant coaching position at Loras, and he couldn’t pass it up. “If I don’t try this, I’m going to regret it, so I convinced my wife, and now I’m here,” he said.
The sacrifices a division three assistant coach faces are factors Kittleson had to accept for a chance to chase his dream. “Yeah, I’m not getting paid as much coaching as I was teaching, but I wanted to do it because I was passionate about it,” Kittleson said. He learned that the joys of life often outweigh monetary gain. “If I were in it for the money, I wouldn’t be here. [This job taught me] what I am most passionate about, and that’s helping [these athletes] figure out who they are,” said Kittleson.
One habit from Kittleson’s time as a high school teacher and coach has carried over to Loras. “I started [writing] quotes every week on the whiteboard in my [high school] classroom, and then we would talk about them,” said Kittleson.
The whole idea spawned from his early teaching days at Perry. “Teachers can be very negative, so I asked my students one day what they thought of me, and they said I was pissed off all the time.” He realized he was letting the negative things happening at work affect his attitude in everything else.
At Loras, there was an empty whiteboard outside his office. Enter the famous “Thought of the week.” “I was trying to change my mindset, [so I thought] why not change our athlete’s mindsets, and it has just escalated from there,” Kittleson said. Now he writes inspirational quotes and life advice for all of his athletes to see.
Kittleson aspires to move beyond the assistant coaching position but not until he’s ready. “When I first came here, my goal was to be a head coach as soon as possible, but then I figured out, not every opportunity is the best option for me,” said Kittleson. “You find out, not every situation, even though it’s another opportunity, is the best fit for you.”
For now, Kittleson believes the best place for him and his family is right here at Loras.
“I have no plans on leaving Loras. I’m raising a family and I have to think about them,” Kittleson said. “I have no other way to approach it, [I go out there] and hustle.”