As a teacher and head football coach at Blaine, Tom Develice has witnessed first-hand the value of activities in students’ lives the past 20 years.
Increased performance and passion in school, the creation of connections and lifelong friendships, for him, as well as students.
It’s what made the decision to go for a new position just down the road so difficult.
It’s also what made it a perfect fit.
Develice took over as the Coon Rapids Activities Director this month, starting a new chapter in a career spent helping shape the lives of Anoka-Hennepin students.
“Activities has been a huge part of my life,” Develice said. “I see the value that activities have in kids’ lives. Kids who are involved in activities tend to do better in school. As a teacher and a coach, I was able to make an impact and connection with kids through activities.
“More importantly, recognizing the importance of these kids doing other things outside of the school day – it just creates such a positive culture for the school and the kids.”
The idea to go down a new career path came relatively recently. But when the opportunity arose to try for the position at Coon Rapids, Develice was ready.
“I had just recently gone back to school for the assistant principal license,” Develice said. “I really did not have any type of time frame in mind. I have been in the district for 20 years and enjoy it and like the people. I did some research on Coon Rapids and really appreciated their mentality of ‘One Team,’ and their ‘Kindness Matters’ movement really seemed to be exciting.
“I think anytime you’re looking at making a change, there’s nerves around it. We sat down as a family, my wife and three kids, and really decided this was something I was going to go for and go all-in for. It is the same thing you tell your students and athletes: go after it and see if you can get it. You don’t want to have regrets in life and wonder what if … I was fortunate enough to get an interview and to get the position.”
The values of the school and passion on display at Coon Rapids events were things Develice had admired as an outside observer for years as an opposing school in the Northwest Suburban Conference.
The more he looked into the school, and with each day that has gone by so far on the job, the more that appreciation has grown.
“That was something that always excited me, to do what I can to find a way to work with a school that has the same value system,” Develice said. “Obviously, being in the district for a while, you’re aware of Coon Rapids. Their intention here is to get kids involved. They have great school spirit. That’s always been something I recognized when I was at Blaine, that Cardinal Nation and how many kids want to be involved.
“If there’s any way that I can come in and work with that and look at ways to improve on the great ways they’re already getting kids involved, that made this an exciting position.”
One of the greatest adjustments from coach to AD is a reduction of direct interaction with students. But Coon Rapids has a senior leadership council in place that meets with the activities director regularly, offering an opportunity to get a direct view of what is going on with the school from the perspective of the students.
“I think it was before I officially started I met with next year’s group,” Develice said. “That was exciting, to see kids coming in, in the summertime and wanting to find ways to improve Coon Rapids High School and the school culture. That was what I was really worried about, was losing that contact with kids.
“I’ve been having one-on-one conversations with coaches and advisors too, and it’s great to hear their passion and their motivation for working with kids. I just want to be a person that can support them in whatever they need.”
The biggest adjustment for Develice will likely come in the fall, no longer running a football program or teaching in what was home for the past two decades.
“The thing with Blaine is, I was there for 20 years,” Develice said. “That’s a lot of friendships, that’s a lot of relationships, that’s a lot of really good people that you’re going to miss. All those coaches are there yet, and the kids are great, the kids are just awesome. When I told them I was moving on, they were supportive and said congratulations, that it was exciting for you and your family for this promotion. They’re going to be fine.”
“(New Blaine football head coach Ben Geisler) is a great guy. He’s going to do great things with them. It’s one of those situations where change is hard, but it’s also very exciting for not just myself, but my family. As my kids are getting older, it’s going to allow me to be around my family a little more than maybe I was.”
And although he won’t be running a football program, Develice won’t be far removed from games and performances, overseeing a wide variety of activities offered at Coon Rapids. With that comes the ability to have an even broader impact in the lives of students, using activities as an instrument for positively influencing the world.
“I think I’m the most excited about just getting to know Coon Rapids, getting to know the teachers, the advisors, getting to know the kids and working with a new group of people,” Develice said. “You go online and look up some of the impact some of the kids are making in the community and feel motivated. There’s a lot of negative stuff going on in the world. I think it’s good to see and highlight some of the good.”