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Football: Forster called to the hall

Bill Forster

Bill Forster wasn't even sure he wanted the head football coaching job at River Falls High School after Tom Carroll stepped down in 1989.

Now he's joining his predecessor in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Forster was one of 11 new members named to the WFCA Hall of Fame July 5. He'll be inducted at the WFCA annual banquet March 30, 2019 at the Marriott West in Middleton.

Forster was an assistant Wildcat coach under Carroll from 1980-89 before taking over as head coach from 1990-2001. In 11 seasons his teams posted a record of 62-50 with three playoff appearances and one Big Rivers Conference championship. And he almost didn't even apply for the job.

"The funny part is, when I came to River Falls my goal was to be a head coach by the time I was 30 or something like that," he said. At the time I was around 25. Well by the time Tom resigned, I was happy being an assistant coach and I really didn't want to be head coach. So all the assistant coaches got together and I said, well what are we going to do? Is anybody going to apply? And all the other assistant coaches said, 'yeah you are.'"

Since stepping down as head coach following the 2001 season, Forster has continued to serve as an assistant under his successors John Bennett, Jason Wolf and currently David Crail. Even after retiring from his high school teaching position in 2011, he couldn't step completely away. He also coaches the shot put and discus throwers on the Wildcat boys and girls track and field teams.

"Just working with the kids," he said when asked about why he sticks around. "It's all about being with the kids and seeing them grow. That's kind of why I've worked freshmen some, I've worked JV. It's nice to see those kids that are, as freshmen and sophomores, immature, small, not very confident. And then by the time they're seniors seeing how they've developed and what they've become and then you run into them later on in life and see where they've been and what they've done. Now at my age they just make me younger."

Forster said that's why he made up his mind to be a teacher and coach during his freshman year of college at UW-River Falls in 1972. An engineering major at the time, his freshman roommate suggested he go into teaching.

"I thought about it at that time and I just think that some of the hardest years when you're younger is those freshman and sophomore and junior years in high school," he said. "You go from being dependant on your parents to becoming a person that has to make decisions on your own. And to help kids make those decisions and go down that right path during that time was why I felt like I wanted to get into it because I had some good teachers and coaches that got me going in the right direction."

Forster said what he's most proud of about being inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame is the list of people he's been associated with who have preceded him into the hall. He played high school football at Elmwood under Arnie McKernon (Class of 1983). He played linebacker at UW-River Falls for legendary Falcon coach Mike Farley (Class of 1994), and was a teammate of Farley's successor at UWRF, John O'Grady (Class of 2008).

As a coach, he served as defensive coordinator at River Falls High School for nine seasons under Carroll (Class of 2001), and alongside assistant coach Doug Hjersjo (Class of 2010) for over 25 years. He also coached one season and has worked for years with RFHS athletic director Rollie Hall (Class of 2013).

"It's definitely an honor, whether I'm deserving or not," he said about joining that list. "The thing that makes me feel good is, OK, I don't know how much I deserve it but look at all the people in the hall of fame that I've been associated with. It's just my reward for paying attention."

Forster said even his freshman baseball coach at UWRF Don Page, another WFCA Hall of Fame member (Class of 2004), had an impact on his life.

"He got me into officiating," he said. "All through college I was doing basketball and baseball and softball; that was my part time job. He'd line up the games and I'd go officiate. He's another great mentor."

Forster said Farley taught him that the win-loss record wasn't the most important thing about coaching.

"I had a coaching class with Mike Farley, and one of the things he always said was, any coach can coach the good athletes," Forster recalled. "It's the coach that can get the marginal athletes to be good that has success. And you can take that a step further when marginal people become good people and solid people. Your good ones are motivated and in the right direction already. You're not going to get them all, but if you can get some of those other ones going in the right direction that's what it's all about."

Forster said he doesn't need to be in the hall of fame to know he's made a difference all these years.

"My career here as a teacher and a coach is everything I wanted it to be," he said. "And hopefully I can continue to help young kids in some way, whatever way I can."

He said he feels lucky to have lived and worked in River Falls for 40 years, and said his selection is just another reflection of the great things that are going on at River Falls High School.

"To me it's a nice honor for River Falls High School," he said. "That we have four people that have been, or are directly, involved in the high school, doing things at the high school, that are in the hall of fame. That's a good testament to River Falls and how we're respected around the state."

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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