Posing for photos with the Class 3A third-place softball trophy in June, several Kaneland athletes pictured assistant Mike Kuefler as their coach in waiting.
Kuefler didn’t completely follow suit, taking nothing for granted until this week, when the Kaneland school board approved his candidacy to replace Peter Goff, who’ll remain as the school’s athletic director.
“It’s always been a goal, eventually, to have my own program,” Kuefler said Tuesday. “I’m very fortunate that I got to stay and have that program be Kaneland. … It wasn’t written on the wall, but I was always hoping that I could eventually take this program over.”
Goff, long insistant that his interim stint would last only for the 2015 season, called Kuefler the “nuts and bolts” of a 25-9 run that culminated with the program’s first state tournament trip since 2000.
“He is very knowledgeable, has a very good work ethic, and I’m just very excited for him,” Goff said. “I feel blessed that I was able to have that year with him to be able to see what kind of coach he was and get to know him well. And I feel like the program is in really good hands.”
In his fifth season as a Knights assistant, Kuefler guided the outfielders while Goff worked more closely with the infielders, including Kuefler’s daughter, Paige, Kaneland’s catcher and the 2015 Kane County Chronicle Softball Player of the Year.
Although Paige Kuefler and batterymate Angie Morrow, a Wisconsin-bound right-hander, are among the program’s recent graduates, Kaneland also will return plenty of talent in 2016, namely slugging senior third baseman Meg Cohrs.
“The program’s got a pretty good history of winning and being competitive, and I just hope to carry that on and continue it. … I don’t know how much I’ll really change,” Mike Kuefler said. “We’ve got a great group of girls, we’ve got a great group of young ladies coming up, underclassmen, for years to come. We’ve got a great winning tradition, and I intend to carry that on.”
Kuefler and his wife, Dawn, have lived in the Kaneland community for more than two decades. Jed Kuefler, a Knights sophomore baseball player, is the third of the couple’s children to attend the high school.
Mike Kuefler, who has an extensive travel coaching resume with the Kane County Xplosion, said he is grateful for the support from fellow parents, colleagues and Goff, from whom he learned a number of administrative and strategic maneuvers last season.
“It doesn’t matter how many people you coach with or who you coach with,” Kuefler said. “If you can pick up something throughout the time you spend with another coach, then you’re doing your job and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do as far as learning and growing as a coach.”