Not many football coaches begin their practices by reading from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. But Ken Guenter isn’t a typical football coach
Guenter, who celebrated his 30th year of coaching at Caronport High School (CHS) and/or Briercrest College and Seminary last June is also a professor of Old Testament at the college.
This combination isn’t one that Guenter planned.
Guenter, the son of missionaries in Nigeria, is also an alumnus of CHS and Briercrest.
“I really enjoyed high school here,” he said. “I enjoyed all sports.”
After graduating from Briercrest, Guenter went to the University of Saskatchewan and received a bachelor’s degree in history.
“I never applied to teach here,” Guenter explained. “Henry Budd offered me an interim position for two years as athletic director of the high school and the college. I had a major in history and classics, so I taught high school social studies and physical education.”
During his second year, he was asked to teach an ancient history class in the college.
“I thought, ‘Well, if I can teach ancient history, I should get a degree in it,’” he said. “So I got a master’s degree from Laurier in Waterloo, Ont. and when I came back they made me teach Old Testament. I rejected all these offers, but they insisted and I eventually became this Bible college professor through no choice of my own. But it worked out well.”
Guenter has quite a resume in coaching. During his time at CHS/Briercrest, he has coached football and girls’ basketball at the high school as well as men’s hockey for the college. In 1979 his girls’ basketball team won the provincial championship.
“We lost our first game of the year and then we won every one after that,” Guenter recalled. “I think we played 18 games – so we had a string. It was so much fun when you never lose for that long.”
Although Guenter’s football teams have won the provincial silver three times, his favourite football memory is when his team was clearly the underdog.
“Two years ago we played the provincial champions here and they were undefeated for three years,” the coach said. “At half time the score was 37-0 for us and we beat them! What a fun game – we really surprised them!”
Having fun and winning are important, but they aren’t the team’s ultimate focus.
“There are three things we focus on,” Guenter explained. “Courage, which means doing the right thing even when you’re afraid; wisdom, which means being smart on and off the field; and service.”
The CHS coach tells his senior players at the first practice that their job is to “watch out for the little guys.”
“I told the guys, ‘That’s so that when you’re men just a few years from now, you’ll be comfortable with the role of serving other people.’”
Guenter and his assistant coaches don’t just demand service from the players. They model it for them. The assistant coaches carry the water and he sweeps the floor.
The servant coach admits this is completely different from typical football programs.
“But it’s completely biblical,” he said. “And it has incredible dividends.”
One of those dividends is friendship.
“The neat thing about coaching is the students know you don’t need to do it,” Guenter admitted. “Your success and their success are all bound up together. We kind of win and lose together. The friendships that are formed are really deep. They last a long time.”
Some of those long-lasting friendships were evident last June, when CHS had a special assembly to honour Guenter’s 30 years of coaching. Many of his players, past and present, wrote letters telling of the investment he had made in their lives.
“You are a man with a heart of gold,” assistant coach Carson Kaus wrote. “You love the game of football so much, yet you love your players even more. I feel very blessed and honoured to have had the opportunity to play football for you and now to coach alongside you.”
“On countless occasions Coach Guenter has shown us his love for football, coaching and his love for his players,” wrote current Cougar, Josh Spence. “Coaching is his service to God and he selflessly serves us so that we can have fun. It brings him so much joy to coach us and we are beyond thankful for him and his service to us.”
Guenter’s son Mark wrote, “It is fitting that my dad receives recognition for his many years of coaching, but the truth is . . . he does it for the love of the game. Being part of student’s lives and helping them grow as athletes and individuals would be the only reward he needs.”
Guenter reflected this truth as he tearfully greeted the audience and quoted something one of his past assistant coaches had said to him.
“We don’t just run a football program,” he said. “We have a youth group for boys and we play a lot of football.”