Never the same: Evergreen, Conifer football mourns the loss of Tom Poholsky

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/26/21

Something’s missing at Evergreen High School football practices and games. More accurately, someone is missing as coaches and players mourn the loss of assistant coach Tom Poholsky. Poholsky, 54, …

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Never the same: Evergreen, Conifer football mourns the loss of Tom Poholsky

Posted

Something’s missing at Evergreen High School football practices and games.

More accurately, someone is missing as coaches and players mourn the loss of assistant coach Tom Poholsky. Poholsky, 54, died of an apparent heart attack on Oct. 6.

Things aren’t the same.

Coaches have lost a colleague, a friend and mentor, and players have lost a father figure, a teacher and a supporter. They called him unpretentious, genuine, larger than life, motivating, energetic and a gentle giant.

The standout quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the late 1980s worked with what is now called the Mountain Youth Football Association, and three years ago he became an assistant coach for Evergreen.

After his family, football was his love — and coaches and players alike lauded his eagerness to teach the game and be a cheerleader for all players no matter their skill level. He wanted everyone to appreciate football.

Evergreen football head coach Matt Van Praag called Poholsky the most loving and caring yet competitive man he’s met. Poholsky, he noted, made deeply interpersonal relationships with everyone.

“He was one of the most approachable and patient guys you will ever meet,” said Evergreen assistant football coach Dan Skelly. “He worked with kids really well.”

A coach’s coach

Evergreen and Conifer coaches called Poholsky the biggest kid on the football field, enjoying every moment of the game. A large man with a large voice, Poholsky had no problem yelling across the field to congratulate a player on a good play.

“He didn’t need a whistle,” Evergreen assistant football coach Scott Woodward explained.

When Poholsky’s son Tommy became Evergreen’s starting quarterback, Poholsky decided to sit in the booth during games so he wouldn’t distract his son. Woodward wore a headset during games, and Poholsky constantly asked Woodward to hand the headset to a player so he could offer a word of encouragement or give advice.

Above all, coaches said Poholsky’s superpower was seeing talent in kids, becoming that player’s advocate, helping the player find the right spot to succeed and more importantly, love the game.

“To have the skill set that he had and the knowledge (of football), yet he was always willing to give it to anyone freely,” Woodward said.

Conifer assistant coach Greg Manier agreed.

“He was certainly unpretentious,” Manier said. “You would never know how talented he was.”

Skelly added: “He didn’t know how to give a little bit. He gave everything he had.”

Woodward added that he was willing to help anyone at any time.

“If (players) couldn’t get (a skill) during practice, he would meet with kids nights and weekends,” Woodward said. “He would help kids throw, catch, run routes.”

Coaches said he could tell you that you were doing something wrong in such a way that you were happy about it because he was thoughtful about what he said.

“Players wanted to impress him,” Skelly said. “It’s a sign of a good coach to motivate players to do better. They didn’t want to disappoint him.”

A player’s coach

Evergreen and Conifer football players, who got to know Coach P when they were as young as 7, said he made practices fun because of his energy and enthusiasm.

Evergreen junior Nash Carroll remembered that Coach P always wore bright white Nike Air Monarch shoes. Carroll said he would tease the coach about his shoes, guessing that Coach P had at least 15 pairs that were perfectly clean.

Evergreen junior Karl Schuenemann said in youth football, Coach P gave players the opportunity to try different positions just for fun.

They talked about the impact of Coach P contesting an official’s decision not to call a penalty because of an unsafe hit. He was ejected from the game but felt it was justified to keep his players safe. Because of the ejection, he was not allowed to coach at the subsequent playoff game, so he bought a radio set and gave one to a player, so he still could coach via radio set.

“He was beyond selfless,” Carroll said. “He had everyone’s back. He focused on you in the moment.”

Coach P wasn’t shy about getting involved in practices, players said. If the team was short a player for a drill, he was happy to step in.

Conifer junior Seth Goodrich, who played for Coach P in youth football, said he had a winning attitude and taught the players life lessons such as putting in the work to succeed and the value of preparation.

“He tried to make us better,” Conifer junior Austin Knolmayer added.

Never the same

Coaches and players agree that Poholsky’s death is a huge loss.

“There’s no other way to put it,” Skelly said. “He impacted the community as well as the players. Everybody who knew him knows what he gave to the community.”

Players and coaches are feeling the emptiness — something that won’t be filled easily.

“Not just in football,” Carroll said. “There’s a whole piece missing in the community. It’s a gap that will not be filled.”

“He was a great man,” Conifer High School assistant football coach Doug Wolanske said. “He was taken too soon.”

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