Life has come full circle for 1997 DeForest Area High School graduate Richard Henert. After years working out of state, he is returning home to be athletic and activities director for his alma mater.
“The time away has been good, but life has taken me back,” Henert said.
Henert will officially begin on July 1.
“I’m excited to come in and keep the programs going in the right direction,” Henert said. “You can’t win state titles every year, so it has to be about building great kids and solid programs. It is great to see all the athletes who have come back to coach in DeForest. I get to do that too, give back to the community I grew up in.”
Henert is taking over for Mike McHugh, who is stepping down at the end of the school year after 20 years in the position.
“Mike has done a great job and it will be tough to follow him,” Henert said. “I look forward to talking to him so that when I come in, I’m ready to fill his shoes. He will be a great resource for me. It is a good situation.”
During his time at DAHS, Henert participated in football, soccer, golf, drama and DECA.
After graduation, Henert attended UW-La Crosse and earned his degree in physical education, adaptive physical education and coaching. He also played football for the Eagles.
While at UW-La Crosse, Henert got his first job in athletics. He worked in the intramural athletics department, where he met his wife, Gillian.
Henert’s first teaching job was in Fairbanks, Alaska. He taught at Ticasuk Brown Elementary School and was an assistant football and track coach at North Pole High School.
“The biggest passion I have about athletics goes back to playing sports in high school and college and coaching. I love building skills like character with the athletes,” Henert said. “Sports and activities like drama, band and choir all provide an opportunity for kids to push the envelope and build their skills.”
After four years as an assistant, Henert was named head coach football coach at North Pole High School in 2006 following the death of legendary coach David Nystrom during the middle of the season. Nystrom is the all-time winningest coach in Alaska history.
“It was an honor to take over the program because of all he had done,” Henert said. “It can be tough to follow someone with a great reputation.”
Henert led North Pole to the playoffs five times, including a trip to the state championship game in 2014. During his tenure, he was named Alaska Football Coach of the Year and UW-L Alumni Coach of the Year.
Henert left Alaska to become the athletics and activities coordinator at Kingston High School in Washington, just outside of Seattle. During his time at KHS, he oversaw the school’s 17 athletic programs and over 15 different activity groups.
After earning his master’s degree in educational leadership and getting his certified athletic administrator credentials, Henert started looking around for athletic director jobs. That was when he saw the opening in his home town.
“It all lined up at the right time and was a great opportunity for my family,” Henert said.
Henert is excited about the future in DeForest with the new and updated facilities that were part of a referendum. The work includes a new pool and fieldhouse.
“The new facilities were an attractive piece to the job,” Henert said. “I’m happy to step in and help with the process.”
Henert had planned to come back to DeForest for a week during spring break, but the COVID-19 pandemic will likely not allow it. He plans to move to Wisconsin with his wife and children, Thomas (13) and Cadence (10) in June.
“I have a few things to tie up before we leave, but we are excited to get to Wisconsin,” Henert said.