Joel Olson looks back at time in East Ridge
During Joel Olson's high school years, he remembers stepping onto the Faribault High School football field each Friday night. He remembers looking up to his parents and friends wearing the green and white.
It was home.
Starting on July 2, Olson will be the new athletic director for Faribault's rival high school, Northfield High School. Olson will be wearing maroon and gold, but doesn't expect his parents to wear those colors.
"We were joking around about what colors they need to wear," Olson said jokingly. "They've worked at Faribault their entire life, so I won't make them switch."
Olson has always said to his family that he would never leave East Ridge unless it was closer to home and closer to his family. That opportunity came when Tom Graupmann retired after 16 years as activities director at Northfield.
Olson will replace Tania Will, who started on Jan. 1 of this year. It was a hard process for Olson and continues to be hard because he knew this would be the perfect opportunity to be closer to his parents, but he also didn't want to say goodbye to his Raptor family.
"It's fun to come to work everyday when you're working with your friends each day," Olson said. "Those friendships and relationships you build in this school and around this community, that's what I'm going to miss."
He said the biggest thing he's appreciated during his time at East Ridge has been the Raptor community. Whether it was coaches, parents, players or just citizens in the community, everyone came out to the games and everyone embraced and respected Olson as activities director.
Olson said an activities director has two options with the community. Either he can open his arms and embrace the community or he can shut them out of everything. He took the first option and Olson is glad he did because it not only helped him during difficult times, but it made the environment around East Ridge healthier and more fun.
"I love this place and I love these people," Olson said. "And I wouldn't have left without these greater reasons [like being closer to family]."
Olson was the activities director for East Ridge for the past three years and will keep with him many memories from each season and beyond. Whether it was hiring a new football coach within the first week of him coming to East Ridge and watching that team reach the state finals, or different teams making runs in the section tournaments and, eventually, the state tournaments.
He knows these programs wouldn't be successful without a team between the coaches, parents, players, custodian staff, grounds crew, administrative staff, the booster clubs and everyone else that was part of that "village" for each team.
Even though the decision hasn't been made yet on East Ridge's new activities director, Olson said he'll help him or her with the transition process and will try to make it easier heading into a busy fall schedule.
The biggest thing Olson will remember from his time as a Raptor is the players and how they grew to be not only great athletes, but great people in the community.
"These athletes focus on their sports and activities, but they also work hard on academics," Olson said. "It's a pleasure to see them strive in both areas during the school year because they are changing their part of the world, which is what we try to tell them each year."
He's going to try and bring that mentality to Northfield and continue building a strong culture that Graupmann built during his tenure.
Olson said that he has some big shoes to fill at Northfield, and it's a little overwhelming, but the community has already reached out to him and has shown support in the transition. He appreciates that support and hopes to make more suggestions to keep building the programs at Northfield.
Olson is looking forward to Sept. 14 when Northfield travels to Faribault for a regular season football game. The last time Olson was on that football field, he was looking at his friends and family in the stands as a football player himself.
Now, he'll look at his parents in the stands, but he won't be playing in the football game and he won't be wearing the Faribault colors. He'll be in the other stands cheering on Northfield and the Raiders football team.
"I'm going to miss the game nights at East Ridge, but I'll always be a Raptor," Olson said. "I look forward to my next stop at Northfield."