The best teachers and coaches are said not to teach from a book or a playbook, but from their hearts. That certainly was evident at Bethany College when former Head Coach Ted Kessinger decided to have a Football Family Reunion and more than 500 former players, family members and friends showed up on June 21-22.
Kessinger, who coached at Bethany College for 28 years from 1976 to 2003, worked with the Bethany alumni office for many months planning the reunion. He set a goal of getting 100 former players to attend. “When we started talking about this our original goal was 100 people and we joked about wouldn’t it be great if we could get to 300,” Molly Johnson, director of alumni relations, said. “So we were shocked when the reservations started pouring in.”
The weekend, which included events for players, wives, families and culminated with a church service at Bethany’s Presser Hall, attracted 530 people. Former players traveled from 29 different states, Germany and Sweden to attend. Players from every year that Kessinger coached at Bethany were represented.
While at Bethany, Kessinger compiled a 219-57-1 record with 16 conference championships. The Bethany Swedes never had a losing season under his direction. However, the overall impression of those attending the reunion was not about the wins, but about the impact that Coach K (as he is known to his players and fans) had on the individuals who played for him.
“The reunion definitely demonstrated the deep impact Coach K made during his time at Bethany,” Dane Pavlovich, Dean of Athletics, said. “The stories of how he affected the lives of his players, on and off the field, were inspiring. Coach K’s legacy at Bethany College was on full display with the amount of former athletes and their families who took the time to come back.”
Kessinger was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, and the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame in 2010. While these honors are humbly appreciated by Coach K, what has stuck with him in the decade since his retirement are the thousands of players he had the privilege to coach.
“Our goals of fellowship, honoring teammates that have passed away, thanking Lindsborg for its support, and bringing back football alumni to their one-time home was a tremendous success,” Kessinger said. “I’ve heard the expression once in a life time, but until this reunion, I had not felt the depth and love of the expression.”