The 2016 program was dedicated to Ed Niehl in appreciation for all he has done for Bethel School District.
In 2015 the Bethel School District Hall of Fame became a reality. It was long over-due. The inaugural inductees cover a wide athletic spectrum, from community volunteers and supporters, to three championship teams. Of particular note, is one inductee — Mr. Ed Niehl.
Mr. Niehl’s footprint on Bethel School District Athletics was both broad and deep. A teacher, coach and Athletic Director and a very visible and highly regarded member of the community.
Through my association with the founders to the Bethel School District Athletic Hall of Fame, I had a chance to speak with several former football players who played for Mr. Niehl. As with all older athletes the conversation soon turned to football, and invariably, our thoughts and recollections of Coach Niehl. To a man, the opinions were unanimous and the following is a summary of the statements as told to me. This is the players’ tribute to their coach.
Mr. Niehl is held in the highest esteem. He was not only a coach, but a mentor as well. As a player, you were treated fairly and equally, whether you were a first team all-league player or on the fourth string. He had (and still has) a great fondness for those who played for him and he once told me that all of them “were my boys.” That statement was unconditional. He instilled a sense of responsibility; taught you the value of teamwork; to be loyal to your teammates; to work hard and preserve; and to try to be the best that you could with the abilities that you were given.
As a coach, Mr. Niehl was stern, no non sense — “old school,” if you will. He was also tough and disciplined and his teams took on that “personality.” Once he prepared his team for a game he would let the players do the playing and when you did your job, his praise would be limited to maybe a quick pat on the rear and a simple “good job.” After all, you were just doing exactly what he had coached you to do.
On the field, Mr. Niehl was always aware and in control of any situation that might arise. Could he be critical? You bet, but honest criticism was delivered in a calm and reasoned voice, and always with the intent to make that player better at what he was trying to accomplish.
There was also a side to Mr. Niehl regarding the warmth and caring that he had for his players. In a recent conversation with one of them, he recalled the story about telling Mr. Niehl that his parents could not afford a pair of football or baseball cleats. Within a few days. Mr. Niehl saw to it that player was provided with both pairs of shoes.
Finally and on a more personal note, the experience of playing football for you and the lessons that you taught were of great value and carried over into our private lives and endeavors. Most all of us are better persons because of your coaching, influence and guidance, and from all of us who played for you — Thank you!
– Lee Martin, BHS, class of 64