When longtime friends and former Rhinelander High School skiing teammates and graduates Steve Teclaw and Tim Cook were named as the new coaches of the UW-Green Bay men’s and women’s Phoenix Nordic skiing teams back in July, the reunion was about as natural as strapping on a pair of skis back home and hitting a Northwoods trail.
Steve, who was named head coach of the Phoenix Nordic ski program, says he couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather co-coach with than Tim or a school he’d rather be coaching at than UW-GB, his Alma mater. “Our families have known each other for ever,” laughed the Rhinelander native and 2011 UW-GB graduate who was introduced to the world of cross-country skiing when he was five or six years old.
“There is a just such strong skiing culture in Rhinelander that by the time I got to junior high school, I was skiing competitively under the coaching of Judy Swank. The Cook family also had a large influence on my skiing.”
That would be the same Cook family as his assistant coach’s, Tim’s family, which has produced its fair share of world class skiers. Tim’s brother, Chris, skied on the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, and his brother, Bryan, currently skis professionally in Vermont, while brother Jeff and sister Tanya both skied in college. “I started skiing about the same time I started walking,” Tim said with a laugh. “It’s something my family…my mom, my dad and my four siblings have always done. All of us siblings skied in college at either Northern Michigan University or Green Bay.”
In fact, it was Karen Cook, Tim’s mom, who coached both her son, Tim, a 2005 RHS graduate, and Steve, a 2007 RHS graduate, during their high school years at RHS and continues today as the head coach of the school’s cross country skiing program.
Both Steve and Tim know the importance of good coaching and credit the coaching they themselves received at James Williams Middle School and RHS as being instrumental in putting them where they are today. “We’re bringing a lot of history and the influence of a lot of very influential skiers and great coaches like the late Judy Swank and Wayne Fish with us to Green Bay,” said Tim.
“Judy Swank, Wayne Fish and Karen Cook,” said Steve, “were all big influences. And I can’t forget Dennis and Deb Loy, who were great mentors for me. They were all stepping stones to getting me to where I am today.”
After high school, Steve and Tim went their respective ways…Steve to UW-Green Bay where he earned a degree in environmental policy and planning, and environmental science; and Tim to Northern Michigan University where he earned his degree in structural engineering.
Steve joined the Phoenix staff in 2009 which, he says, helped him gain experience in all aspects of the program. “I was not on the team, but instead chose to get involved with assistant coaching. Skiing on a team is a huge full-time commitment.
“Right after high school I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard Reserves and with boot camp, school, and a couple deployments, I wasn’t able to commit the time that skiing competitively requires,” Steve said.
He did, however, find the time in 2010 to guide a pair of Phoenix skiers at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colo., who both turned in impressive finishes for the Phoenix ski team. “UW-Green Bay has a strong skiing history,” said Steve. “In fact, the Green Bay Phoenix ski team is to collegiate skiing in Wisconsin what the Wisconsin Badgers are to collegiate football in the state.”
“Butch Reimer led the team for many years,” he added.
Reimer led the Phoenix from 1988-1998, and again from 2006 until his untimely death in 2010. In the four years since his death, the Phoenix have had as many coaching changes.
“The thing with Tim and I,” said Steve, “is that we share the same coaching philosophy, which will make it easy for us to work together.” Both, he says, also share a passion to see the Phoenix become serious contenders in the world of NCAA skiing.
Tim, who was a member of the Northern Michigan ski team from 2005-2010 where he was team captain for his final two seasons, said the Phoenix, with 19 skiers on its 2012-13 men’s and women’s rosters, has a great shot at competing with its CCSA Conference rivals-Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
The interesting thing, though, explained Tim, is that while all athletics at UW-Green Bay are Division 1, it is the only Division school without a downhill ski team. “The NCAA scores on both sides for skiing-downhill and cross country-which makes it a little tougher for the Phoenix. But I believe we have a good chance to send at least one skier to the NCAA to qualify.”
But Steve and Tim aren’t fooling themselves. They know there’s a lot of hard work ahead for both themselves and their team. “We both work full-time,” said Steve, who is in quality assurance at Tosca Limited in Green Bay, which repairs and reconditions reusable containers for the food and beverage industry, while Tim is employed at Marinette Marine where he is working on the newly designed Littoral Combat Ship or LCS.
“We’re both really busy with our jobs and it’s challenging with me driving to Marinette every day from Green Bay, but we’re managing. We have split things up 50-50,” said Tim. “Steve knows the business side, the administrative side of things, while I’m pretty green with that and bring more the athlete point of view.”
Steve explained that his and Tim’s strengths complement each other well and he emphasized that they share similar values when it comes to what it takes to create a winning team. “We both want to see the Phoenix recruiting skiers from right here in the Midwest,” he said.
While colleges on the East and West coasts lean toward recruiting European skiers to bolster their competitive standings, Steve and Tim would like to see more U.S. skiers given the opportunity to compete for scholarships and spots on college teams.
“Down the road we want to make connections with high schools in the Midwest to let them know that we want to recruit right here in the Midwest,” said Steve.
“Rhinelander definitely has one of the top high school ski teams in the state,” Tim added. “The district is once again hosting the state skiing competitions this year, which is what makes it pretty awesome to take on this job with all of the history of Rhinelander that’s here at UW-Green Bay… names like Bryan Fish, Adam Swank, Tristan Cray, Erica Teclaw, Rosi Walsh, and Tanya and Jeff Cook on its ski rosters from the past.”
For the present, however, the job at hand, Steve and Tim explained, is to lead the Phoenix on the trail back to the place of being a top contender in the competitive skiing world.