A Coaching Legend: Iowa’s Butch Pedersen

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

West Branch coach Butch Pedersen was recognized for his lifetime commitment to coaching when he was named 2017 National Football Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.

Butch Pedersen grew up on a farm in West Branch, Iowa, raised by parents and grandparents who gave him only one excuse besides school to skip out on farming chores – athletics.

“My Grandpa (‘Windy’) Brown, and grandmother (‘Tough’) had me go to work on the farm unless I had a practice or something I needed to do to develop as an athlete,” Pedersen said. “I was very lucky to have their support.”

Grandpa Brown also served as head of grounds and buildings at the University of Iowa, so Pedersen was able to get close to the action during football practices and sit in the press box during games. As a young child, he fell in love with football and decided to make a life out of sharing that passion.

As a college student in 1975, Pedersen returned to his hometown of West Branch to coach junior high football. He was the head freshman-sophomore coach in 1976, varsity assistant in 1977, defensive coordinator in 1978, and head coach in 1983. He’s held that position ever since.

Pedersen’s teams have won exactly 80 percent of their games, posting a record of 296-74. In 2017, his team captured the Class 1A District 3 title and completed the regular season with an undefeated (9-0) record. Next season, Pedersen will likely become the 13th coach in Iowa high school football history to earn 300 career wins.

“I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of different athletes and environments,” Pedersen said. “That’s helped me grow as a person and a coach.”


In His Words

What advice would you offer a 25-year-old version of yourself?

“I was too hard on kids when I started. Now, if I have to give a kick in the butt, I give him a hug before he goes home. You can get on kids – kids want discipline. Young coaches have a tendency to want to be friends with the players. You have to be disciplined and organized, but also develop relationships with athletes.”

What mistakes do you see coaches make the most?

“Coaches have a tendency to practice too much. We spend a lot of time on the field, but we require that the kids are having fun as a group. That’s mandatory.”

How do you make sure you evolve as the game changes?

“It’s essential for coaches to stay current with technique and schemes. In our glory years, we’d run a Wing-T. We used to be a power run team. Last year, we broke all kinds of records in the passing game running a spread zone read. For a program to grow, you have to stay current with the trends.”


The Butch Pedersen Profile

Team: West Branch High (Iowa)

Career Record: 296-74

Years as Head Coach: 36

State Championships: 1989, 1991, 1992

Career All-State Performers: 75

Profession: Teacher

Other Sports Coached: Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Baseball, Softball

Family: Wife, Jenny; Children, Lance, Kari, Kip

Accomplishments: 1994 inductee to the Iowa HS Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, 1991 Iowa HS Football Coach of the Year

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