It must have been around my seventh birthday-ish, maybe 1988, when I chose to have a Lincoln Ships football themed birthday party. Looking back, I think it was a funny choice because I really only have one memory of Ships football prior to my brother, Jeff, started in 1990. The game was most likely against Fondy, on a cold overcast afternoon at Municipal Field, and all I can recall was that it was a real football game.
There were cheerleaders throwing red and white mini-footballs into the stands. If you timed it just right, you could go under the bleachers and grab all of them that fell through, I must have had thousands stashed away in my bedroom. There was a concession stand that smelled more like Lambeau Field than the south side of Manitowoc. The players, with their strikingly red helmets, exploded through a hand painted banner as they were announced to the crowd. I remember walking along the chain linked fence, parallel to the faded asphalt track, when I took it all in. So many people were there, they lined the field-seemingly hundreds of thousands. To a young boy, this wasn’t high school football, this was the big time. That’s all it took to create my dream.
When Jeff began playing in ’90, I was in fourth grade; nine years old. So many things come rushing back to me about those times, our own football games in the field behind the visitors stands, the face paint on homecoming, the silly crushes on the cheerleaders. I will always remember the post game visits with Jeff by the fence, high-fiving his grass-stained, gloved hand, and smelling the sweat with my parents and grandparents. I began playing football as a seventh grader at Wilson the same year my other brother, James, moved up to the varsity to fill Jeff’s cleats once he graduated, almost literally. Those same memories repeated themselves when James became my idol.
I am blessed to be part of a family that was given the talents to play the game at a high level. Looking back now, with (what I like to think is) the wisdom of time, I see that it was never the game itself-the x’s and o’s-that mattered. The value of football is what players take away from the field, the conditioning, the practices, the D meetings, the conditioning, the offseason weights, and coaches, that matteres most. One may not know this for years after, nor ever. Football is just a vehicle.
I was reminded of this recently, when I had a chance to talk with my former ships football coach, Pete Holm. I don’t say this often, but it was truly my pleasure running into coach. We talked about the old days, exchanged stories and smiles, then emails. He reminded me of just how lucky I was to be a part of the teams, the traditions, and one of the greatest coaching staffs assembled.
Coach Holm was an assistant coach under Coach Ron Rubick for many years, decades really, including my time as a Ship. Coach Holm, Rubick, Masiak, Hansen, Malmanger and the rest of the staff embodied this lesson: they didn’t just coach us to be great football players, they coached us to be great people. I had the opportunity to play for Coach Rubick for three years at the tail end of his coaching career, from 1996-98, and I am honored to say it has benefited me in ways I’m sure I’ll never quite totally grasp. We won my final game of my senior season, a rarity in the age of playoff systems. Walking off the field that night, we had no idea the pictures we took would be the last ever taken of Rubick as the head coach of the Manitowoc Lincoln High School Ships after 30+ years. It is an absolute honor to have walked off the field with them.
In early January, 2010, Ron Rubick died.
I was in Korea at the time and was informed through email. When invincibility falters, it’s hard to put into words what it felt like. I tried to formulate and deal with my emotions through writing, which resulted in a blog entry titled” To Coach; All My Love, Bubba. In invite any and all to click here and read it.
Since then, Coach Holm has been on a quest to honor the man. His selfless effort stands as yet another example to witness and learn from. He fought hard to name Manitowoc’s Municipal Field to Ron Rubick Field. A fitting honor to a legend.
Through our reminiscing, I learned of the next project that he his tackling, a renovation of the field’s ticket booth and entrance, including a memorial to Coach.
I can picture it now: a son and father new to the area are holding hands as then walk up to the field. They’re looking to get involved in the community and decided to go see what the local friday night lights are all about. Players are already entrenched in their pre-game routines as the two wait to get tickets.
“The good team, son. We cheer for them, not the white team. Someday you might play for them.”
“Daddy, why is the field named Ron?”
“I’m sure he’s someone important they named the field after.”
And so it goes.
I was proud to watch my second Ships game since I graduated in 1999 (I know, I know… that’s bad form, but I just haven’t been around). They played at Green Bay Preble and solidly put together every aspect of the game, winning 37-0. It was good to see the evolution of the ships game, new coach, and revamped look that is now ranked in the top ten of Wisconsin’s Division I. The red and white continue the tradition. My tradition.
So this post serves as a vehicle to spread the news of Coach Holm’s efforts. I grabbed the artist renderings of what the project will look like: a new ticket booth, paver stones with donor names on it, and landscaping. As people walk into Ron Rubick field, they will pass a time-line of Rubick’s life and career (the 48 game win streak, 3 state championships, 9 conference championships, and 10 playoff appearances), his time in Manitowoc will raise up to create a bench engraved with his favorite poem ‘Success.” The timeline of his life will lead people to a Ron Rubick memorial.
This will assure that everyone through the gates of Ron Rubick Municipal Field will have the ability to know the man, learn of his accomplishments, and understand the impact he made on so many people-a community-the world. It is quite possible the players now have little to no ideas who this Ron Rubick person is. That shouldn’t happen.
Legacy is sure something. Wins and losses are one thing and Rubick and his staff certainly had the wins on the field. It’s the essence of those wins-the way you won, how you carried yourself in both victory and defeat-which proves to be Rubick’s greatest asset. One that couldn’t be done without the great work of those surrounding him. This legacy continues through the lessons he taught to so many, through the work of Coach Holm and others, through his words that still ring true.
My donation and paver stone details are in the mail; I hope that yours will get there soon. I have included the pdf’s of the documents Coach Holm sent me to help spread the word about this project. To donate, just print the pdf’s, follow directions, and send them to the address listed. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to help out.
Thanks to Pete Holm for all his hard work, generosity, and love. Thanks to all those that have or would like to donate, have shared this project with others, or are simply reading this and learning about it all for the first time. It takes a village.
Coach Ron Rubick: “Always be fair… do the best you can… and leave it at that”