'We need more mentors like him, more people like him.'
Former Germantown and current Homestead boys track coach Todd Brawner was talking about the late Bill Pohland, a genial, wise, well-organized and immensely successful Germantown business teacher, as well as track coach and official, who passed away Jan. 20 at the age of 83.
Pohland was one of the last original Germantown High School staffers who came to this rural area in the late 1950s to teach and give opportunity to the kids. Guys like him, including Jim Justesen and Phil Datka (who came later), are all gone now, but they left a strong legacy.
Brawner followed Jack Stiever as track coach in the early 1990s after Stiever took over Pohland in the early 1980s. Stiever started as an assistant for Pohland in the late 1960s.
'I could give daylong seminars on all that Bill did, that's how strongly I feel about him,' Brawner said. 'I nominated him for the Hall of Fame (for which Pohland was inducted in 2000), and he taught my mom (business education). He was a three-time state champion himself (at Kohler High School).
'This is very personal for me. I had Bill as a teacher, and fortunately, he saw the best in me. He was all about integrity, character and class. The kids he had in class just adored him.'
Brawner was hardly alone in his estimations as Pohland was always known as 'Pops' in Germantown circles.
It was a fitting title for the large, tall, but soft-spoken individual who founded both the cross-country (1965) and track (1959) programs at Germantown and laid the groundwork of success that still follows both programs.
'Kind man' and 'good guy' were among the things many said about him. He ran the boys track team from 1957-80 and ran the cross-country program for many years after its inception. 'Good listener' was apparently another thing, too.
'I wanted to leave a legacy here,' said former state track champion and 1980 graduate Jerry Vance, Pohland's last with the track program, 'so I would come into school early and lift weights. Mr. P. would come in, and we'd talk about what we'd do that day (in practice). We'd also talk about everything else, about school, about growing up, about becoming a man.
'Good life lessons about hitting the books. Things like that. He was one of three strong men who helped me become what I am: my dad, Phil (Datka) and Pops.'
Stiever called Pohland 'one of the most organized people' he's ever met. Pohland would lay down the base plan and then let his assistants prepare their individual athletes without interference, Stiever said.
'Bill was a number of things, including one of the most prepared people I've ever seen,' Stiever said. 'He would carefully list who would run what and when, and then I would get a call on Sunday night and he would ask me what I thought of what he had planned.
'He did not win by accident. You could tell he was a business teacher because he always knew what was going on.'
That much was true. Competing in the old Scenic Moraine Conference, Pohland's track teams won seven league outdoor titles and 15 overall league crowns. They also won five WIAA sectional titles and competed well on the state level. The Warhawks were third in state in 1966, state runner-up in 1971 and claimed a coveted state Class B championship in 1972.
His cross-country teams would win over 100 dual meets and go unbeaten in duals from 1970-74.
The names were legendary and included multi-time state sprint champion and Hall of Famer Wilbert Henry, John Mueller, Lew Potter, Todd Hernandez and Vance, all of whom would run through a wall for Pohland.
At his services at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mequon on Jan. 23 there were several large photos of happy runners surrounding a smiling Pohland, usually with trophies in hand.
Pohland had come from a history of success, having been coached by the legendary Glen Funk at Kohler and winning Class C state titles in the shot put from 1949-51 as part of the WIAA 1950 and 1951 state team champions.
After college, he spent a couple of years at Mosinee before moving south to Germantown in 1957. By then he was married to the lovely Mary, with whom he would have two children, Terry and Renee. He and Mary were together 60 years when he passed.
At Germantown, he joined up with Justesen (the long-time athletic director) and others to find a direction for the new school and build an athletic program from the ground up.
Always teaching, Pohland stayed close to track after he left coaching, soon becoming a well-established and respected meet official for decades, working meets in a calm and evenhanded manner. He was also a co-founder of Germantown's Community Scholarship Foundation.
Track, it seemed, was always on his mind.
'It was such a great group at that time,' Vance said. 'Mr. Stiever and Pops formulated a lot of the things that are still passed down ... the training that's required, when to get ready for a race, how to back off when it comes time for the big meets ... he helped create the history, and it's very important that we keep it going.'
'We just can't give him enough credit,' Brawner added.