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Hadachek bids farewell to Union Football
December 21, 2018

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Joe Hadachek grew up on a farm just south of Dysart, the first member of his family to develop a love for the sport of football. At the time, Dysart-Geneseo was its own high school with its own program, the Trojan football program. The school had never been truly successful at football, as evident by a 0-9 senior campaign for Hadachek.

"I learned what I didn't like, and I didn't like losing," Hadachek said. "I despised it. It was a difficult year in my life, but I learned a lot. Sometimes you learn lessons from losing and gave me burning fire. I wanted things to be different, to have a program that people would be proud to come and support."

More than 20 years later, Hadachek was able to start accomplishing that goal as he met with Aaron Thomas, Union's then-Athletic Director, and Travis Fleshner to apply to be the head coach of the Union Knights, the combination of his hometown Dysart and La Porte City. After 12 years, 11 straight-playoffs and a 3A State Championship season in 2013, Hadachek has resigned as coach of the Knights.

"I was at a point in my career where I felt God was saying it was time to transition to a new chapter in my life," Hadachek said. "I don't know what that is, as crazy as that sounds. I'm not burnt out, this is the best way I can describe it. It's always been a dream to come home to coach football. The dream came true when Union came to be and the calling brought me back here. My meeting with Mr. Thomas and Mr. Fleshner was a dream come true."

Hadachek's coaching career began after graduating from the University of Northern Iowa, working as a graduate assistant at Drake for two season before taking a position with the team for the next eight years. Drake was in the midst of their resurrection years of the football program after dropping the sport previously. The Bulldogs won a conference championship in 1995, yet Hadachek was ready for a new direction in his career: to be a head coach.

He found that opportunity at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. The Dysart native took over in 1996 for a program averaging two wins and then saw the Beavers to two 7-3 seasons and competing for NCAA playoff bids. During his second year at Buena Vista, Hadachek was introduced to AdvoCare, taking the opportunity to sell their athletic health products to help financially and eventually became a full-time distributor. The career choice took him to Caroll for a year before returning home to Dysart in 2003 as he found himself able to settle his family wherever they wished. Upon returning back to the area, Hadachek started up the Knights Youth Football Club, with 24 kids that first year. Today, as many as 100 kids take part in the program. When the head coaching position with Union opened, Hadachek inquired and the rest is now Union football history.

"There was already a great work ethic instilled in these players from the previous coaching staff," Hadachek said. "When I had the chance to take over, I wanted us to have fun with our system to win put a plan in place with fundamentals on blocking and tackling. Our main focus was on growing young men that understand there's a price to pay for success. We really adopted the theme of "TEAM over me," focusing on the team aspect and commitment to excellence in all our endeavours, including volunteering at Special Olympics, helping out in the community and doing a good job in the classroom."

Hadachek's tenure came at a time when Union decided to make significant improvements to their athletic facilities, including the track, strength and condition room, the softball and baseball fields, practice fields for football and Union stadium itself. As the facilities underwent changes, the football program began its long string of playoff berths as more and more of the players came up from the youth program to the high school varsity level. In fact, the 2011 championship team was one of those teams with kids Hadachek coached in Dysart.

"Those kids loved football and they paid the price, did what was asked of them and ended up champions in Iowa," Hadachek said. "When they were building the new facilities, we played in Dysart for about a year and half. I didn't mind that all, having the crowd right there on top of you."

But Hadachek feels he cannot take all of the credit for everything the program has done in 12 years, passing much of the success on to his coaching staff.

"You can't do everything by yourself and I attribute much of our success to a staff that truly cared about our kids," Hadachek said. "They're an example of what you'd want as a model of a father and a husband, which is important in today's world. In my opinion, a football field is the greatest classroom that exists for teaching life."

The longtime coach was ready to resign from that classroom earlier, after his son, Tate, had played his final season in the fall of 2014. But as Hadachek drove up to La Porte to announce his resignation, he made it halfway back before turning around and telling his wife, Gloria, "one more year." Instead, he continued to work with the coaching staff with a goal in mind: to make his players better men.

"Our key thing about these teams is they loved each other as men and they understand what it took to be a husband and father from the example we tried to give them off the field," Hadachek said. "The biggest compliment I can get is a guy who comes back and tells me I made a difference in their life. It's been overwhelming, the people that have reached out to me in the past 24-48 hours after I made the announcement I was retiring."

The announcement came as a video on the Union Football Facebook page, a simple, yet humble way for Hadachek to let parents, supporters and former players know the news. While he isn't exactly sure of his future plans, he throws his full support to the program built over these past 12 years.

"I told Mr. Slack I'll be as active or an inactive with you in searching for a new coach," Hadachek said. "I want to see Union thrive with all the sweat equality we've put into this program. People have said I've retired, but I'm 56 years old and I've got several years ahead of me. I need a season of peace that I'm establishing right now."

Hadachek credits Gloria and their three children-Trev, Tate and Tori-for their unconditional love during his coaching tenure for keeping him going through the ups and downs of coaching.

"I'll miss counseling and mentoring these young guys when they're making mistakes and going through rough times," Hadachek said. "Just being there for them I'll never quit on them, but they need to do the right thing. Secondly, I'll miss the coaching staff. I get made fun of for having so many coaches, but each one had a responsibility. I'll miss those late-night coaching meetings, but most of all, I'll miss the relationships."

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