Nearly half a dozen head coaching vacancies have been filled at Belgrade High following three resignations and the retirement of two longtime coaches.
Belgrade Activities Director Rick Phillips noted that there are still some assistant positions that need to be filled, which should be completed in the coming weeks.
“All the head coaches are in place,” he said. “We still have a few assistant coaches to hire. We still have an assistant soccer coach to fill in, we still have an assistant volleyball coach to fill in.”
Joe Rossman and Ric Plante retired as the golf and boys soccer coach, respectively, while Celine Valentin and Jade Schmidt resigned as the girls soccer and volleyball coach.
There was also a head coaching change for cheerleading as Bethany Bokschoten resigned midseason this past school year. Tori Jones, who was an assistant under Bokschoten, has been hired as the head coach while Leah Newby returns as an assistant.
Mike Deming has been hired as the new golf coach, while Jessica Christensen, Jeffrey DeBuse and Carl Bridwell have been hired as the volleyball, boys soccer and girls soccer coaches, respectively. Each served as an assistant coach this past season, and will provide a smooth transition as Belgrade moves up to Class AA.
“Each of those programs that we’re talking about have had great success over the years,” said Phillips. “All of our programs that we’re replacing head coaches with are all ones that have had success and the kids know all the assistants. So really not a whole lot of change moving into AA, which is critical. We don’t want a whole bunch of change going in there.”
Rossman started the golf program at Belgrade and retired following more than 30 years at the helm. He guided the boys team to a state championship in 2012, and also coached basketball and football during his tenure.
Deming spent the past couple of years as an assistant for Rossman and brings a wealth of experience to the program.
“Mike’s had golf coaching experience before. He was a head coach up in Plentywood years ago and has a state championship under his belt,” said Phillips. “So he comes in with some good credentials as a golf coach.”
Deming will also remain as the head boys basketball coach for the Panthers, a position he’s held since 2009.
“Golf ends the first week of October, so he has about a month off (before basketball),” noted Phillips. “So it’s not overlapping.”
Nate Parseghian will serve as the team’s assistant golf coach.
Plante retired following 15 seasons at the helm, which included Class A championships to cap the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. Belgrade reached the finals four consecutive seasons (2014-17) and five times during his tenure.
Plante stepped back a little this past season while grooming DeBuse, a former All-State midfielder for the Panthers, to take over the position. DeBuse, who is likely the youngest head coach in the state at 19, was a member of the 2016 title team.
“The boys soccer team has been in the finals four of the (last) five years. And Jeff has been a part of that program for almost all of those years either as a player or as a coach,” said Phillips. “So he certainly knows Ric’s system and he’s very eager to continue that tradition that we have with the Belgrade boys soccer program.”
Bridwell served as an assistant during Valentin’s four seasons at the helm, helping Belgrade reach the state semifinals in 2016 and 2018.
“Carl has been the assistant under Celine for all of her tenure,” noted Phillips, “and he’s very excited about continuing that because we had a good thing going there.”
Katie Benevidez, who is relocating from Idaho, has been hired as an assistant coach.
“I’m not sure if she’s going to be on the boys side or girls side just yet,” said Phillips. “And we still have one assistant to fill.”
Numbers have fallen for both programs recently, but Phillips hopes the move to AA will spark new interest.
“Our goal is to try and have two true teams, a varsity and a JV. So we really want the numbers to be there,” he said. “So if anybody’s ever had a desire to play soccer this would certainly be the chance to jump into it because we expect to keep 30 kids if we can get them out.”
The boys team reached the semifinals for a sixth consecutive season in 2018, and both varsity squads posted nine victories a year ago.
“I’m excited about it,” said Phillips. “We’re losing a lot, but we got a pretty young group coming in and I’m hearing that they’re doing a lot of recruiting and bringing new bodies out.”
Christensen had spent the past several years as an assistant for Schmidt, helping the Panthers reach back-to-back Class A championship matches. The Panthers set a program record with 30 victories this past season en route to finishing as the state runner up for a second consecutive season.
“Jess has been with Jade pretty much the whole time and been her JV coach. So she understands the program that Jade had in place,” said Phillips.
The golf season begins Aug. 19 followed by all other fall programs the weekend of Aug. 30.