Cliff Chaffee, an assistant with the Lake Stevens boys swimming team, gets down on the pool deck to talk with a swimmer as he coaches beginning swimmers on Jan. 15, 2018, in Lake Steves. Chaffee is one of a select few local coaches who have coached 100-plus seasons. He is the head cross-country and also an assistant track coach at Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Cliff Chaffee, an assistant with the Lake Stevens boys swimming team, gets down on the pool deck to talk with a swimmer as he coaches beginning swimmers on Jan. 15, 2018, in Lake Steves. Chaffee is one of a select few local coaches who have coached 100-plus seasons. He is the head cross-country and also an assistant track coach at Lake Stevens. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Dedication drives local coaches into 100-Season Club

Commitment to student-athletes is a hallmark of the area’s longest-tenured coaches.

100-Season Club

Here is a list of coaches from Snohomish County high schools who have coached 100 or more seasons, either as a head coach or an assistant:

Name/Years active/Schools/Sports/Number of seasons

Keith Gilbertson/1950-2011/Snohomish/Track, cross country, football, boys basketball, girls basketball/100-plus, probably close to 150

Ernie Goshorn/1965-present/Lynnwood, Lake Stevens, Granite Falls, Jackson/Cross country, track, girls basketball/100-plus

Roger Haug/1973-2016/Everett/Boys basketball, football, track, softball/100

Steve Bertrand/1975-present/Cascade, Rogers (Spokane)/Cross country, track, wrestling, girls basketball/115-plus

Cliff Chaffee/1975-present/Lake Stevens, Cascade/Cross country, track, boys swimming, girls basketball/106

Mike Wilson/1978-2015/Cascade, Sultan, Snohomish, Archbishop Murphy/Wrestling, football, baseball, soccer, basketball/113

List compiled by Steve Bertrand. For a list of others who are closing in on 100 seasons, visit the Seattle Sidelines Blog on the Herald’s website at http://www.heraldnet.com/tag/seattle-sidelines/.

Related: A list of 100-season coaches and those approaching the mark

Cliff Chaffee stands on the deck at the Lake Stevens High School pool.

The long-time Lake Stevens coach and math teacher is helping preside over the Vikings’ boys swimming and diving practice, providing instruction and encouragement for some of the less-advanced members of the team.

Swimming is not Chaffee’s sport of expertise — distance running is Chaffee’s forte, as he serves as Lake Stevens’ head cross-country coach and an assistant for the track and field team. Yet for 19 years Chaffee has lent a hand to the boys swimming and diving team, currently serving as a volunteer assistant.

This has been Chaffee’s routine since he first started at Lake Stevens in 1975. Chaffee is one of those rare few who, year after year and season after season, upon hearing the bell signaling the end of the school day heads to the track, pool or court instead of packing up to head home, ready to put student athletes through the paces.

Add Chaffee’s time at the pool to his 40-plus years guiding the cross country and track teams and he becomes a member of the 100-Season Club, an exclusive fraternity of coaches in Snohomish County who have coached 100-plus seasons of high school sports.

“The first thing I think of is that I must be old,” the 66-year-old Chaffee said with a guffaw when asked his initial thoughts about being a member of the 100-Season Club. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”

And Chaffee is one of a handful of coaches who have shown that special level of dedication required to reach a century.

The archetype

For more than 60 years the late Keith Gilbertson Sr. was a fixture on the sidelines of Snohomish High School sporting events.

Gilbertson began coaching at Snohomish in 1950 when he was straight out of college. Over the years he coached everything from football to basketball, track and field to cross country. When he passed away in 2011 he was still on the bench, serving as a volunteer assistant for the football and girls basketball squads in the months prior.

So if there’s one individual who best represents the 100-Season Club, it’s a man whose season total is more in the range of 150 than 100.

“I ran for Keith, and he was always willing to help you get better,” said 100-Season Club member Ernie Goshorn, who was coached by Gilbertson when he attended Snohomish in the late 1950s and early 1960s. “If you wanted to lift weights, he’d come down and open the gym for you. He did everything he could so you could be a better athlete.

“I wanted to be like him.”

Being like Gilbertson requires an immense amount of effort and commitment. A simple calculation reveals it requires at least 34 years, coaching in each of high school’s three seasons, to reach 100.

In addition to Chaffee and Goshorn, a longtime cross country, track and field and girls basketball coach at Lynnwood who’s currently an assistant cross country coach at Jackson, others who have achieved 100 seasons include former Everett boys basketball and football coach Roger Haug, current Cascade cross country and track and field coach Steve Bertrand, and former Cascade wrestling and football coach Mike Wilson.

The grind

It takes a special kind of person to be a member of the 100-Season Club.

First, it necessitates surrendering an exorbitant amount of time. It’s a major time commitment just coaching one sport. Coaching three means there’s no break during the school year, and sometimes it means doing double duty when seasons overlap because of postseason play.

“It was tough, but it was what I did,” said the 67-year-old Haug, who was Everett’s head boys basketball coach from 1985-99 and remained involved in coaching until he retired in 2016. “I was always involved in three things. It wasn’t until I got the head basketball job that I decided I needed a season off to regenerate. That’s why I gave up track.”

It also means being willing to take on a sport one is less familiar with. Haug coached Everett’s first ever softball team in 1975, while Chaffee spent two seasons as an assistant for Lake Stevens’ girls basketball team. These were not sports in their wheelhouses, but they answered the call when the need arose.

“I didn’t know basketball,” Chaffee said. “I was a live body willing to step up and try. Cross country I knew about. Basketball? No.”

Finally, it requires making sports a central part of one’s life. The 60-year-old Wilson, who was primarily an assistant coach in his sports before he retired from coaching in 2015, related a story about how his wife Cindy’s acceptance of the coaching lifestyle made coaching year-round possible.

“There were many times where on a Thursday night before matches we’d be at our house preparing and the whole team would be there,” Wilson recalled. “We’d have 20 people looking at film and preparing, and my wife was OK with that. She liked it too.”

The kids

So why do they do it? Why have the members of the 100-Season Club been willing to dedicate so much of themselves to coaching?

The answer is simple: It’s because of the kids.

“You stay young being around the kids,” the 62-year-old Bertrand said. “I am as excited about it as I was back in the ’70s when I was coaching. If you have one kid who is enthusiastic, that’s all I need to be excited and find a purpose to be out there.”

“You fall in love with some of the kids,” The 75-year-old Goshorn said. “They relate to you and make it fun and you have a good time. You want to see how you can help them be successful over four years, and then the kids come up behind and you think, ‘Well, that could be cool, too.’”

Said Haug: “I think just seeing a new group of kids come in every year, seeing what you can do with them as a staff. When I was a head coach of the basketball team, some of my favorite years weren’t necessarily our best years. There were years where the kids worked hard and gave all they had, they just didn’t have the same kind of basketball talent.”

But for the members of the 100-Season Club, coaching goes beyond the sport itself.

“You want to see their successes and their failures because they have to learn how to handle both,” Goshorn said. “How a kid handles failure, I think that’s when some of the best coaching comes in. Everyone can do well if you win all the time, but nobody does.”

“What you see out of all these coaches who have gotten to 100 sport seasons, most figure out the role sports play,” Bertrand added. “It’s not about winning. It’s about people first and winning second — and learning life lessons through sport.”

The legacy

The days of coaches joining the 100-Season Club may be numbered. Specialization in sports hasn’t just affected the athletes, it’s affected the coaches as well, as there are fewer three-season coaches than there were in the past. With the advent of spring leagues, summer camps and so on, most sports have become year-round endeavors. Therefore, just as players have tended to narrow their focus, so have coaches.

“Having coached from the ’70s, going on 50 years of involvement, it’s been interesting to watch the transition,” Bertrand said. “I was an athlete at Cascade in the ’70s and we really were encouraged to be three-sport lettermen. When I got into coaching that’s what we preached, but as time has gone on we’ve seen the shift from the Renaissance athlete to the sport-specific athlete, and then you saw the same with coaches.”

But even with Haug and Wilson retiring, and Goshorn and Bertrand scaling back, it’s hard to keep a good coach out. Though Haug hung up his high school clipboard and grade book two years ago, that hasn’t kept him away from the field, as he now helps out coaching the Evergreen Middle School football team, saying the weekday afternoon game schedule is better for retirement speed.

“I never saw it as a grind,” Wilson said. “It was something I wanted to do, and if I didn’t want to do it I would have gotten out.

“I would do it all over again, absolutely. It was my passion. I guess I’m crazy.”

Crazy? No. Dedicated? Yes. And that’s what being a member of the 100-Season Club is all about.

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