After a long, demanding day at work as part of a line crew, some of our electric co-op team members tackle a different sort of assignment. Swapping their hard hat for a coach’s cap, they’re in for a whole new ballgame.
But frankly, they say, coaching and co-op work line up pretty closely, with teamwork, communication, hard work, and trust all key in both playbooks. We talked to a few to get the scoop on their dual endeavors.
Andrew Ruffing, apprentice lineman at North Central Electric Cooperative based in Attica, sees many similarities between his day job and coaching football. “You’re part of something bigger than yourself. That resonates in both sports and linework,” he says. “You learn to work as a team, to work toward a common goal.”
Ruffing grew up in Attica and played wide receiver and defensive back for Seneca East High School. Today, he is an assistant coach for the Tigers.
A big part of that job, he says, is to encourage players to develop self-reliance. “One thing I’ve always tried to pass along to athletes is that no one else is going to do your job for you,” he says.
“In sports, no one is going to pick up your stuff that you left on the other end of the field. As a lineworker, no one’s going to get you up and out the door in the middle of the night if after-hours dispatch calls. You have to grab the bull by the horns and be self-sufficient. You have to be a self-starter in both cases.”
Ruffing, who lives in Attica with his wife and children (3-year-old River and 6-month-old Lark), says, “A commitment to the community is important to me. The co-op is really involved in the community I grew up in, and coaching at the same school I attended is a good way to give back.
“My job is ‘close to home’ in more ways than one.”
For Ken Peters, system construction and inspection technician at Pioneer Electric Cooperative in Piqua, coaching has evolved over the years. “At first, it was all about winning the game,” he says. “Now I feel sports can teach kids so much about life in general — not just about winning or losing. It’s about the importance of teamwork, building camaraderie, the value of working hard and not quitting, even if you’re having a tough day.”
That’s true on the job, too, says Peters, who spent 20 years as a lineman for Pioneer and now works with the contractors hired to run new lines. “There’s lots of teamwork needed, especially when you’re on a line crew,” he says. “There’s so much safety involved, you have to work together and have good communication to make it work.”
Peters played basketball when he was a student at Fairlawn High School near Sidney. Today, he’s the JV basketball coach for the Jets, and his younger son plays there as a senior. His older son, a senior at Ohio State, played football, baseball, and basketball for Fairlawn. Peters’ wife played volleyball in college. “We are a sports family,” he says.
With four children, now ages 12 to 25, Kyle Hoffman has been involved in coaching lots of youth and middle school sports over the years, first in Logan County — where he was a lineman for Pioneer Electric — and now in Ashland, where he is lead instructor at the nearby Central Ohio Linework Training (COLT) facility.
“Sports was a major factor in my upbringing,” he says. “It taught me a lot of life lessons.” Today, he coaches 8th grade football at Ashland Middle School, where his son Gavin will be quarterback this year, as well as middle school club baseball.
Whether it’s coaching kids on the field or training apprentice linemen, Hoffman says it all boils down to teamwork. “No one can do linework by himself, and no one can play a game by himself,” he says. “The qualities are the same: you need teamwork and determination, hard work, and a common goal.”
With the young athletes, he says, “it’s awesome when we win games, but coaching is about helping them win in life.”
Assistant Line Supervisor Kurt Detterman says his responsibility at Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative is to prep co-op jobs for the work crews: scheduling, staking the sites, and meeting with co-op members about their concerns. He sees that job dovetailing with his role as a middle school basketball coach and Little League baseball coach in the Ashland area.
“They are very similar situations,” he says. “Here at work, we have a tight-knit group of guys who make up the line crew. They’re a team. You use the same important skills to build a team atmosphere with the kids. Good communication, developing trust, and building leadership apply to both, and my job is the same — working behind the scenes to set things up.”
Detterman, a three-sport athlete during his high school years in New London, has been coaching his son Kade, 11, in baseball since his T-ball days all the way to his current major league Little League team.
“It’s a lot of fun, and this is a great age for kids to enjoy the game for what it is,” he says. “It’s rewarding for me to help the kids learn the fundamentals and put them into action...and most of all to watch them come together as a team and just have fun. That makes me happy.”