Coach Mike Sawtelle: A Hometown Hero

By Kelly Jadon  JENSEN BEACH — In February, Coach Mike Sawtelle of Jensen Beach High School took one student athlete to the Girls’ State Weightlifting Competition. She placed third. It was her third approach at placing, and Noel Jadon made her mark as the first Jensen Beach athlete, whether male or female, to medal at the state level.

Noel Jadon and Coach Mike Sawtelle

Noel Jadon and Coach Mike Sawtelle

Jadon competes in the 110-pound weight class, actually weighed in at 106 pounds, and lifted 140 pounds on the bench press and 135 pounds on the clean-and-jerk. She tied with the second place recipient, but remained in third place because of her hair, she laughs. (Some girls actually trim theirs to lighten their weight.) The second place winner weighed four-tenths less in body weight.

Jensen Beach High School is noted for its high-level performance of students academically and athletically. The youth there are called by the faculty to be the best they can be. The goal: Preparation for life.

A schools’ success is only as good as its dedicated leadership. Teachers are these kinds of individuals. We trust our children with them: what goes into their minds, the bread of the life so to speak. “For as a man thinketh, so he is.” What then does a championship level coach teach?

QW: Coach, where are you originally from?

A: I was born in Erie, Pa., and graduated from Fairview High School in 1980, later attended West Virginia University on a full scholarship for wrestling. There I was a four-year varsity starter at the heavyweight class.

Q: How long have you been employed in the Martin County school system?

A: I came to MCHS in 1986 right after graduation from WVU, taught and coached football and wrestling. My first full-time job was at Pinewood Elementary.

Q: Why do you love coaching?

A: When I was young, my parents took no interest in my sports. It was my coaches who nurtured my career. They took me to wrestling tournaments and football games when my parents would not. I knew early in life that there were others out there who needed the same type of help I needed, so I decided to be a coach to help those who needed coaches as much as I had.

Q: Approximately how many students have you coached over the years?

A: I have been coaching in Martin County for almost 25 years and I have coached over a thousand students in that time.

Q: Which sports do you coach?

A: Since I began in 1986, I have coached high school volleyball, football, wrestling, girls weight lifting, boys weightlifting, and track. At the middle school level, I have coached girls volleyball, boys track, girls track, and girls basketball. I have also coached elementary girls basketball, boys basketball and boys and girls track.

Q: How many have become state athletes?

A: Let me think… MCHS in the late 1980s our football team went to the final four; we have had several state wrestling champions, several runners-up, and many state qualifiers. At South Fork we also have had at least one state champion in wrestling and several runner-ups and many state place winners and qualifiers. At Jensen Beach we have had three state championships in volleyball, four regional championships and 6 district titles. And I have coached at least one state qualifier every year in both boys and girls weightlifting.

Q: What sets an athlete who gets to state apart from other athletes?

A: My philosophy is simple: “Anyone can be a champion, you just have to be willing to put in the time it takes to do so.” What sets state level players apart is work ethic! The state level players can see what it takes to get there and put in the time to do it.

Q: What joy do you get out of coaching?

A: My reward is the joy I see in the athlete’s face and the pride they have in themselves after they achieve something they did not think they could achieve. I know how it felt when I won titles and I want other children to have that same feeling.

Q: Where do you see your coaching life going?

A: I believe the Lord has called me to work in this field. He has prepared me for this through my trials as a young athlete without any family support. So, as long as there are children who need someone to help them achieve their goals … I will be right there to help them. No matter who, what , where, when, or how!

Q: Why do sports and good coaches in the school system matter?

A: Children cannot do it on their own and sometimes the parents aren’t around to help them, that is where the coach comes in.

Q: Coach, please add a word of wisdom for parents.

a: The Lord has put us on this earth for only a short time and our purpose as parents is to prepare our children to continue the legacy that we have set. Often times, parents are too busy living their own adult lives and their children grow up while they are not looking. Pay attention to your children before it is too late.

Coach Mike Sawtelle is the father of two student-athletes himself. He speaks from experience. During the economic decline, our coaches’ stipends were decreased — some by even half. Sports in small communities should be supported as they benefit a child’s time, mind, and body. For many, sports are an avenue through school and the door to university. Our coaches are really our Hometown Heroes.

HAVE A HERO TIP?  Hometown Heroes are in every town and city.  They are regular people who have done extraordinary things, either impacting many, children, or creating a better future.  Send your Hometown Hero tip to Kelly Jadon

Kelly Jadon is  the creator of the syndicated column Hometown Heroes.  An educator, she has lived in South Florida for more than 25 years. Find her on the web at


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 © 2013 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon