Hart’s football program has struggled for a long time. They have never qualified for the state playoffs, have a 13-75 record in the last ten years, and the Pirates’ last winning season was in 1997 with a 5-4 record.
Former Orchard View coach Joe Tanis has been hired to help right the ship.
When asked about the keys to a potential turnaround, Tanis said, “The main thing to turn a program around is to get the kids to believe in themselves, once that happens, once they experience a little bit of success, and preferably earlier in the season the better, you’ve got a chance to turn the corner.”
The job became open after Eric Anderson resigned after only one season, where the Pirates finished 1-6. When he decided to apply and take the job, Tanis said the Hart administration made it easy.
“The administration being in lockstep together, from the athletic director to the high school principal to the superintendent, they’re all football guys and understand the importance of the role high school football can play in the community for bringing it together.”
While Tanis is the first Hart coach in a long time to have prior head coaching experience, he finished with a 19-44 record with Orchard View from 2012-17. Like every good coach, there are things Tanis will stick to and things he’ll change in his coaching philosophy.
“My overall general philosophy on how I want to build a program and what I want it to look like will remain the same, I want it to be a relationship-based program that we continue to continue to be the best us every day and outwork everybody. As far as what I would like to do different, one of the biggest things for me is it’s almost a decade later between my first time becoming a head coach and now, so I feel like everything’s going to be much more intentional in building my culture and how we reward to get exactly the kind of mindset we want in our program. I’ve taken a lot of time and been around some really good coaches the last couple of years to really work and re-find that.”
One advantage the Pirates will have is the potential re-alignment of the West Michigan Conference (WMC). In the new alignment, Hart would be the second-biggest school enrollment-wise. The schools that would join them would be Shelby, Mason County Central, Ravenna, North Muskegon, Hesperia, and Holton.
“We’re going to be the second-biggest school if the new conference goes through, and we will still have some really good competition and some really good teams in that conference that we feel will that’ll be good for all of us.”
While the winning might not happen right away, year one will be critical to what Hart’s future as a program looks like.
“Getting the right people on the ship and going in the same direction, surrounding myself with a great staff of high character people that love kids and the game of football, just really getting to work understanding that it’s not an overnight thing and just being patient with the process that it’s going to take.”
Another problem Hart has faced in the past is turnout. This past season, the Pirates did not field a JV team. In 2015, numbers in the program were so low that they could not even field a varsity team. Tanis says that his ability to connect with players on a personal level will help to bring numbers in the program up.
“I think to boost numbers you have to get out and you have to recruit kids. I’m fortunate, I like to interact with them, joke, have fun, and put in work. I think when you enjoy being around people, people can feel that and I think it’s kind of contagious. We’re going to do our best to try to recruit those guys, tell them that we’re going to provide them with a great opportunity to grow as people and hopefully have fun, compete on Friday nights and get some wins.”
Tanis also spent a good portion of his career as an assistant coach. He was a position coach at Olivet College from 2005-07 and at Northern Michigan University from 2009-10. Tanis specializes in defense and was a defensive coordinator at Galesburg Augusta in
While the past is the past, the present is the present. So while Hart’s program has struggled in the past, it won’t dictate what Tanis and the Pirates do from here on out. There is a lot of work to be done, but Tanis is ready to take on the challenge.