Remembering the Coach — Dan Dors taught many lessons, left lasting impressions

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Kevin Floster will remember Dan Dors as a “rare type of coach who wasn’t just about teaching you how to run faster.”

“His genuine interest in his athletes created a deeper and more meaningful connection. He was half coach, half grandfather, and you always wanted to do your best for him,” the former Lake Region record-holder and Hall of Fame member said.

“The Coach” passed away unexpectedly at his Harrison home on Monday, Jan. 29 at the age of 81. His obituary appears in this week’s edition.

Although in his 80s, Coach Dors had plenty of spunk, strong opinions, kindness and a deep love for the kids he taught — even those who didn’t buy his pitch to run cross-country, and instead spend their afternoons “kicking” or “chasing the ball.” He always greeted kids, even if he had forgotten their name.

“I feel so fortunate that I had the pleasure of seeing him this past fall after I finished my PhD. He was surrounded by a group of cross-country runners. I cut through their circle and was embracing him in hug as he was saying, ‘Oh my God, it’s a Gillespie! Katie’s little sister, right?’ He was glowing, happy and full of energy doing what he loved,” recalled former LR field hockey player Lauren Gillespie. “ He touched the hearts of athletes and students he never personally coached, along with our entire community. He is a testament to what a quality human being truly is. Someone find his sneakers and put them in the LRHS trophy case because those are shoes that can never be filled.”

This week, The News reached out to several coaches and athletes to recall lessons learned and memorable moments with Coach Dors. Here’s their responses:

Kevin Floster — Coach Dors always stressed to his athletes that “you get out of it what you put into it.” He taught me that success is earned through preparation, no matter what the endeavor.

Coach would often scream “don’t wait!” during my races as a reminder that I had more in me than I realized. Not only was this great running advice, but I think it was his philosophy for life. Not a day went by when he wasn’t putting his heart and soul into helping others achieve their goals. This dedication shows in the countless lives that he had a positive impact on throughout his career.

My special memory of Coach Dors happened every time I was with him. His magnetic personality drew people in. Everyone would stop by to chat with him, and he would always put a smile on their faces. It was obvious how beloved and admired he was by so many students, athletes, parents, teachers and coaches.

Paul True, LR athletic director — How ironic is it that Coach Dors, could never remember our names (by design I believe), but his name will carry such an unforgettable legacy! My name by the way, was always Sampson (former A.D.).

He was the Governor of our Community. He knew everyone and always spoke to everyone. The lesson that I learned from Coach Dors: It isn’t what an individual accomplishes that separates them from their peers. To me, it is the impact they have made on those around them that truly matters. Coach Dors touched the lives of so many on a daily basis!

Favorite memory? First, Coach Dors always carried a coffee around with him. He always asked me what I took in my coffee. In 13 years, he never brought me one:) The second memory was our adventure over “puke hill” on the Gator. We got stuck in the woods. He sat in the passenger seat, hollering and laughing at me, as I tried to maneuver my way out of the mess we were in! Each season will bring new memories of Coach. He will forever be with me and all of us in the Laker Community.

Mark Snow, LR track & field coach — His sincere interest in kids or adults and their families.  He would stop anything he was doing to chat with people about themselves and their family.

It was intrinsic for him to be so caring and interested in others. This in turn made it impossible for athletes to give up. The kids would do anything for him. I have heard numerous athletes say, “I came out for cross country because of Coach Dors. I love Coach Dors.”

Favorite memory? Many memories, but phrases like “don’t dilly dally” and “double knot your shoes” are etched in my mind forever.

John Mayo, LR basketball coach — I always enjoyed my conversations with Coach Dors. He always had something positive to say. He would always wish me good luck in our game that night or when we were preparing for the next one. He always wanted the scoop on who we were playing and he always seemed to mention a player from the other team. I love the fact that he seemed to always be the unofficial greeter at basketball games, both at the high school and the middle school. At the high school, he would always be by the door and every student that came in the door he would say ‘hello’ to and usually have a conversation with them. At the middle school, he always sat in the last seat on the bench as you enter the gym and would do the same thing, always saying ‘hello’ or having a conversation not only with the students, but many times with the adults.

Brian Jahna, former LR football coach —I will remember Coach Dors’ passion for Lake Region athletics and the students within the community.  I remember the many conversations that we would be having and he would seamlessly say ‘hello’ to each student that walked by. He would call them by name and usually ask about a specific family member or about the sport they were participating in. I marveled at his ability to seemingly know every student in the district.

Coach Dors impacted me, like no other, in appreciating that it is all about the kids. How important it is to know them and respect them beyond the athletic field. To take the time to say ‘hello.’  He never said this explicitly, he just did it without fail.

Each conversation was special and I feel that I can recall each one.  I have many sports with him, but my favorite was sitting with him at an away middle school basketball game.  His commentary throughout the game was simultaneous, insightful and utterly hilarious.  He had a rare ability to make you feel like each moment with him was special. He will be dearly missed. I, like many others, was positively affected by him at an essential level.

Kevin McDonald, LRMS cross-country coach and FA track coach — I will remember him as full of life, positive, with a big heart. The lesson would be the kids are the future, and keep athletics  positive.

Favorite memory is Dan in the gator with Kurt (Peterson) driving.  And how the kids flocked to him when they saw him.

Dan met so much to so many. He touched countless lives, including my own. He gave so much and touched so many, a true gem of a man. He will be missed.

Bill Reilly, FA cross-country coach — What can I say. I knew Dan from the first day he started coaching cross-country at Lake Region. He always was interested in how well my teams and individuals were doing. He loved what he was doing and he loved his kids so much. I remember the glory years with Kevin Floster and Miles Bartlett and his humility in coaching them. I never heard him once yell at any of his athletes. Dan was old school, like myself, and we had many a conversation about coaching from past experiences while chiding some of the new-fangled coaching theories. I will really miss Dan at the meets. He always brought a breath of fresh air and meets were fun! I am so glad that in his final year, his boys’ team qualified and went to the state meet.

NOTE: Dan Dors' obituary is posted on this website.


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