The bright lights of Spartan Arena that shine down on the players cast long shadows. They are drenched in sweat even though the sun has gone down, and they emit a stench that can only be achieved by the intensity of a Spartan football practice.
The quarterback grunts the cadence, and on the sideline his teammates gesture hand signals to communicate strategy. Also on the sideline stands coach Jason Challeen, the man behind the new Spartan offence.
This past summer Challeen was hired as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator for the Spartans. Challeen has 20 years of coaching experience and is a long time friend of head coach Marc Klatt.
“I worked with coach Klatt at St. Cloud State University, a Division II school in Minnesota. We were both graduate assistants there. I worked with him for a year at the time,” Challeen said.
For the next ten years Klatt and Challeen kept the friendship alive through phone, email and meetings at various coaching events. Klatt has been able to watch Challeen’s career develop as his own has.
“You gain a trust,” Klatt said. “He has great expertise to lend to our team.”
In his short time at Castleton, Challeen is already respected by the Spartans. According to Chris Kiernan, a center and senior at Castleton, Challeen wants the team to establish a running game and play hard physical football.
“One of the advantages of having coach Challeen as, not only a line coach, but as offensive coordinator is the enthusiasm he brings and the excitement that he puts into going back onto old-school football,” Kiernan said. “He gives a fresh feeling to the team.”
It can be hard for a team to stay focused when a tropical storm floods your locker room, but Challeen is impressed with the way the team has handled itself through the situation.
“Once they got over the initial shock of everything, everyone’s attitude has been: ‘Okay, what do we need to do next to get ready to play next Saturday?'” he said.
Challeen is also a family man and he has brought his family, wife Cheryl, three-year-old daughter Gracelin, and four-month-old son Hunter, to Vermont with him.
Challeen said the opportunity to work with Klatt is what originally drew him to Castleton. He then added that coming out here, seeing the landscape, and meeting the people is what made him fall in love with it.
“The guys here at Castleton have done a great job embracing the new system, and I think were on the verge of doing some really exciting things,” Challeen said enthusiastically.