In a decade with the district, Steve Zamzo has been at the forefront of athletic success and positive growth in the classroom garnering multiple awards on both fronts.
Zamzo recently resigned as the head gymnastics coach.
His teams rewrote the Class A record books winning five titles and holding all but one team scoring record at state.
Coach of the year at the section and state levels led to the 2018 Greatmats national coach of the year award. He also received the 2020 teacher of the year award at the middle school and district-wide.
The national coach of the year award is one of Zamzo’s personal highlights.
“It wasn’t the award,” he said. "It was the individual or family who nominated me.”
Zamzo still doesn’t know who nominated him other than it was a Minneapolis family. They did so because he had a conversation with their child and encouraged them.
“It was not something I accomplished other than being a good person and a friendly individual to other kids that are busting their tails,” he said.
Zamzo’s gymnastics teams were always role models of success, but his Lakers were recognized frequently at all levels for the positive spirit exuded not just for their own teammates but everyone competing.
Big loss for high school gymnastics, but a gain for family and his son's wrestling community. @TeacherSteve65 has been a leader in the positive culture of high school gymnastics, and I'm sure people will encourage his participation in other ways.— Amy Doherty (@MSHSL_Amy) April 14, 2020
“Absolutely, this is supposed to be fun,” he said. “You’re supposed to be energetic and you want to be competitive. If you’re good, you can be competitive and confident in what you’re doing. When somebody is better than you, you know it and you have to applaud them for that. In the sport of gymnastics, when somebody does something good you applaud them. I like positivity. Yelling, there is a place for that at times, but if you can encourage and keep spirits up, we got way more out of that than we did talking down to somebody or making them feel unimportant.”
Personal priorities were very important in Zamzo’s decision to step away from head coaching duties.
After a year playing varsity tennis last spring, Zamzo’s son Connor played football and joined the wrestling team during the winter.
With the scheduling conflicts between gymnastics and wrestling, Zamzo missed nearly the entire season.
“I got to see parent’s night and that was it,” he said.
Zamzo will be returning to the football sideline coaching the freshman team, varsity special teams and helping out the staff and players on Friday nights.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do that since my son does play football,” he said. “I hope I’m not totally removed from the gymnasts and the sport. I just couldn’t devote the time with them and do the things that I had with my son so I could support him.”
Zamzo has put in his time as a three-sport coach spending seasons as an assistant for the track and field team.
“We’re big into sports and I’ve had nothing but positive things happen to me with sports and I want my kid to enjoy that,” he said. “If he’s doing a sport I want to be there and support his team. I think that’s our number one goal as a parent. That’s our job.”
Zamzo leaves the gymnastics program hanging the banners of five consecutive state championships (2015-2019).
It was a third place finish that stands out as much as the titles.
DL made the program’s first state appearance in a dozen years in 2014 and were projected to place fourth at best. The Lakers finished on the podium with bronze medals in third.
“That was really big for those kids and the program because we weren’t expected to do much of anything,” he said. “To come away medaling, that was huge.”
His Lakers then steamrolled five straight years of competition all over the state winning everything and adding 13 individual state champion banners led by 2015 state all-around champion Molly Lyngaas.
“It’s a testament to those kids and the work that they put in,” said Zamzo. “The effort from them, their parents, the belief that everyone had in them. It’s a nice culmination of what these kids could do. I’m proud of them for putting themselves out there and taking risks, making mistakes and improving on what their goals were. That’s hard, especially in this sport.”
Much of the credit for that success Zamzo spotlights on assistant Leesa Lindgaard.
“Leesa was and still is the brains of the operation,” he said. “She’s the one that designed what the kids were doing and really pushed them to up their routines and add little things. Her knowledge of the sport is unbelievable. I needed her on our staff to help that. My gymnastics knowledge is pretty small. We needed that to be successful for the kids. She was probably the most important person in the experience I’ve had.”
Zamzo has a sizable list of contributing assistants from Annette Jernberg, Hannah Okeson, Joe Lindgaard and former head coach Matt Horner this past season.
Horner’s return allowed him to share the season with his daughter Jerzie, a freshman.
Seeing the positive interactions between those two was another sign for Zamzo.
“That was one thing that was really cool to see was he and his daughter got along so well,” he said. “She was so grateful he was there and I know he was grateful too and that was one thing that kind of tugged at me. These guys get to experience that; I was missing out on some stuff.
“The coaches that we’ve had have been positive, upbeat and great for kids, just trying to be a part of everybody’s life was a really good experience, a family-type atmosphere with this group, and our parents have been fantastic. I’ve been blessed, for sure.”
Zamzo’s winters will be a little different if he trades floor exercise mats for wrestling mats.
“I won’t be leading a group now; I’ll be supporting,” he said. “The wrestling families are intense. It kind of fits our family style so I’m excited for that.”