Coach Profile: St. James coach Tom Radke 1/17
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
One of the up and coming programs in the Metro is St. James Academy. The Thunder have taken big steps forward the last few seasons since Tom Radke took over and bigger steps are on the horizon as St. James joins the EKL in 2016.
Radke has been coaching in the Metro since 1999 but has found a home at St. James. The Iowa native played for his father in high school and then played college football at Iowa State. After graduation he found his way to the Metro where he was an assistant at St. Pius X and St. Thomas Aquinas before becoming the head coach at Piper in 2006. Radke led the Pirates until moving over to St. James before the 2011 season.
There have been a lot of coaches that influence Radke but none bigger than his high school coach which also happened to be his father. Radke said he learned a lot in the small town of Aurelia, Iowa and his father was with him every step of the way.
“My biggest influence in becoming a coach was my dad,” Radke said. “He was my head coach in high school in Aurelia, Iowa. He coached for 36 years before retiring five years ago. He won over 150 games, but that is not what I thought was so cool. He is one of those guys who everyone wants to talk to. Everyone in town called him coach. He always has some quotable one liner. My dad had an ability to make everyone feel welcome. His teams were built on trust in each other. His passion for building men is what inspired me to be a coach.”
Radke learned a lot from his father but there were other influences as well.
“Rick Byers at St. Pius is another coach who influenced the way I coach,” Radke said. “Rick is simply the best out there. He gets the most out of each of his players. You always know where you stand with him, and you can’t help but love him. Just ask any of his players he has coached the past 20 years.”
Learning from great men has instilled a passion in coaching for Radke. It’s not a job but a calling to help young people grow.
“I love watching the guys hang out and build lasting bonds,” Radke said. “I love watching the guys grow from boys to men. At St. James we have the unique ability to infuse faith into everything we do. It is incredible to start practice with prayer, and have the guys pray for people in our community and around the country. I love game nights of course, and I love to see a play run perfectly. If I could change one thing about coaching it would be the time spent away from my family. We get so invested in making sure everyone is informed and healthy, while game playing and watching film, sometimes we run out of time to enjoy our own families.”
These days Radke is not only the leader of his own program, he is also in the first year of his two-year term as president of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. Radke said it is very exciting to be leading a group that does so many things for football in the Kansas City Metro.
“It is a great honor and privilege to be the president of the GKCFCA,” Radke said. “It is also very humbling. To stand in front of all of those great men at the association meeting can be nerve wracking. Rick Byers took me to my first meeting 16 years ago, and I met (Smithville coach and former GKCFCA president) Greg Smith there and we became good friends. Coach Smith got me on the board, and he did such a great job of getting the association stabilized, I am just trying to build off his leadership along with the past two presidents Baldwin coach Mike Berg and Pleasant Hill coach Kyle Roach.”
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