Hall of Famer to serve as interim Northwest rodeo coach
Dan Mortensen, six-time world saddle bronc champion and 2009 inductee into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, will return to Northwest College this spring to serve as the interim coach of the rodeo team. Mortensen takes over for Ryan Vander Pluym, who resigned on Monday, barely six months after being hired.
Mark Kitchen, vice president for college relations, indicated no reason had been provided for Vander Pluym’s resignation.
“I got approached when (former NWC rodeo coach Del Nose) decided that he was going to retire from the program,” Mortensen said. “They encouraged me to replace him, but that wasn’t something I was willing or able to do at the time. A couple weeks ago, I was contacted and asked if I’d be willing to step in as the possibility was there, and I was happy to do that.”
Mortensen, an alum of Northwest College and the Trapper rodeo team, plans to meet with this year’s team members on Friday to begin the transition. Mortensen will direct the Trappers through five spring competition dates and, if needed, the College National Finals Rodeo.
The college rodeo season has been in its winter recess since October. Through the first half of the competitive calendar, the Northwest College women are fourth out of seven teams in the Big Sky Region, while the men’s team sits in fifth place out of 10 schools.
Bareback rider Jordan Gill is currently the only Trapper on pace to qualify for the CNFR.
“To start with, with me coming in from the outside, I just need to find out where everyone is at with their level,” said Mortensen. “I want to teach the sport of rodeo as a whole. I think one-third of the rodeo profession is your riding ability, about one-third is mental and that last third of it is the business side.”
Mortensen admits that final third will require as much learning on his part as it will for those on his team.
“Professionally, when you’re out there rodeoing, its an individual sport, not a team sport,” said Mortensen. “It’s a little different in college because you’re not making your own plans in college, and that’s where the team concept comes in. I’ll have to learn how to bring individuals together and make a team out of it.”
This spring will mark the first official coaching experience for Mortensen. He hasn’t exactly been a stranger to the program that gave him his collegiate start, however.
“I’ve done some schools and clinics before, but I’ve never done any coaching,” said Mortensen. “I enjoy helping the next generation of rodeo athletes out.”
Mortensen noted that he also feels a special connection to the Northwest College rodeo program, having been recruited by former coach Ike Sankey as a team member after being a three-time Montana high school bull riding champion.
“I learned more about riding broncs through the Northwest College rodeo program than I learned anywhere else. I owe the rodeo program, and I’m doing this for what the Powell program provided me. I feel I have a duty to give back to the program. I think I’m qualified to do it. I think I have something to offer the program, and hopefully I’ll do a good job at it.”
At this point, Mortensen’s coaching status is limited to the spring semester. Whether it develops into something longer term will be determined as the semester goes on.
“At this point, it’s just a spring semester thing,” Mortensen said. “But you never say never. I’ve never done any coaching. We’ll see how it goes.”