Enjoy a ‘Rich’ heartwarming story about a coach and parent

For a few minutes, set aside the importance of winning and losing games, and read a story about a high school girls basketball team in Minnesota last year that might tug on your heartstrings. The information is courtesy of KARE11.com.

One of the many special reasons sports are incredible is that it brings people together. It brings families together. In this case, quite literally.

Boyd Huppert tweeted: Four sisters on the #1 ranked New London-Spicer girls basketball team are an example of good coming around. In the 1980s, their dad was taken in as a foster son by the man who now coaches their undefeated team.

Earl Rich spent a decade in foster homes while growing up. As a second-grader, an illness left his mother too sick to care for him.

It’s easy to understand how he would be devastated when his fifth foster family decided to give him up.

But word gets around in a small town, and it soon spread to Earl’s 7th-grade football coach, Mike Dreier.

“I was in the lunchroom one day,” Dreier recalls, “and the music teacher was saying, ‘Aww, Earl’s gonna have to move to Willmar.’ I said, ‘Well, he can come live with me.’”

Moving in with the – at the time – unmarried coach of his 7th-grade football team was the last thing Earl expected.

But the paperwork was completed, and Dreier became Earl’s foster parent through his sophomore, junior, and senior year.

“I never spent three years at one place,” Earl says. “He just gave me every aspect of a dad that I never had.”

Dreier provided Earl with discipline and love, TV dinners, and trips to the gym for workouts.

Earl went on to Southwest State University, where he played quarterback for the football team and pitched for the baseball team.

Then, he returned to his hometown and became part-owner of New London Real Estate and WestRich RV Park and Campground in Spicer, where his daughters spent their summers practicing basketball on a court he had built for them.

“He’s done really well,” Dreier says proudly.

Fast forward a few years to when Dreier, 69, was the girls’ coach, then in his 43rd season with New London-Spicer, and the winningest girls basketball coach in Minnesota high school history.

The reason he was still coaching was largely because of Earl. Seven or eight years ago, Earl came to Dreier and said, “You gotta keep coaching. You’ve got to coach my kids.”

Dreier said, “I can’t. I don’t think I’ll be hanging on that long, Earl.”

But Earl persisted, explaining to his daughters, “If there’s any coach I want you to play for, it would be him.”

Earl’s daughters have grown up aware of their coach’s influence on their dad.

“Oh man,” Earl says, wiping away a tear. “It’s hard to talk about sometimes.”

That’s four Richs on an undefeated Class 2A varsity team ranked No. 1 in the state. It made for a proud dad moment when, for the first time, all four of Earl Rich’s daughters were on the court at the same time.

“It was a special moment, that’s for sure,” said Earl.

One game night, Dreier and Earl sat across the court from each other, while between them, all four girls took the court again for a couple of minutes of playing time together. Both men recognize the uniqueness of these moments.

“I just hope I have been a small part of some positives in his life,” the coach says.

“Small” is the only word in that sentence Earl would dispute.

“I’m glad he stuck it out for the girls,” said Earl.

Not even a 58-54 loss in the state semifinals can ruin this story.

“I can’t tell you how much I respect what they’ve done,” Dreier said. “They not only performed at a high level, but they came to play every single day and set an example for everybody else in the program. They worked their tails off. How do you not respect that? I really do. I wish they could’ve had a little different ending, but that’s the way it works sometimes.”

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