One person has been on the sidelines at more Hillsboro High School and Tabor College home football games than anyone else I know during the past 24 years. Whoever is in second probably isn’t even close.
This person isn’t a coach, football player, newspaper reporter or statistician.
This person never even played sports competitively while growing up.
Technically, Dr. Randy Claassen wasn’t required by the rules of football to be on the sidelines, although it’s advisable in a sport as violent as football that someone with his skills should be. Maybe that’s why HHS and Tabor did the prudent thing by having Dr. Claassen available on the sidelines since 1986, just in case something unfortunate happened.
Dr. Claassen is much more than a doctor on call during football games who also maintains a fulltime practice. He’s also a talented trumpet player who has helped the Tabor College pep band during the basketball season. He can more than hold his own as a singer as well. He is multi-talented, to say the least.
He never played sports in high school because he was raised on a farm and always had work to do. However, he enjoys watching a good football game, especially up close.
He never rushed onto the field when an injury occurred, but it wasn’t because he didn’t care.
“My philosophy was (to) let the training staff do what they’re trained to do, not rush onto the field just to look cool,” Claassen said.
“It really embarrasses me to see a doctor go out on a simple knee injury and spend five minutes doing a complete exam for the cameras. I have the training staff bring them to the sidelines where we can do a good evaluation without the pressure.”
Most of the injuries were not too serious, although there were some notable exceptions. On one occasion, a player suffered a compound fracture with the bone sticking out, “but we always have had a lot of head injuries, which are potentially more serious,” Claassen said.
And there’s the time where he almost became one of those needing treatment. Instead, it was his funniest experience.
“The play was a sweep to the near side and I wasn’t paying attention—actually I was talking to Tabor athletic trainer Jim Moore—and when the play came out of bounds, well, (I got tackled),” Claassen said.
On one occasion, Claassen momentarily set professionalism aside and criticized an official.
“The official made a really bad call and I was harassing him from the sideline. When you’re on the sideline, you’re considered part of the team. If I had drawn a flag, I’m sure the coach would have killed me—after he quit smiling.”
He’s enjoyed interacting with training staff, coaches and players, but his favorite coaches were Dustin McEwen for HHS and Tabor’s Tim McCarty, because he liked how they were able to pull the players together as a team.
His most enjoyable season was the year Tabor made it to the playoffs and won a postseason game in Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium.
Claassen says the risk of injury is inherent in the game and he doesn’t believe it makes much difference if the game is played on grass or turf.
It might be noted that HHS and Tabor had a home-field advantage with Dr. Claassen on the sideline, because he would help the visiting team with a diagnosis if necessary. I’d take his comment with a grain of salt, but he said, “I always told them they couldn’t play anymore.”
Through rain, wind, heat and cold, Dr. Claassen has seen just about everything while on the sideline of football games. Not that he wanted to leave, but sometimes life’s circumstances make moving on the best alternative. And so it is for Dr. Claassen.
When he walks out of the clinic for the last time this fall, Dr. Claassen will move on to serve in another community. It is unfortunate for our community that his professional career will be completed elsewhere.
Godspeed, Dr. Claassen. You will be missed.