A man who spent nearly 30 years working tirelessly and often behind the scenes of Waterloo sports found himself squarely in the spotlight Friday night.
Waterloo assistant coach Dave Hopper was honored for his 27 years of service to Bulldog athletics, the Waterloo school district and the Waterloo community. Hopper led this year’s junior varsity boys basketball team to a 13-3 season, winning his last home game as a coach that night.
“I won my first game of my career and I won my last game,” Hopper said with a smile.
Hopper announced his retirement earlier this year after nearly three decades as a teacher and a coach for various sports including boys and girls basketball, track, baseball and football.
“He’s super loyal,” Waterloo baseball coach Mark Vogel said of his fellow coach of nearly 10 years. “He is a great assistant coach because he will do whatever the program needs, whatever you need individually. At the time he and I worked together, he was great from the standpoint of all the experience he had. He helped me as a young coach, just to kind of stay grounded. I leaned on him a lot the first couple of years.”
It’s these bonds he shared with other coaches and with the people of Waterloo athletics that mean the most to Hopper, as well.
“I’ve loved it, because I’ve coached football, basketball and baseball and been a part of some really good teams,” Hopper explained. “But, more important, I’ve been a part of some really good people, coaches, individuals, players and it’s been a lot of fun.”Dave Hopper, 27-year coach and teacher at Waterloo High School, stands with his mother, Doris Gagnor, in Friday’s cer- emony honoring his career and retirement. Hopper won his last game as a coach that night. (Front page photo) Hopper led the 1993-94 junior varsity boys basketball team at Waterloo High School to an undefeated season. (Alan Dooley photo)
Hopper reflected on those fond memories, citing the 1988 baseball team that went to the state tournament, as well as the runs they made in the late 80s and early 90s in baseball. He also remembered the 1993-94 athletic season when the football team went 13-1, boys basketball had 23 wins, Hopper led the JV team to an undefeated, 17-0, season, and baseball won more than 20 games.
“That was a special year and we’ve had a lot of them.”
Being a part of all of those moments over the past three decades, Hopper has seen many changes in both the community and the school district.
“The school has changed a lot going from a Class A school to 2A to 3A,” Hopper said in reflection. “A lot of changes. They built this nice building.”
With those changes, Hopper learned some lessons along the way as well.
“Patience,” Hopper said and laughed. “I am a little more patient than I was 20 years ago and a little more understanding.”
This is a trait that has made him a genuinely liked and respected individual in the Waterloo community.
“He is just one of those special people that whatever he touches, he has an impact on,” Vogel said. “He is a laid back guy that cares about kids, he cares about the community and the district. He is in coaching for the right reasons. It was never about money or fame or notoriety. He just comes in and puts the work in every day.”
“Our district has benefited greatly from Dave being here all those years.”
But after he has so much time invested, Hopper says he is not ready to walk away completely.
“I’m still probably going to hang around, volunteer, do whatever. I’m not sure yet.”
“Because it will be hard to pull out all together,” Hopper said, adding that he is looking forward to some leisure time as well.