DELANO, MN — Welcome home.
It’s been 25 years, but Ryan Tool is finally back at the place he first made his name known on the athletic fields.
Tool stepped in as Delano’s new activities director July 1, and, in doing so, completed a circle of his journey in education, as Delano is where he excelled as an athlete through his graduation year of 1993.
“It’s good to be back home,” Tool said from his office, which comes with a view of the high school’s main entrance. “I’m excited. It’s great to be a Tiger, again. I can’t wait to see games, and to see the kids perform.
“You spend a lot of time organizing things from behind the scenes and make sure things are in place, now we want to see those kids out oN the field.”
Those games already began on Tool’s watch, as the tennis, soccer and volleyball teams have already participated in their first competitions.
Tool comes to Delano after working as a councilor and basketball coach at Dassel-Cokato for the past eight years.
Between his graduation from Delano and his stint at Dassel-Cokato, Tool received his undergraduate degree in education — with a coaching emphasis and a psychology minor — from University of Minnesota-Morris; worked his first teaching job as a fourth-grade teacher and coach at Tracy; got married; attended graduate school at South Dakota State, where his wife, Anna, was a graduate assistant for the volleyball team; and followed Anna’s collegiate coaching career to North Carolina State, Virginia Wesleyan and Northwest Missouri State, working as a councilor at area schools during each stopover.
“A lot of moving around,” he said.
That moving around ultimately led him back to Minnesota.
“She got out of coaching and we thought, ‘let’s get back to Minnesota,’” Tool explained. “There was a position open at DC, and it was close to home, so we came back here, and that’s where I was for the last eight years.”
Finally finding his way back to Delano, where the family just purchased a home this summer, was a piece of the puzzle that sort of fell into place. Tool didn’t know his return would be in the activities office.
“I guess I wouldn’t have said 10 years ago that this is what I would be doing, but, when I came back to Minnesota, I said I would get my licensure, so, when I did that, this opportunity came up at Delano,” he explained. “I’ve always coached and my family has always been very involved in activities, so I thought this is something I would enjoy doing.”
Ryan and Anna Tool have three children, two of school-age.
This fall, son Carter is a sophomore wide receiver on the football teams, and daughter Taylor will play on the seventh-grade volleyball team. The youngest of the Tool kids, Samantha, is 2 years old.
As for Tool being back home with his family, some things have remained the same and others have changed drastically.
“The town feels very familiar and I have a lot of connections here, but the school feels very new,” Tool said. “Things have changed a lot, and the staff has changed a lot. It’s exciting.”
Getting to know his new coworkers, as well as everything else that comes with the activities director job has taken up a large portion of Tool’s first two months on the job.
“I tried to put in a bunch of time in July just to get up to speed on how everything works. Right now, everything is 100 miles-per-hour, and I am trying to keep up,” he said. “Getting to know people, trying to build relationships, and just figuring out who takes care of what. There is still a lot of things with schedules and what teams need, and we are still trying to finish construction projects. Different courts and different locker rooms.”
The job demands time.
“Obviously, there are a lot of demands,” he said. “You have to put in a lot of time — a lot of nights and weekends and all that kind of stuff — but those are the things I want to be a part of anyway.”
Making Tool’s transition easier, yet challenging at the same time, is the healthy conditions left by his predecessor, Mike Lindquist.
“Big shoes to fill. He had a tremendous work ethic. He was here early and stayed late. He put in a lot of time, and was involved with many different things, above and beyond what a typical AD would do — with the construction and parking and everything else happening,” Tool said of Lindquist, who served as the school’s AD for the last eight years. “It is a challenge to keep everything at that standard, and to make sure everyone is taken care of. Still, I want to make it my own and look for ways to improve it.”
Return to good health
In returning to Delano as an administrator, Tool is following the path to Delano his father, Jim Tool, laid for his family back in 1982. That’s when the Tool family moved to Delano, where Jim would serve as the district’s superintendent until the year 2000.
“I got involved in a lot of different things. I grew up playing baseball and basketball and football,” Tool said. “It was a good experience.”
An experience made better by his three varsity coaches.
“When I was here, Merrill Pavlovich, Jerry Litfin, and Dick Traen were the coaches I had. They are all Minnesota hall-of-fame coaches, and I feel fortunate for that, of having some really solid people who knew their sports well,” Tool said.
Tool was a first baseman and a pitcher for Traen on the baseball diamond, a post player for Litfin on the basketball court, and a tight end and linebacker for Pavlovich, who will coach Tool’s son this fall on the football field. With Tool, who was an all-conference performer in all three sports, on the rosters, all three teams were successful. The 1990 football team made it to the state semifinals, and the 1992-93 basketball team made it to the state tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
“Ryan is a great kid, and a very hard-worker. He was always coachable and respectful to both his teammates and coaches,” said Litfin. “He is not a very big guy, but always drew the opposing team’s post player, and we knew he would do a great job. Regardless of the sports — I had him in baseball, too — you always knew he would give everything he had to get the job done.”
Litfin commends Tool for maturity, while performing at a high level.
“It’s not always easy to be the son or daughter of a coach or school administrator, and Ryan handles it with the usual poise and maturity we all had grown to expect,” the coach said. “Delano is getting the same person — a hardworking, respectful, striving-for-excellence AD that we knew and enjoyed as a student athlete.”
Tool inherits an activities program that has experienced great success, as well, with the boys basketball team coming off a state championship, and several other teams coming off highly-successful campaigns during the 2017-18 school year.
“We’ve always had kids who are successful in school, and that’s part of it, because they are involved in activities and they are committed to everything,” said Tool.
Tool is heading a department that includes 30 activities listed on the school’s Minnesota State High School Association web page and several more that are not listed. The activities department at Delano is healthy, he notes.
“Delano has grown tremendously in the last few years. We are adding facilities, but we have also added programs — tennis and lacrosse and trapshooting. A lot of things are becoming available, which is great, because we want kids to be involved. We want them to have opportunities to explore different things,” he said. “I was just looking at something that said about 85 percent of the kids in Delano are in a school activity.
“I have a good respect for Delano and all the opportunities it provides, and that kids are able to do many different things.”