Pat Feely of Burnsville reaches a significant milestone this year: He’s been coaching a variety of sports for 50 years, over half of it in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191.
"Pat Feely has been extremely instrumental in developing and sustaining the Burnsville softball program. His hard work, dedication, commitment to excellence, and love of the sport and athletes have allowed him to have tremendous success over the years with the Burnsville program,” said Jeff Marshall, athletic and activity director. “The entire Burnsville athletic community is grateful to Coach Feely for all of his dedication to Burnsville sports and congratulates him on 50 successful years of coaching!"
Feely comes from a family of coaches. His father coached for 37 years and his younger brother has been a coach for 35 years. Feely loved playing sports and found it an easy transition from player, to teacher and then to coach. Feely, now 71, began coaching in 1966 when he was a junior at the University of St. Thomas. A school principal paid him $500 to coach an eighth-grade basketball team for two years. After college graduation, Feely was a social studies teacher at Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis and also coached football, basketball and baseball over 14 years.
Then when he became a principal at a Minneapolis school, he was no longer allowed to coach in the district so he turned his talents toward his hometown of Burnsville. First he coached for the Burnsville Athletic Club (BAC) and then in 1990 was hired to coach the girls’ tennis program at Burnsville High School. Starting in 1992, Feely coached Burnsville High School varsity softball for 20 years and during his tenure won six Lake Conference championships, three section titles and two state titles. He is the longest tenured softball coach in BHS history. He has supported the BHS softball program by mentoring new coaches, providing help during practices and games and meticulously maintaining the softball field. He’s also coached basketball at BHS.
Feely taught more than just athletic skills. According to those who know him, Feely had high expectations for his student-athletes and also taught them life lessons of collaboration, commitment and perseverance. He’s maintained a long-time interest in coaching because every year there is a new team and new challenges. Most of all, he enjoys seeing the young athletes become better at their sports and develop into outstanding people. He’s especially proud that his former athletes become wonderful role models for younger athletes and also give back to their community by coaching or through volunteer service.
In recognition of Feely’s contributions to the softball program, the District 191 Board of Education approved a request to name the BHS softball field in Feely's honor in 2012. It is now one of a few district facilities named after people including Thomas B. Mraz Center for the Performing Arts, Bob Pates Stadium, Dick Hanson Field — all at Burnsville High School — and the Jerry Kivi Media Center at Rahn Elementary School.