High School Coach, Juhl, Combines Athletics with Inventions

Published 02/03 2013 11:27PM

Updated 02/04 2013 11:37PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Folks are used to seeing St. Joseph Christian Coach Mark Juhl patrolling the sidelines, leading the football program he created.

But, that's just one thing he can be credited with creating.

In his job as an industrial technologies teacher at Central High School, Juhl goes from the coach to the inventor.

"My earliest memories of him were in the shop he had in Bendena, Kansas," his son, St. Joe Christian Athletic Director Steve Juhl said. "He's always been out working on some invention or another." 

"My major in college was Industrial Technology. Even when I was growing up, I was always interested in what makes an engine work," Mark said.

It was during his time at Kansas' Midway-Denton High School in the 1980's that he brought his two loves together. In an effort to help improve the shooting methods of the girls basketball team, Juhl concocted his signature creation: the 'Shotmaker.'

"The first thing was a ball mounted on a coat hanger on an arm. But then it eventually translated into the 'Shotmaker'. Once I came up with that design, I thought that everybody was going to want one of these."

He was right.

After meeting then-head coach Flip Saunders, Juhl's invention made its way to the Boston Celtics of the NBA. As a shooting coach for Kevin McHale's basketball camp, he garnered the nickname 'Shot Doctor' from the Celtics General Manager.

Juhl even took his creation to the University of Kansas to see if the product had a place at Allen Fieldhouse.

"I just put one in the back of my pickup truck and went looking for Larry Brown. Of course, that year they won the national championship. I don't know if the machine had much to do with it, but I'd like to think so," he said.

The innovations don't stop at the court. A man who's won five football state championships has to have a trick up his sleeve.

His 'Max Machine', designed to improve hitting techniques for football players, is used by the NFL and Division I football programs. 

"He'll think, 'hey, I wish were better at this.' Then, he'll just go to his lab and start drawing stuff up." Steve said. "I was the only kid who wanted to be a quarterback that had a snapping machine. I had this huge net with a target on hit that he'd constructed. I mean, that was normal for me just to have all these inventions that were quite useful."

Not every creation has panned out, but the uniqueness of having a coach with an eye for innovation? That's not lost on St. Joe Christian's student athletes. 

"The first practice we had all these new inventions trying to help us," senior guard Ashley Critchfield said. "We were all like, 'What is this?' But it was beneficial."

"When you have an innovative coach, it can also go into your playbook," sophomore nose guard Caleb Dahlgren said. "When you have someone who's very creative, the plays can even go along with their personality. "

Commercial success is one thing, but Juhl says the real inspiration behind his creations has always been to help the kids he teaches.

"Every machine I think I've ever invented has come from me wanting to improve my players at the program I'm at," he said. 

"When he's 95 years old and he can't remember where he put his glasses, he'll still have these ideas and want to go out to the shop and mess around to try to make them work," Steve said. "That's who he is. That's who he'll always be."

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