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MFalls’ Bode retires to return to first love — ranching

Marble Falls High School defensive coordinator Zane Bode is retiring from teaching and coaching. His decision was recently announced, and Bode, who guided the second most-stingiest defense in Class 5A Division II in 2021, is looking forward to his next chapter and grateful for the past three decades.

“I want to get back to being a rancher and playing cowboy,” he said. “I’m going back to feeding cows. I’m also going to build a lot of fence.”

Bode grew up in a family of coaches that included his father, Charles, and he did everything he could not go into the family business. Instead, he decided to pursue a career in agriculture.

“I was going to be a cowboy and rancher,” he said. “Three months into my first job, I discovered it wasn’t for me. So I fell back on the only thing I knew.”

He accompanied his dad to the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in search of a job. He found one on North Garland head coach Joe Allen’s staff.

“Joe was very old school,” Bode said. “(Coaches) cleaned the field house, we watered the field. I learned that coaching had very little to do with Xs and Os and a whole lot to do with stuff nobody wants to do. That’s when you know what coaching is all about.”

Bode stayed in the Metroplex for awhile then became the defensive coordinator at Lago Vista for 10 years. His next job was as the head coach at Florence High School. By his second year, he guided the Buffaloes to the playoffs and did it again the following season for the program’s first back-to-back postseason appearances in 40 years.

But Bode also discovered what being the head coach truly means: more meetings, being accessible throughout the community to everyone, attending various functions, and not being around players as much to help develop them.

“I missed coaching,” he said.

So when his friend, Brian Herman, was named the head coach at Marble Falls, Bode decided to become a Mustang.

“All the stars aligned,” he said. “They were going to get things started with a great group of young men. I’ve had more fun here getting back to coaching and getting to deal with the kids. It was a blast for me.”

The Mustangs went 2-8 that first year in 2019, but coaches saw plenty of positives and understood the players were learning brand new schemes that required emphasizing different skills. Bode didn’t express concern or weariness as he thought back to that season. Instead, he showed compassion.

“You have no idea how hard it is on kids,” he said. “That first year — and we had great kids — they had to change everything they’d been taught. It was a change in football philosophy.”

Bode credited the 2019 team for what the Mustangs accomplished in 2021: their best finish since the 1990s. And he felt honored to be a part of it.

He chuckled as he recalled the beginning to the 2021 season that ended with the Mustangs going 2-1 in the playoffs for a 9-4 overall record and 4-2 in District 14-5A Division II for third place. The defense, which gave up 79 points in 2021, in August looked anything but thrifty. During that month, coaches installed a few new plays and were evaluating the best places to start the defensive players. But how the Mustangs finished the season is why Herman hired Bode three years ago.

“We revamped our whole defense because of the personnel,” Bode said. “You have to do that every year. As high school coaches, you run what your kids can do. We have great kids and felt like we could put them in a great scheme.”

Bode also gave back to his profession. As a coach’s son and now a coach himself, he and his brother, Clay, who also works on the Marble Falls staff, know firsthand the commitment required to an athletics department and to a coach’s family. That’s why the two along with their wives and former Fredericksburg High School athletics director and head football coach Lance Moffett and his wife, Cara, started the Hill Country Clinic. The clinic allows football coaches to bring their wives for a getaway on Valentine’s weekend. The coaches attend a clinic during the day, while the wives enjoy their own activities. Then they all meet back up for a night for couples. Zane Bode couldn’t compliment his wife, Cynthia, his mother, Sue, or his sister-in-law, Diane, enough for their steady presence in the family.

“A coach’s wife is the greatest invention there ever was,” Zane Bode said. “She gets the worse of the worst when things are going bad. My wife and kids have to listen to it in the stands. There’s not enough great things to say about a coach’s wife in Texas.”

While the winning and the trophies are great, Bode defines his success through the relationships he’s built with student-athletes and peers. One example is Gabe Baldwin, a discus thrower who joined the University of Texas at Austin track-and-field team and won conference championships in the event. The two still meet for lunch during the Texas Relays though Baldwin’s eligibility ended years ago. After the two said their good-byes following one of those lunches and Bode, who is four years older than Baldwin, began to walk away, he heard a “hey coach.” When he turned around, Baldwin tossed one of his conference championship rings to his former coach.

“I would have never done this if it weren’t for you,” Bode recalled hearing. “I cried like a baby all the way home.”

And he has other examples: the Marble Falls graduate who needed to do some home repairs and called Bode to ask if he could borrow a saw, wedding invitations, birth announcements, and other life-changing events that players want to share with him.

“I still keep in touch with those boys from that first team (in 2019),” he said. “Obviously we would have liked to have won more games. But I still have kids’ numbers in my phone (who graduated years ago) I still keep in touch with. That’s what’s so special. It’s 28 years of memories to get me through.”

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