It’s not uncommon for athletes to emulate the personality of the head coach through created bonds and trust.

But at times, bonds are created through coaches first before it’s illustrated to athletes, like Buhler head football coach Steve Warner and defensive coordinator Jason Kohl. The two coaches have coached on the same sideline dating back 14 years when Warner was at Liberal.

Even before Warner coached at Liberal, he coached at Marysville, 12 miles from the Nebraska border. There, Warner soon received an idea from a father of one of the players that would shape his philosophy on coaching: kayaking. Warner took his seniors kayaking in Nebraska for three years and carried the idea to Buhler where he just returned last week from taking his seniors to a new site in Colorado.

“What I like about it is every group has clicks and every group may not always be best friends, but they have a good time around the camp site,” Warner said. “They get to know each other better. I get to know them better. I think it’s a great experience for our football team.”

Kohl echoed Warner by describing how rafting creates a stronger bond as a team. How a stroke emulates a block. How the right posture can put you in the right position on the field and how trusting each other will help the team reach its destination.

“We always get something hugely positive about that trip,” Kohl said. “Relationship wise, learning about kids, getting closer to kids, and seeing them come together as a group.”

Warner and Kohl initially came together after Kohl was a student-assistant at Baker University before joining Warner’s staff at Liberal as an offensive line coach.

“We have a lot of the same philosophies with kids,” Kohl said. “We don’t always agree on everything. We’re kind of like brothers. When we disagree, we listen to each other and talk it out and come to a conclusion and we’re both pretty happy with what comes out of it.”

Kohl laughed at thoughts of animated conversations between the two when they first arrived at Buhler. Other coaches had puzzled faces not knowing the relationship between the two, mistaking it as arguments.

“It never was that way,” Kohl said. “It was just we’re both passionate about what we do, the team and we’re strong willed, but we both listen to each other. But in the end, he’s the boss and in the end, he’s right. But I also know that he will hear what I say.”

This was displayed on the first play in the 2013 Class 4A State Championship game against Coffeyville. Coffeyville lined up in their favorite running formation. Kohl knew the formation, but didn’t make the adjustment like the team had practiced.

“We were in this wide-eyed, beginning of the game phase I guess,” he said.

Coffeyville-Field Kindley took the opening play down the sideline 75 yards for a touchdown.

“Coach Warner flips over to the defense and said ‘Hey! I thought we were going to adjust to that. What are we going to do?”’ said Kohl as he recalled the conversation. “He was about to lay it on me, but I said coach we got it taken care of. The linebackers already talked to me and we’ll make the adjustments. And we had it taken care of. They didn’t score again until the last four minutes of the game.”

Buhler went on to win 31-14.

“He’s a very dedicated coach that has been loyal and he works very hard for our team and these kids,” Warner said. “We know each other very well and know what each other is thinking. He gives a lot to our team.”

After one forward stroke in kayaking, you have to take the next, then the next, then the next. The next step for Buhler is to capture another state championship after falling short last season. Kayaking could be the key with seniors like Dalton Brown, Jhet Burkhart, Dalton Smyres, Lawson Schultz and Brendan Webb to name a few.

But the life message to send to the seniors was formed among the coaches first.

“We talk about everything we go through whether it be how we work with the players, strategies or offensive and defensive details,” Kohl said. “That allows us to work together well going on 14 years.”