Hortonville hires Clouthier
New girls’ hoops coach for Polar Bears
By Greg Seubert
AC Clouthier’s first high school coaching job included a pair of back-to-back state tournament appearances.
His plan now is to coach the Hortonville girls’ basketball team to the program’s first state championship.
Hortonville High School recently announced that Clouthier will replace Celeste Ratka as the program’s varsity coach. Ratka, a Hortonville graduate, stepped down after coaching the Polar Bears to a 125-33 record over six seasons, including a 24-2 mark last season.
Clouthier is heading to Hortonville after spending the past four seasons as an assistant women’s basketball team at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.
Prior to coaching at Concordia and a two-year stint as an assistant coach at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, he coached the girls’ basketball team at his alma mater, Xavier High School in Appleton, and took the Hawks to the WIAA State Tournament in 2015 and 2016.
“Xavier was a great part of my life,” Clouthier said. “I was fortunate to have great athletes and great assistants. The environment of Torchy Clark (Gymnasium), the support from the community and the lasting relationships I still have from those years are still part of me.
“That actually is a main reason for wanting to get back into the high school game,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I have been thinking about it for a long time, but knew that when a good opportunity presents itself, maybe that would be the time to do it.”
Ratka’s Hortonville teams made it to state in each of her first three seasons. The Polar Bears also qualified for state in 2020, but the tournament was called off due to COVID-19.
“There are not many high schools in Wisconsin that have a successful culture and set up for reaching new heights as Hortonville,” Clouthier said. “That is an obvious draw for me, but what is more exciting is the outstanding culture and environment coach Ratka instilled in this basketball program.
“I have watched her as a player – actually when she and her sisters were dominating Xavier as a high school athlete – and as a coach for a lot of years,” he said. “You can see and feel her passion for the game and her athletes.”
Clouthier looks to future
Clouthier said he looks forward to competing in the Fox Valley Association.
“As a competitor and as a coach, you want to play the best and always be challenged,” he said. “I believe the FVA is as tough as any other conference in the state. There are successful and intelligent basketball minds coaching and great athletes in this conference.
“There is no easy win or game to be ill-prepared for,” he added. “We will beat up on each other during the season and shake hands after. The pressure and expectations in this league are high, but that is what drives myself and this Hortonville basketball team.”
Clouthier hasn’t had an opportunity to meet his players yet, but plans to in the near future.
“I haven’t officially met the current athletes in the program in a team setting,” he said. “That is one challenge we face this summer. I currently live about two hours away. We are in the works of officially having a player meeting to officially meet the teams. I am fortunate that I have had the opportunity to recruit and watch many athletes in the program for years during my years as a college recruiter and coaching youth club teams. I have gotten to know some of the players and parents.”
The Polar Bears’ season won’t start for another six months, but Clouthier is already making preparations.
“Right now, it is finalizing the summer program and making sure we have a staff in place,” he said. “After that, truthfully, it is doing my best to get acclimated with the team: build that trust and build that relationship with the athletes.”
Clouthier is also looking forward to a return to high school coaching.
“The amount of community support and playing in front of a packed and energized gym, those are moments you remember and cherish,” he said. “I also missed working with high school athletes and using basketball to teach and use athletics as a platform to build who they are or where they want to go to college. I have been blessed to continue doing that in club programs, but now I can do that with the student-athletes on a daily basis at Hortonville.”