Justin Carstens committed to the sport of football

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

Justin Carstens is a common sight on the sideline for Bulldog football. (Brandon Hansen photo)

Despite being on kidney dialysis, Carstens a solid presence for Bulldogs on the sideline…

For Kettle Falls Assistant Football Coach, Justin Carstens, the gridiron is a passion.

A graduate of Kettle Falls High School in 2009, Carstens went to Washington State University during the slim Paul Wulff years. The Cougars’ losing football seasons couldn’t make up for the drive that Carstens had developed playing for the Bulldogs in high school.

“I was just missing the game watching WSU,” Carstens said. “So I reached out to Colfax’s coaches and helped them out for two years and learned a ton of football from them.”

Just as his football coaching career was taking off, health issues cropped up and he moved back to his hometown. But he still continued to be around the game.
Carstens has been an assistant coach for former Kettle Falls Coach Curtis Corvino and current coach Loren Finley after moving back and being on kidney dialysis.

He’s already had one kidney transplant, but it was not fully successful in alleviating his issues. He now goes on dialysis every night when he gets home to clean the toxins and refresh the fluids in his body.

“It doesn’t present many challenges in football but sometimes I might be low on energy,” Carstens said. “But then all I have to do is watch one football play and it sparks my enthusiasm again.”

Finley calls Carstens one of the most committed assistant coaches he’s ever seen. For the para-educator who hopes to one day go back to school to become a teacher, Carstens likes making an impact in the lives of kids.

“It’s the kids,” he said. “It’s the ability to transform an individual who was a baby deer as a freshman who can barely run to graduating as a senior as a force to be reckoned with.”

As an assistant coach, there’s no true way to gauge the hours dedicated to football, but it’s at least four hours a day for practice and at least that many on Friday night games. Easily it’s 20-30 hours a week on top of his day job.

“I’m fortunate, I live a pretty great lifestyle even though I’m on dialysis,” he said.

Since his first transplant didn’t really take, he has been moved from a regional waiting list to a national waiting list. His body is more sensitive after the first transplant and doctors have to make sure they find the exact fit for him, including the right body size and age. Some community members have made car decals asking local commuters if they know of someone willing to donate a kidney as well.

It would be pretty hard to tell out on the football field as Carstens appears to be having as much fun as everyone else.

“It’s a lot of fun and there is certainly a lot of pride,” Carstens said. “You take the wins and losses a little bit harder even though you’re putting stock in 14-18 year old kids.”

Since he grew up in Kettle Falls, he sees his old coaches around town. He said he feels that desire to make sure the traditions of Bulldog football are instilled in the players and coaches.

Kettle Falls is a small town and sometimes that means even more workloads put on the coaches as they have to make the most of every kid that turns out for the sport. Participation in football has dropped nationally, and the Bulldogs began last year with only 18 kids but still fielded a team.

“It’s hard with that because you need the ability to get a good look before games,” he said. “When you have your starting 11 and you can’t put 11 on the other side of the field it can be hard.”