Four coaches hang up whistles from the games they love
Much like a hearty stew, there are a plethora of ingredients
— not all of them readily visible — that go into creating a high school sports coach. Just ask a few well-seasoned ones.
Four area leaders who know the recipe quite well won't be around next year, however, to dispense more instructional servings to eager-to-learn student-athletes. Richards'
John Chappetto, Oak Lawn's Janet Meyers, Marist's Denise Bromberek and Brother Rice's Paul Ickes all decided that the 2013-14 school year would be the last one in charge of their respective programs.
Bromberek completed her final assignment on Saturday, when the Lady RedHawks met Sandburg in a Class 4A sectional title
game. The Lady Eagles brought her 12-year softball-coaching tenure at Marist to a halt with a victory.
Bromberek, who is moving out of state with her family, has been the Lady RedHawks' only varsity softball coach since Marist went coed. She led the Lady RedHawks to a state championship two years ago.
According to Bromberek, devotion to both players and the sport itself are a must for any coach.
“It’s a lot of time commitment and a lot of patience,” she said. “It’s a continuous love of the game that always brings me back every single year and every single offseason. And it’s just a love and passion for the girls.”
Along with that, a coach must be dedicated to all aspects of his or her position and be willing to continuously learn. Meyers, who stepped down as Oak Lawn’s girls’ basketball coach after 15 years, offered an illustration of that first part.
“[Coaching] is like 10 percent of your paycheck, but sometimes it seems to take up 90 percent of your time,” she said. “Nobody coaches for the money because when you break it down, it’s not worth it. You’re not getting paid a lot of money [for it].
"You have to do it for the right reasons. You have to love what you’re doing. You have to be willing to put in the time and let it become part of your life because it does end up taking over a large part of your life.”
Ickes, who headed up Rice's volleyball program for 22 years, echoed Meyers' sentiments. He said coaching goes well beyond games and practice sessions.
“One thing that I’ve always lived by when I talk to people who look into becoming a head coach in particular is if you’re going to be successful at it, for every hour that you’re on the court, you’re two hours at a desk or breaking down film or doing bus schedules or putting together tournament brackets," Ickes said. "[It's] all of those things and it’s a huge time commitment to be able to do that."
Chappetto was Richards' boys' head basketball coach for a dozen years, one of which ended with the Bulldogs owning a Class 4A championship, and has spent a total of 21 years involved with the sport. He referenced University of Connecticut men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie's "Ten toes in" slogan when breaking down what makes a good leader but added that outside life can't be neglected.
“If you’re not committed, if you aren’t in it, if you don’t have 10 toes in, you’re not going to be a good head coach," Chappetto said. "You’re not going to fully reach the potential you have as a coach or, even worse, you’re not going to be able to get your players to where they need to get. You have to commit yourself to it [and] be willing to do it.
"But [you] also have [to have] outlets that are non-related to your sport — be a golfer, stay in shape, go on vacations, do whatever it takes because if [coaching is] all you do, you’re going to end up probably hating it. You have to have other stuff in life to be happy about.”
As classroom instructors, Chappetto, Meyers, Ickes and Bromberek all understand the value of learning, and they said coaches can't exempt themselves from the same thing.
“Your classroom discipline kind of goes hand-in-hand with your coaching with the way you handle your team and how you handle your classroom,” said Meyers, who took over a new technology job at Oak Lawn this past year after previously teaching business and computer classes.
“Definitely the planning that you put into it as a teacher is important as a coach [and] your time management becomes important. I think motivation in the classroom and on the floor are very similar and go together.”
Ickes, who has taught senior religion at Brother Rice, said he learns nearly as much from his players as he teaches.
“I really think that sports can teach young people," he said. "It’s a different kind of classroom that’s a gymnasium instead of a typical classroom, [but] it's a classroom, and I actually think there’s times and ways where you can have an even bigger impact on the lives of students because you’re with them several hours a day for several months. We spend a lot of time together and you get to know your student-athletes at a lot of different levels.
“If you keep the student-athlete first and foremost, if you communicate well — not just with them but with everyone that’s within your program — if you’re well organized, if you have a vision and you can invite people to become a part of that vision, then I think you’re successful, no matter what the win-loss record is. But I think a lot of times the [good] win-loss record follows if you take care of all those other things.”
Bromberek, who has taught English at Marist, said she, too, has incorporated some of the same strategies into both her teaching and coaching.
“As a teacher I try to take the discipline that I have in the classroom and impart it to the athletes as well,” Bromberek said. “If you can focus mentally, it will greatly help your performance on the field, and vice-versa.
"I try to take the same discipline I use with the girls, the same expectations I have for them, and I bring that into the classroom. I enjoy being a coach inside the classroom and outside the classroom.”
Chappetto, who has taught social studies and geography at Richards, said seeing student-athletes succeed academically and then do well in college is “sometimes better than a win.”
“On the basketball court, I am a teacher, whether it’s teaching the game or teaching kids the importance of academics," he said. "That always played into the way I talked to my teams, for sure.
“I’ve had an opportunity to go and watch my players play in college, and it’s a truly rewarding experience. It’s one of those things that you don’t think about when you get into coaching, but once it starts you’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool,’ and you feel like you’ve helped them out.”
Even with the best preparations, sometimes on-field success is determined, at least in part, by good fortune. All four coaches agreed that a little bit of luck — good tournament seeding, a fortuitous bounce of the ball or arrival of a better-than expected athlete on the roster, for example — factors into team achievements.
As for their future plans, Ickes will become the athletic director at St. Ignatius, Chappetto will continue teaching at Richards with an eye on college coaching and Bromberek may also pursue something in the collegiate ranks down the road.
Like Chappetto, Meyers plans to retain her teaching position at her present high school. But with a son who hasn't yet reached the age of 1, Meyers said she doesn't see coaching "happening in the near future."