Linda Hocker, lead basketball coach, El-Paso Gridley High School
It was the night before the Mid-State Conference championship. Four key players were ineligible in the championship game for breaking training rules and drinking. "There was so much adversity," but the team still played for the conference title without four starters. They won. "It's one of my favorite memories."
April Schermann, softball coach, Normal Community West High School
The Illinois State University softball player and math teacher signed with Normal Community West High School two years ago, knowing it was home to two of the best softball pitchers in the state. Suddenly the picture changed: The father of one pitcher was transferred and the girl moved.
The other was injured and required surgery.
The coach now had three new pitchers without any varsity experience. "We finished the season 26 and 11," she said. "It says a lot about the girls. It was very rewarding."
Debbie Coffman, girls basketball coach, Central Catholic High School, Bloomington
Last year, Coffman's team wore red shoe laces to show support for 2001-02 team member Maggie Sprague, who battled viral heart problems. Sprague recovered, and the team kept its red shoe laces to celebrate her good health.
Coffman said the tribute reminded the team that athletes can support each other through the bigger things.
Mike Lootens, multi-sport coach and
athletic director/assistant principal, Olympia High School, Stanford
"Once I was asleep at 3 a.m. and the phone rang" with a former student calling from the West Coast, so excited about his sport that he forgot about the time difference. "It's the relationships you form" that makes coaching worthwhile, said Lootens, who has coached for 28 years.
His close connections with students likely saved his life. About 15 years, ago, a team member's mom had leukemia. The coach gave blood to help the mom and others. As a result of the blood test, doctors discovered Lootens had a kidney tumor. It would have likely been almost a year before symptoms alerted him to the problem, he said.
Ryan Short, head sophomore baseball coach, Normal Community High School
A highlight was to see his players make their first state tournament and to see the look in their eyes. "It was fun to watch the kids realize a dream."