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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Steve Peachey- Enthusiasm!!!


Years ago, I was looking for an assistant coach for girls basketball. Bill Allison had told me to talk to Peachey (he does not like it when I call him Steve). I really didn’t think he would be interested. As we talked, and it became apparent he was indeed interested, I was very excited about the possibility. The two characteristics that stood out for me were his unbridled enthusiasm and the strong values he brought as a role model.


The timing could not have been better. He came when were had a great group, including players like Bonny Apsey, Gina Miller, Ami Pendry, and Sara Wood. They were kids who were anxious to succeed, and responded well to Peach’s high energy, high enthusiasm. It became contagious.

And the timing was good for him, I remember his first formal involvement was a camp session with the varsity at Churchill. Halfway thru the session, he said to Rux and I,”Man, these kids pick up stuff quickly.” He didn’t realize we had just about the entire varsity returning so they were very experienced. That group made it the Sweet 16 and the next took third in State. He thought going to Redbird was just a natural thing.

The first year when Sara Wood and Ami Pendry were our starting guards as sophomores, we lost a heart breaker to IVC in the Sectional. In basketball, the ending is always sooner than you would like, and more sudden than you expect. The next year as our season wound down, Peach told me he was not going to make the same mistake he had made the year before. He felt like the season had ended before he could say things to the team he wanted to say. We have traditionally had a meeting before the start of the Regionals. So this next year, not only did Peachey speak, he brought in a collage he had made to represent his feelings. I wish I had a video of his talk to the players. I have never seen anything like it. By the time he was done talking, the girls were all crying because of the emotional and feeling he expressed. Ami Pendry’s mother at the boys game that night asked me what we had done to her daughter that she had come home crying and said she could not talk about it. The basic message was Peach really cared.

One year we played at NIU in DeKalb in the Supersectional. Peach was a BIG water drinker on the sidelines, which meant he always had to go to the bathroom in the lockeroom at half after the girls took the floor again. This half-time we were not doing well, and we had stayed longer in the lockeroom at half. Everyone raced out to the floor for the second half. And as soon as we got out, the NIU host, locked the locker door. None of realized that Peach was still in there. To make the second half, he had to go out an emergency door, run around the building to the entrance, race by the ticket taker, and come to courtside as the game was in progress. If there had not been an emergency door, I am confident he would have chiseled through the bricks.


How did a farmer who had never played sports end up with boys who were excited about sports? Your dad is a super fan now, was he always a sports fan or was that a product of having boys in sports?
My family’s heritage is Mennonite, which is not far removed from the Amish.  My Grandpa Aaron would quote a verse in the Bible regarding physical activity availeth little.  My Dad was not allowed to participate in athletic activity.  Instead of resenting that my Dad worked hard and enjoyed physical activities as he could.  When the three boys came along I think he enjoyed keeping them busy, active, and exhausted.  We grew up on a dairy farm and worked pretty hard.  We learned a lot about being a team, discipline, work ethic, how to treat people, who you are working for from farming long before we got into athletics. We did have a hoop in the barn with a dirt floor, backboard of plywood, you get the idea.  I will never forget Dad coming through a game the three of us were playing and him shooting a couple of hook shots with his milking boots up to his knees.  He really gets a gleam in his eye when he is around sports.

What "coaching"or guidance did your mom and dad provide you as an athete? 
They are amazing encouragers.  Even today they will encourage the girls or guys depending on whose playing.  They aren’t caught up in just their kids or grandkids.  They have NEVER trashed our teammates or us.  I even try to bait them into it and they never have,  I find that incredible.  They did a great job of instilling in all of us that you are working for God, whether it is a job or a sport, do your best to represent who you are playing for.  At some point, when they realized that their kids were pretty good athletes, the last thing they would say as we walked out the door was, “Help everyone to have fun”.  That still chokes me up today.  As I have gotten older I realize that they had it figured out a long time ago with no sport psychologists helping them decipher the great meaning of sports.

You played football under Coach Kane. I honestly think each fall the entire school was impacted by the tone he set with his football teams. As a player, what do you think were the keys to Coach Kane's success as a coach? 
Coach Kane was an amazing leader.  He was never unprepared.  I think great athletes dream of a coach like him.  Strong, stern, no-nonsense, knowledgeable, competitive, could motivate individuals in many ways, caring, disciplined.  He is the type of guy that you wanted to go all-out for.  If you got yourself in the dog-house you would bust a gut trying to get back in his good graces.  As far as him setting the tone for the school, that is a unique thought anymore.  His presence and his influence on the football team would carry the school for the first 4 months.  The temperament of the school was very much tied to what the personality of the team was.  He was very powerful.  I learned many lessons of life that I still use today from him.  I owe him a lot, and still appreciate him, his wife and his family. 

My observation is that you had a special group of players you got to play with in football. Even today you seem like you have a special rapport. Was that the result of winning or was that what made you winners? 
It is a very special team.  If you see any of them in town it doesn’t take long to get back to what was going on in 1980 regarding football.  I think we went through a lot as a team.  Both Lombard and Churchill had dominate teams and players.  We knew going into high school that practices were going to be great battles.  They were and we were a very good team as sophomores under head coach Bill Allison, Gary Wagher, Dave Peck , Barry Swanson.  You don’t find coaches like that anymore.  As players we were great friends and really cared about each other.  Our parents all knew each other and supported the team greatly.  It was a great time to be a football player.

Our team this year and their style of play, do you see it as more similar or different than some of our teams of the '90's? 
There was a statement make be opposing people down at the state tournament in 95-96 when we got third, that really stuck in my mind.  “ I don’t think they really care if you score or not they are going to score as fast as they can and see if you can keep up”  I loved that thought.  We, of course, for about 10 yrs. tried to freak people out with how much pressure we could put on them, defensively, offensively, mentally, and physically.  I think there is a great parallel to what we are doing now.  I actually think it is amazing now because, (girls forgive me) we are not the most athletic group we have had.  The system is a great equalizer.  We don’t even worry about someone having a 6’2” post, it doesn’t seem to have an impact on the game. 

What were some of your favorite moments coaching girls basketball?
The interaction with the players has been the greatest memory. I still have great memories of many talented people that played on our teams.  It probably has less to do with basketball and everything to do with relationships and believing in each other.  Those were the most incredible times when you are battling and your back is against the wall and you have to rely on other teammates to dig deep and pull it out for you.  I love when players “get it”, when they recognize their role, embrace it, and flourish to make the team better.  You would think that I would talk about the stars but I have a whole list of 8-15 players that I will never forget for their ability to “get it”  There really are too many unbelievable memories to write about but I have to tell you that I have goosebumps just thinking about different situations where it was great to be a part of Galesburg girls basketball.

Big game, tough opponent, have to play really well to win-- how is it different going into that game as a player, coach, or a parent? Which would you choose?
Definitely as a coach. As a player I would be limited.  As a parent, I have no control in the outcome.  As a coach I felt I could have an impact by encouraging a kid to work a little harder.  I felt it was my responsibility to say something or do something to allow them the feeling that they could do the unbelievable.  Whether it was from practice or at that moment I felt that the time and battles we had been through were significant enough that what I said or did would matter.  That was an awesome place to be and I felt it was a unique privilege. 

All I ask of my kids in sports is _______?
Play hard and have fun. – remember who you are playing for.

Which is more likely to happen? You turn Gail into a rabid sports fan, or she turns you into a prolific reader?
You gave me this months ago and the reason it took so long to complete is because of this question.  Gail will never be a rabid sports fan, it takes too long and she has other things she likes to do.  So, I will have to become a prolific reader.  It better be very entertaining stuff. 

2 comments:

  1. "Peachey" - I didn't know he didn't like to be called Steve - is one of the finest human beings I have ever known. He's truly a special person who is in the perfect vocation - molding young people.
    I've heard the story about "Peachey" being locked in the lockerroom before, but it's still funny every time I hear it.
    Thanks to Steve and Evan for this blog entry.

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  2. Peach, it has always been so much fun to observe your enthusiasm for kids giving their best efforts. Tales of your dad are very interesting. He has always been a constant in his support.

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