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Dec. 21, 2021

Legacy is Ultimately Caring About People

Legacy is Ultimately Caring About People

#20. Jon Stapleton, teacher and head boys soccer coach, is featured on this episode.  For 25 years, Jon has taught PE/Health/Drivers Ed, as well as coached basketball and soccer at Downers Grove South High School (Downers Grove, IL). In addition to his teaching and coaching duties, Jon has also served as a sponsor to the club, Athletes Committed to Excellence.

As an assistant boys basketball coach, Jon played an instrumental role building one of the top programs in IL, one that earned 2 trips to the IHSA State Finals.  As head boys soccer coach, he's won 6 conference championships, 6 regional titles, a sectional title, and in 2004, a state championship. Coach Stapleton is the winningest boys soccer coach in school history.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Values that can be learned through athletics
  • The challenges for high school coaches navigating the specialization trend by young athletes and the growth of club sports
  • Why coaching at the high school level is a special fit


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Review The "I" in Win on Apple Podcast or my website to let me know what you think of the show.

Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 20 of The "I" in Win

Jon:

And I think ultimately as a young teacher, that that's a bigger challenge for, for sure, because you're So driven by as you put it, the demands of the curriculum that sometimes you lose sight of the connection. And I think ultimately with experience having taught for 25 years, you've learned to recognize. Like I said those teachable moments

Luke:

thanks for tuning into another episode of The "I" in Win podcast. Today, I'm honored to welcome on John Stapleton who in addition to being a friend is also the head soccer coach and a teacher at Downers Grove South High School. For 25 years. John has coach basketball and soccer while also serving as a sponsor to the club Athletes Committed to Excellence. As an assistant basketball coaches teams made two trips to the state finals. As that boy's soccer coach. He went six conference championships, six regional titles, a sectional title. In 2004, he won a state championship, which is really special seeing as an alum of the school. John is the winning as boys soccer, coach and school history. And at the time recording was right in the middle of his fall season, but still was nice enough to discuss the following things with us. Value is he learned as an athlete himself and what he hopes to impart upon his own athletes. The challenges for high school coach navigating specialization and the growth of clubs sports. And why coaching at the high school level is just the right fit and so special to him. If you enjoy the episode, or if you join any of the episodes that I win podcast, please consider leaving a review. And as I mentioned last Week, I did start to provide notes for each episode to prevent all of you, the hassle of having to pull over and jot down these little nuggets we learned from coaches as we're driving into work each and every morning. If you want to get that newsletter, you'll find those along with where to leave reviews in the show notes. Here's coach stapleton. Hey everyone. Thanks again for listening. I want to start by welcoming today's guest, John Stapleton, who is a PE health driver's ed teacher at downers Grove south high school, which is about 20 miles west of Chicago. John has also been the head boys' soccer coach at the school since 2002, a lifetime fan and resident of DGS. John was able to achieve the pinnacle for any coach winning a state championship, but as. known him for years and I could tell you he's exactly the type of person we need in our schools today. John, thanks for being on the show.

Jon:

Luke, thanks so much for having me.

Luke:

Absolutely. I know you're right in the middle of a season, you're really busy. So you're home taking family time away. So let's get into the bulk of what we want to discuss. And that's the influence of the coaches on you and how you're going to influence the students you work with today. So you were a multi-sport athlete at downers Grove south. What were the sports you played?

Jon:

So I played soccer, basketball, and baseball.

Luke:

I'm assuming your high school coach and teachers were a big influence on you, which is why you're in the business today. So talk a little bit about the influence of the teachers and coaches that you had while at downers Grove, south.

Jon:

Yeah, look, I think, um, in a lot respects, initially it starts even with my family. I grew up in a household of educators. My mom and my father were both teachers. And in fact, my dad taught at the same high school that I went to and. You know, so from an educational standpoint, I was always drawn to it. I was always around the high school observing and watching sports. My dad would take me to football games and soccer games and basketball games, baseball, et cetera. So always kind of being around that environment. It was something that I think just became a part of, of what we did as a family. And certainly, uh, then getting into the high school experience and, and some of the coaches I had a chance to, to play for. You know, taught me so much. And, and being a multi-sport athlete, it gave me the perspective of, of different coaches, right? Different, different coaching styles, different ways to motivate. So I think a combination of all those things, uh, drew me back into the profession as a coach. And I couldn't be happier with the choice that I made.

Luke:

So, what were some of those lifelong lessons that your coaches from each sport taught you that stick with you today. Is that the perseverance that's that the hard work? Is it the caring for other people? What are those things that stick with you today?

Jon:

Well, one of the things that comes to mind, I think is each, each team had a different level of success at different times over the course of my career. So maybe seeing how one particular coach maybe handled the adversity of maybe not performing as well as a group, uh, maybe, maybe not meeting expectations. I think certainly from each of them, I learned lessons of hard work, dedication, you know, being a good teammate. I think individually being pushed by each and each and every one of those coaches to find the highest level of success individually and collectively. So I think ultimately, you know, each season brought about a different experience which I think, you know, as it kind of relates back to my coaching kind of helps me be a little more well-rounded I can pull from some of those different experiences, you know, today as a coach, as well.

Luke:

So you're a multi-sport athlete. And every time I talked to a multi-sport athlete, there's such proponents of it, which I'm going to assume you are as well based off what you said the previous two answers ago. So why are we losing that? And I know that's not what this podcast is all about, but I'm just curious, like, why are we losing the multi-sport athlete? If all of us, as adults are saying, Hey, this is the best route.

Jon:

You know, it's a great question. I wish I had maybe the answer and we could find a ways to get back to having more multi-sport athletes. I think part of it is the time demands of sport has I think increased over time in terms of what used to be an off season is no longer an off season. The demands have been placed on these young kids at a young age. To specialize earlier and earlier on, and you and I are our parents and we have children who are involved in that. I'm sure you feel that pressure sometimes too as well. Where if you feel like you're not starting to narrow things down at a younger age, you feel as though other athletes are passing you by. So, um, for whatever reason, it's, it just seems to be gravitating that way. I, I, I certainly am a proponent of multi-sport athletes. We really look at some of the best athletes in the world. So many. Um, in high school participated in, in more than one sport. So it certainly can be done. I think coaches have to work together though to make that happen and they have to be able to you know, appreciate each other's programs and recognize that we're sharing this, this young man or young woman to allow them to experience more than just one thing. So um, yeah, I wish, I wish we'd find it to swing back that direction and maybe in time it will.

Luke:

So let's, I'm going to come back to that in a few minutes, but I want to first get to your why. So you've kind of touched upon the fact of you've had this influence of teaching and coaching basically in your home and in your community, and it's just been a part of your life. So if I'd asked you, what is your, why, why do you teach, why do you coach.

Jon:

I think ultimately, uh, it is, I think it comes back to relationships. Um I just feel that given the opportunity to help shape and guide a young person's life is so powerful. And I'd have to say probably when I first began teaching at 23 or 22 years old, whatever it was back then, you know, that may not have been at the forefront in terms of an answer, but I think somewhere deep down inside in your heart, that's kind of what motivates you to get back into that particular business? Is that the opportunity to, I such great experience as an athlete and my teammates are some of my best friends. And I think being able to share some of that and give some of that back, uh, to, to, to young people. I think is something that has always been special to me. And it's definitely my, my Y.

Luke:

So let's talk about that relationships piece and guiding people. What are some things that you do to help foster. Your relationships and let's start, like, let's take this as a two folded question. Let's start in the classroom and then we'll come to sports later because I think those are different dynamics. So how do you foster relationships with your students when you're the teacher.

Jon:

I think initially. You have to look at the classes as a group of individuals and maybe not collective. And I think ultimately you have to find ways early on to get to know them personally. I think more than ever, we have young people coming into a classroom setting with so much adversity and obstacles. Uh, you can throw in the recent, uh, experience with, with the online learning, uh, as just another hurdle that these young people have as they come into the classroom. And I think being genuine, you know, being open, showing that you care, showing that you're available to help them. I think all initially begins to foster those kinds of relationships. And of course, as the class continues, I teach semester courses. So I'm with them for only a short time. Um, sometimes it has to be, I at least in my mind has to be accelerated a little bit, tried to try to find ways to connect with them. Earlier in media, more impactful way. And I think, uh, you know, for example, teaching in a, in a health classroom, a lot of the content that we teach allows us to find those connections because so much of that class is about them as a young person. So I, I have an advantage in that regard to drivers that has no difference, you know, kids want their driver's license, so you can index them pretty quickly in that kind of environment too, as well. So maybe I have an advantage because of what I teach. Uh, I think some of the challenges might be greater than maybe in a math class or a science class, but I think the nature of my curriculum allows me to create assignments to create activities and create opportunities for meaningful connection. I think the second part of the question was more from an athletic perspective, correct?

Luke:

Yep. And before we get into it, let me interject here. So yes, I, I will tell you that being in, you know, I can speak from the lens of an English teacher. It's difficult because unfortunately, a lot of those kids don't want to be there and are not real fond of the curriculum to begin with. So it's, it's a pretty tough dynamic and you do have more of a captivated audience with, with driver's ed, but you do face the reality. Of it being a semester class and this curriculum that you have to get through, and you have people that you answer to that want to make sure you get to that curriculum. So how do you balance getting to know the kids develop relationships, have those moments of humanness with the reality of, I need to get through this curriculum and I only have a few months to do.

Jon:

Well, I do think with experience, I think as, as a teacher, you do find ways to, to meet those curricular demands and, and still come back to, to, to create those opportunities and, and to use kind of the old expression, right. A teachable moment. Uh, you're going to have those moments in the classroom when you record. Hey, something that happened maybe in society or something, it happened in a classroom or wherever it may be is a more important at that time. And you just learn, I guess, a little bit, not distressed and you figure out different ways, different strategies to get the material covered. And I think ultimately as a young teacher, that that's a bigger challenge for, for sure, because you're So driven by as you put it, the demands of the curriculum that sometimes you lose sight of the connection. And I think ultimately with experience having taught for 25 years, you've learned to recognize. Like I said those teachable moments. And when the time is to kind of focus on that or slow things down a little bit, knowing that you have that years of experience to realize, Hey, I'll get to it. I'll get through that curriculum. I'll find different ways to make sure we cover needs to be covered this right now is, is most important. And, uh, I think just, you kind of grow as a teacher and a coach and, and finding ways to do that.

Luke:

So let's transition to extracurriculars. You know, you have a great soccer program. You have kids that have been playing since they were three, four years old and just completely loved the sport and they're all in, but you still have to develop the relationships with them. So what are some things you do and the field, I guess it should be called the pitch. Right? I don't, I don't know all the lingo, but what do you do to develop those relationships with your players?

Jon:

Well, you know, teaching and coaching is as you know does present a different, uh, I'll call it classroom or different classroom environment. Right. And so as a result, um you know, the demands are different. I think sometimes as athletes in terms of, of, you know, performing in practice, performing in competition but I think ultimately the starting points kind of the same. I think it's really important that you take the time to get to know each and every player. And how do you do that? Right. Well, it could be something as simple as, as a quick conversation, uh, on your way out to the practice field, you know, taking the time to ask them about things other than other than soccer, other than their, their performance, um, making them make it known to players on the team that you're available. I, you know, in my office, uh players come in all the time and, and. Specific things about their performance as a player, we'll also ask for guidance in other avenues, whether it be education or maybe it's their college of choice and those kinds of things. So I think having sort of an open door policy, um, having those, those, those moments where you can have some conversation beyond The coaching experience, I think are all important things. Uh, I know one of the, one of the things that helps our team grow over the years, both as a team. And I think as coaches is we've added the, the ability to do some traveling out of state and spend time where you spend, you go to a weekend tournament and you're together the entire time and you really get a chance to see. What these young men are like outside of, uh, uh, outside of a coaching environment where you have to spend nights in a hotel or go to dinner together and those kinds of things. So that's been a unique experience I've enjoyed, and that has helped create an opportunity for those kinds of bonds to form.

Luke:

How long have you been doing the travel out of state?

Jon:

Uh, so we let's see, I took over in 2002 and actually the tournament. So really since I first took over the program, so I was a freshmen coach initially for, I think it was two years then sophomore coach for three years, and then took over the program in 2002. And the Farsi team at that time was already traveling to Indianapolis for what's called the great Midwest classic. And so I saw value in it right away from. Even being an assistant coach and going along for the ride, uh, then as a head coach and we kind of kept with that ever since, and it's, it's the highlights of our kids, uh, experiences in most cases. And as I said earlier, it does create, I think, tremendous value as a team to come together. But even as a coach, like I said, just to observe their behaviors beyond the classroom or beyond the playing field.

Luke:

I'm asking me because I've seen such a growth in this concept. High school is traveling out of state and, and playing schools that they wouldn't normally play. And you see it on a grand levels, such as ESPN has these great marquee match-ups and in these sports, and it's fun to watch. And then also when these tournaments like your discussion and discussing. I don't know how I feel about it because I've always been such a traditionalist and believe in local rivalries, but here's the thing. These kids growing up and travel sports. That's the way they're used to playing. Anyway, they're used to traveling out of state and spending the weekend somewhere and getting to play different types of opponents. And there is definitely a lot of quality in that as well. So let's work backwards to the concept of travel sports. Like what are your thoughts now? Your sports really impact. Kids play, travel soccer all the time. And a lot of them probably play year round with you other than just your, your high school season. So what's your thought on the current state of youth sports and the growing trend of travel and basically how you sports have become a bit.

Jon:

Yeah. That's that's um, well, there's a lot to unpack there, Luke, I think in a lot of respects because no, no,

Luke:

it. Let me break it down this way. Cause there probably was too big of a, of a question or a statement. Do you think we're trending in the right direction and these kids playing on these teams, traveling all over the United States at young ages and playing different opponents or are we trending in the right direction? Are we starting to lose control of the.

Jon:

Yeah, despite what I said earlier, maybe about the value of traveling for my high school team. Um, to answer that question, I would say my opinion personally, I think we are maybe trending in the wrong direction. I think it's become too much. I think there is value, as I said, um, you know, one of the differences of a high school team may versus a club team is, is, is a club teams together for, for majority of the year and that developmental Progression takes place over a longer period of time. Whereas a high school team, you come together, I'll use soccer as obviously the example, right? You come together in August and season concludes by, by end of October. And you have a short little window to develop this cohesiveness and, and become the best possible team you can become before you get to the playoffs before your season is over. And so to me, that that one weekend getaway travel, I think I've noticed is one of the great ways. Like I said, bring the team together. And you are right. So many kids grow up in this environment where they are constantly traveling and playing and spending weekend tournaments. And to be honest with you, one of the battles that I've had as a, as a high school soccer coach is that battle of retaining players, you know, literally recruiting, so to speak my own players, to, to stay with the high school program, because oftentimes the club pulls. Uh, because of those experiences. And so for me to have to offer something unique, like to go to Indianapolis and have this. It sort of levels the playing field, you might say in some respects because we do it differently with a big coach boss and we traveled together versus making, riding with family. So to your point earlier, I do think, um, I do think that there's there's value in it. I think these players grew up in that experience, but my concern is the amount of travel, the amount of games I think it's become so much where these players are. You know, even soccer playing, you know, four or five, six games in a weekend on a tournament. Uh, I hear stories about youth baseball players, you know, playing 60, 70, 80 games, traveling all the places we live outside of Chicago. We have very talented teams right here, but I'm sure we could form some of these tournaments right here in our own backyard. And really quite honestly get the same results in terms of level of competition.

Luke:

Right. And it's, um, I'm pretty much a hypocrite right now, John, because I'm with you, but I perpetuate the problem. My kids are doing it and I'm traveling and I'm spending money and I'm staying in hotels. Right. So I will readily admit I am perpetuating the problem, but I question the genuineness of all of it. So let me get to my point. You could tell me your why. And, you have something to go back to, right John, like, this is why I'm doing it. And it's not about what your team is ranked. It's not about that. It's it's about the relationships and guiding people to be the best version of themselves is what you said earlier. What are you seeing with travel sports? I mean, is it the relationships or is it let's build the best team we could build and let's go get as high as we can. And my soccer, right.

Jon:

Yeah, that's a look, I'll start by saying that, uh, I too am a hypocrite. So, uh, we're both in the same boat as we have kids who are pursuing it, because I think ultimately, um, I'll start with this. We want to give, we want to give our kids the best opportunity to be successful too. And so I think we start to see that pathway. That's where everyone's going and we kind of feel the need to, uh, to, to, to follow suit. Um, you know, as, as. Our own children began to kind of, you know, embark upon their adventures as, as an athlete and where it takes them. But yeah, I think ultimately You know, it's, it's, it's a double-edged sword, I guess, the best way to put it. Um, there could some benefits. So from the club perspective, what's their why? I think a lot depends on probably similar to it, to the, to a coach in a high school program, but a lot would depend upon finding a club that where you feel as a, as a parent, that your son or daughter is going to be in an environment where the Y is their development. And the hard part with that, I think at the club level sometimes is, uh, in order for that club to thrive, they have to be successful, right. That oftentimes is what brings players to the club. And so you hope that success can come from. You know that that's still that connection, that bond and them as coaches wanting the best for their players. But unfortunately I think in some cases we see evidence where maybe that's not the case. It is about the winning and it is about the club name and establishing themselves at a national level. And that's where that balance I think sometimes can get lost. And we have to be careful that with, with young kids.

Luke:

I'll never forget. I had a student in class and, she was a very talented athlete. I don't want to name the sport and give things away. So it might be hard to tell a story, but she really wanted to play for our school and her travel team. Highly discouraged it. Even when she already was committed to the university of her choice and got the scholarship that I'm sure made her parents and herself really happy and still was not able to play with her high school. And she was really disappointed by that. And that really just enforced for me the value of high school sports and playing for your community. And I think it's something that you can't replicate. So. Let's get back to you and your Y you have a lot of experience in sports. Your coach. That's won a lot of games and you're choosing to coach high school sports. What is it about high school sports that keeps you there and not pursuing, maybe going to coach.

Jon:

Well, I think first and foremost, for me, I enjoy the balance of the classroom and the coaching, and I think, you know, cause I've had even friends ask that question sometimes. Have you ever thought about just, you know, pursuing, like you said, college coaching at some level and, um, Yeah, the thought really never crossed my mind. I think, I think I enjoy the classroom aspect of things, the opportunity to teach, and, and be involved in that environment where maybe I might struggle in, in an all sport only environment. Uh, I sometimes question that for myself because I need that. I need that balance, you know, that, that balance of a classroom and working with kids who maybe aren't athletes and touching and reaching those kids, as well as the kids that I coach. So, you know, for me, it's just been something that You know, I think has, has kept me in the high school profession. I guess the follow-up point that I would make is sometimes people say, what about the club environment? You know, a lot of high school coaches will also be involved in the club. You know, for me, I like like a multi-sport athlete as a high school player. I used to coach basketball as well. So I got my first. Coaching. I was involved in soccer and basketball. And so for me in the spring, it was just a time for me to kind of recharge before summer events began to hit. And so I never had never really pursued a club, uh, environment and, and, and I quit coaching basketball for 12 years and focused just on soccer. And I'm just drawn to the high school environment. I just, I like, I think you put it, um you know, some of the local rivalries. I like the challenge of having kids show up in August and if I put everything together, by the time you hit October to me and the impact and really the joy that you see of kids playing for their high school, playing for their town and playing with their friends And having her classmates come on to watch games. I think it's just a, is this the right spot for me to be perfectly honest?

Luke:

And there's no doubt. Going back to a point you made that high school sports are struggling a little bit because of the infiltration of club and coaches are struggling to keep kids coming out for sports, especially from the Como for multiple sports at the high school level. That's something that's proven to be really difficult. So how does. Get it back, like what do we need to discuss with parents? And what do we need to discuss with players that come into high school to get them back involved and believe in an energetic about representing.

Jon:

I think one of the places that I would start, you know, if I were having that conversation with the parents who on the fence about, do I want my son to play high school soccer? Should he stay with club? Is I would, I would certainly use some of the stories of past players who have stepped away from the high school game and then returned and when they return to the high school level, just the enjoyment that they have. Playing for their school, playing with their friends, enjoying those drivers, as you kind suggested earlier. I mean, so many players will come back and say, I wish I hadn't missed my sophomore year or my freshman year. You know, I wish I had just come in and done this for all four years there. There's certainly a small element of regret. I think a lot of times what's driving that decision making is the belief that if I don't play in that club environment, I don't put myself in these showcases, that, uh, I won't be. And I won't be recruited. And what we've kind of found over the years, and even talking with other high school coaches in the soccer professionals that so many of these players end up with the same scholarship opportunity or playing opportunity that they would've had all along. Had they just been with us the entire time, you know, that that dream of the I'm a division one player, all of a sudden they find themselves and there's some tremendous division one, I'm sorry, division three, a high school or college programs that they can find themselves in. And That's kind of where they were in any way to begin with and had, they just stayed with us. I think the enjoyment might've been there. So I kind of start with those past examples, um, initially, and I think, one of the things that I would oftentimes tell parents too, as well, is that I think the high school season, a lot of respects doesn't mirror the college environment where you have training every day. You know, we have grade requirements that have to be met. We have you travel as a team. You know, there's, there's things about the high school environment that actually mere more closely to a college environment. Then the club scene. So having that experience, I think benefits them in that transition from high school to soccer as well. So those are a couple, I guess I'd call it called selling points. I'd offer to, to families and parents that might approach me about this type of decision. Big picture. How do we bring it all back? I think that's a question. A lot of us are still searching for the answer to.

Luke:

Yeah. And I asked most of my guests and everyone usually says, man, that's a really tough question. And it is right. I don't, I don't know what the end game is, but you know, we have discussed the difficulties of being in the classroom, discuss the difficulties of sports. And I don't think that's coming. To to anyone. But let's get a little bit back to this concept of the iron, when, which is the name of the podcast you're dealing with 30 kids in a classroom. You talk about developing relationships, you're dealing with a whole program. Soccer, I'm assuming you probably have three, four levels of soccer that you're dealing with as the head coach. How do you make every individual feel valued despite there's only one of you when so many.

Jon:

Well, I think initially it starts with your coaching staff. I think it's important that you have coaches in place who have the same belief system, the same ideals that, that you have, you know, what, what is their, why is there a, why kind of match in line with, with why you're there as, as the head coach? I think if you do that, because you're exactly right. We have close to 80 kids in the program. I'm not going to be able to necessarily no, my freshmen players, as well as I, as I know my varsity players, some of which have been with me for three years. Right. So I think, I think the connection piece kind of stems from, uh, you know, making sure that your coaching staff is in is in line. And I think that's an important step and, and I've been, I've been really blessed over the years to have some great coaches, some have come and gone for different reasons. And, uh, but nonetheless, being able to find people to come in. And, and, and pick up. So I think that's the starting point. I think, secondly, I think as a head coach, you have to be visible. I mean, whether that be something as simple as, you know, just walking by a freshmen practice and just watching for five or 10 minutes, uh, it's hard sometimes to get to a freshman game when we have your own games and things that can do it, but maybe just to take 15 minutes and. And go out to the freshmen game and be on the bench with them and kind of watch and see how they're playing. So if they know that you're making that effort, I think ultimately they, they're going to give back to the program in a direction that you want them to give back to. Uh, one of the things, one of the models that we've used over the years and developed is, uh, obviously from downers Grove, south high school, we use the model in our program south before self that, that mentality of putting the program and putting your team ahead of yourself. And I think establishing. So your coaches, but you modeling that as a head coach, I think is, is one of the biggest things. So there's a little thing to do to, to reach out to those, those younger players and knowing that in a couple of years, they're going to be with you. So it's important to establish some type of relationship early on.

Luke:

Yeah. And going on that point of being present, I've even found going back to the classroom piece. If I went to an extra at one of my students was involved in if it was the play or if it was a wrestling match or something that I clearly was going that out of my own volition, I've, I'm choosing to go there and support them. I cannot believe the impact that would have on that student. They would immediately on Monday be like, oh my God, Mr. Burton's. Thank you so much for coming. And it was just such a great reminder of the why piece and why we're here and how far little things like that can go. So it's going to your freshmen game, as you mentioned, or go into the play or whatever it may be, and man that the students and the athletes really do take note, assess that. So that's a great point.

Jon:

Yeah. I think one of the things is I think the hallways too, sometimes people lose. Side of the fact that those five minutes in between class periods can be a great time to connect with kids too, as well. And your athletes, you know, just to, as you have a great point, you know, going to a play and that type of thing, but maybe it's just how you're walking in the hallway and you see a player, a freshman player, you kind of walk alongside of them. Hey, tell him about the game yesterday. You know, just having that little conversation. I think those things, Um, as you mentioned, I think do indeed go a long way.

Luke:

Yeah. And you know, that's a great point with the five minute passing. I would argue that was my greatest recruiting tool I had as the coach. I found more athletes that way, because you would see a kid walk by and just be like, Hey, what's your name? And it was amazing just acknowledging that person, how powerful that moment was for, for that kid. You know, I had a player who went on to go play division one football, and he told me when he came back and visited that he was. Not going to play, but the fact that I said hi to him, and I knew him by name that's what kept him going? Yeah. Uh, here I was, I didn't even remember that conversation, but yes, a really good reminder of a simple thing of being out in the hallways, get outside your classroom, give a kid a high five as he's walking in. It's unbelievable. The power that has, and all this is a great transition to a confession I have to make to you, John. Um, I'm a, I'm a Ted lasso fan and I didn't think I would be. Everyone told me you gotta watch Ted last. So you gotta watch. And I fought it and I finally gave in and I watched it and I have to admit, I guess, to everyone who's listening. I love it, man. So your soccer coach, I'm curious as the, you get, if you've gotten to see it and what your thoughts are on it.

Jon:

So ironically, um, I have not seen it. yet, which is hard to believe, right. As a soccer coach, I've heard so much about it. I have seen bits and pieces of it. I kind of know the premise of it because I do remember with the, uh, uh, the Ted lasso with the English premier league commercials, he used to do years ago. I was always enjoyed watching those. Uh in fact, we did a spoof one year. Our soccer coach has a spoof video, =where I kind of pretended as though I was Ted last. So this is like four or five years ago. And, uh, so despite all of that, I have not had a chance to watch it mainly probably because I guess being in season. So maybe when, when the season things calm down, uh, it sounds like, uh, it, look, if you're saying I got to watch it, then I know for sure I will enjoy it.

Luke:

Well, yeah. You know, everyone was telling me because of the football piece and talking to American football and the coaching. And I watched it and I'm blown away by really the positive leadership. Yes, it's, I guess it's comedic and there's sports, but at the end of the day, it is positive leadership at its best. And. I know that's how you lead and you know, you, you should definitely watch this show. I think you'll really find it entertaining and you'll find it also enlightening. And it's a good, bring it back to your why as a coach and how to be positive. And, um, you know, we've been discussing, unfortunately, a lot of the negative pieces of coaching. You're talking about travel soccer and selfishness and kids, not only having multiple sports, how do you stay positive? As a teacher and a coach despite all of the outside noise, that could be negative at times.

Jon:

You know, it's, uh, it's so interesting. You know this, this year. Um, I shouldn't say this year, maybe over the last couple of years, you know, it's, it's been, I think, more and more of a challenge to remember the why. And I have to start by saying this I've had tremendous support from our administration, from athletic directors over the year I've had, I've had tremendous parent support. Um, and, and. Uh, the pressure to win. I think in a lot of respects has been very much an internal pressure that kind of has surfaced over years. And interestingly, I think in a lot of respects, Luke, your, your podcasts that I listened to the other night and had a chance to kind of connect with, um, just even your title, right? The I, and when, and, and positive leadership. And. Allowed me to take a step back for a moment and, and just kinda remind myself, uh, the why. And I think ultimately you have to do that, um, to the point where, you know, even, even as a varsity coach, sometimes I've even asked myself, is, is the time right? For me to think about. Just getting back to, to me, even a lower level position where you have a chance where it's not, it's definitely not about winning it's about development and you don't have to worry about state playoffs and seating meetings and things of that nature. So, uh, it is, I think it's a constant struggle for coaches, you know, to remain positive. I think what keeps me going and, and focused, uh, in a lot of respects is. You know, is those relationships. And sometimes it stems from players that have graduated. We had a game Thursday night and two players happen to be in the stands. They came back to watch, they come into the locker room just to say, hello. You know, that was kind of a neat, uh, neat thing. Um, I've had players, who will just show up at practice, you know, that are home for the weekend. Then we'll come back and talk, or it's a Hawk as they drive either practice field in a wave. I know exactly who that player is. I mean, those little things you've talked about, making a difference in a kid's life in the hallway by giving a high five, sometimes as a coach. Those little moments, keep you going. And I think those are very, very powerful. So I guess in attempt to focus more on those things, uh, for me is what is really been necessary as I, this is my 25th season of coaching and that's a, That's a long time. And, and those things to this day still make a huge impact on me.

Luke:

That's a great point about the little victories you get to experience as a coach. know, beeping that to, as he drove by or just them coming back and saying, hello for five minutes, you know while they're in college that proves to you as a coach, you're doing something the right way. You are following your path, you are following your why. And that has to basically drown out that as you put the internal pressure to degrade, because we are all competitive and sometimes we do lose our. But the kids are awesome. They do bring us right back to it. So that's a really good point that you, that you bring up. And as we start to wind down, this episode is a great segue to my last question. And that is moving ahead. And, you know, hopefully you have another 25 years of coaching and you, right. A lot, a lot of monsters that red bull that get you through all those moments. But you know, moving back and you retire and you're inducted into the Illinois coaches hall of fame and someday John, what do you want your players to be saying about you? What's going to be your legacy.

Jon:

Ooh, that's a, that's a tough question. You know, I tell, I tell the players quite often, you know, that they're not always going to remember. The records, or maybe even the scores of certain games, it's going to be the moments that they share together. It's going to be something that happens at a, as a team dinner. It's gonna be something that happens when we're traveling to Indianapolis. It's gonna be those kinds of moments that you're going to remember. And I guess, uh, for me looking back on it, I hope it's, it's, it's those kinds of things that, that I personally remember, you know, in terms of, of. Not all of us are the wins and losses, but, but like the relationships and, and hearing stories of players going on and becoming leaders in their own. Right. Uh, I have players that I have two of the coaches on my coaching staff have returned and are coaching with me right now. When we play games, Players. I used to, I used to coach that are now coaching at our high schools. You know, those kinds of things I think is, is part of the legacy a little bit that I hope to leave that you kind of make the game better than it was when you, when you got in it, so to speak. Um, and I think ultimately I would hope that my players would look back and say, you know, win or lose Coach Stapleton did the right way. He respected us as, as human being. He, he was fair. He was tough but ultimately he cared about us as people. And I think if that's what it is the end of the day, I can live with that hall of fame or no hall of fame.

Luke:

Well, that's a great answer. And I do have to interject one last thing that you brought up and that is you have former players on your staff now, have they commented to you? Like man, you've, you know, you've really calmed down or you're not as hard as these, on these kids that you were on us. Cause I've had multiple players coach on my side. And they're so quick to be like, man, what happened to you? You're so mellow now. And I'm like, no, I'm not. So I'm just curious if you've experienced a similar, a similar thing from your former.

Jon:

I definitely have. I think experience, you know, does calm you down a little bit. Uh, you, you recognize, you know, when you recognize better when those moments are where you have to push the team or push the player. So absolutely they've made, they've made those comments about me but I think more importantly than that is, is sometimes they'll share. You know, uh, a funny story about something that, that I did 10 years ago when I was coaching or 15 years ago when I was coaching and, you know, coach, how come you don't do that now? You know? And, and it just kind of reminds me of those, those, those moments that we were talking about earlier, those were just kind of fun, fun, remembrances for me as a coach,

Luke:

And if our listeners want to reach out and get in contact with you, what are some ways through social media or email that you're willing to do?

Jon:

Uh, probably the best way to contact is, is through email j Stapleton, S T a P L E T O N at C S D 99 debt or.

Luke:

Great. Well, I appreciate you donating your time right now. And you've been really generous and I know you're in the middle of the season. So best of luck. I know playoffs are approaching quickly and I wish the Mustangs a lot of luck. And thanks so much for being on this.

Jon:

Luke, thanks so much for having me. And, and more importantly, I love the idea behind the podcast. So keep up the great work.

Luke:

Well, thank you. I appreciate it. And make sure you get on that Ted lasso.

Jon:

I will. Thank you.

Luke:

Talking with coach Stapleton was a great reminder that just being genuine and being authentic to who you are as a person. It was what ultimately to success in the classroom. On the field and just in life in general. His response on what he wants his legacy to be is about as perfect as an answer I ever could think any coach saying on this podcast and I quote. I would hope that my players would look back and say, you know, win or lose coach Stapleton did it the right way. He respected us as human beings. He was fair. He was tough. But ultimately he cared about us as people. And I think if that's what it is at the end of the day, I can live with that hall of fame or no hall of fame. Can't think of a better way to end the episode in that. Thank you coach stapleton for being on and thank you for listening and let's remember the more I's we impacted this world the more everyone wins that's The "I" in Win!

Jon Stapleton Profile Photo

Jon Stapleton

Head Boys Soccer Coach/Teacher

In the fall of 1997 Jon Stapleton returned as a teacher and coach to his alma mater, Downers Grove South High School. Earning nine varsity letters between 1988-1992 he brought a wealth of experiences as a three sport athlete into his new career as a high school coach. Over the past 25 years, Jon has coached both basketball and soccer while also serving as a club sponsor of a group titled Athletes Committed to Excellence. His approach to coaching has brought with it many successes but never at the expense of doing what is right for the sport and the athletes he serves. As an assistant varsity basketball coach from 1997-2008 his teams made two trips to the IHSA state finals including a 3rd place finish during the 2004-2005 season. Serving as the head coach of the boys soccer program from 2002 until present he has also enjoyed many successes. Currently, Jon is the winningest boys soccer coach in school history with 245 wins, his teams have enjoyed six conference championships, six regional titles, a sectional title and were crowned IHSA State Champions in the fall of 2004. During this time Jon has been recognized as the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Section 2 Coach of the Year 3 times, his program was won the IHSSCA Myro Rys Sportsmanship Award 3 times and in 2005 Jon was selected as the Coach of the Year for the state of Illinois by the National Federation of High School Coaches. His dedication to young athletes has generated numerous successes but more importantly created an immeasurable impact on the lives of the athletes he served.