It would be great if all of us could be as fortunate as Jean Field.
On Tuesday at IC Catholic Prep's girls volleyball awards dinner, Field announced her retirement after 39 years as the Knights' coach. She ranks sixth all-time on the Illinois High School Association victories list with 885, which includes a 25-15, 25-19 victory over Edwards County in the Class 2A championship in November.
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In whatever endeavor each of us chooses we'd all like to go out on top. Field did.
"I was going to (retire) at the end of this year no matter what happened," said Field, who will stay on as ICCP's guidance counselor. "It was really nice the way it ended. I couldn't ask for anything better. You always say in coaching you're as good as your last game, so OK, I'll take it."
Reached two days before the Class 2A semifinals, Field made no mention of her retirement plan. But this was not a decision she wanted to promote. Prior to the season she spoke to a select few, including her husband, Mike. They kept the secret.
"I kind of knew in July that this was going to be it," Field said. "I didn't want it to be a distraction from the season and thought it would be and the focus would be on the wrong thing."
One of those she informed was her 11-year assistant, Nancy Kerrigan D'Amore, who will succeed Field as the Knights' varsity coach. The two have known each other since D'Amore was a 14-year-old freshman at what was then called Immaculate Conception.
A 1985 graduate of the Elmhurst school, D'Amore was a captain of IC's 1984 Class A championship team before she played at Marquette. D'Amore works in the ICCP development office and should provide a smooth transition.
"I'm a little more laid back than Nancy, but I think the fundamentals and the basic principles are very similar," Field said.
The retiring coach, who in 1971 arrived at IC as a physical education instructor and moved to guidance in 1991, was a first-year inductee into the school's athletic hall of fame. Her teams won three state titles, placed second three times and third once. This season the Knights went 36-6.
Field directed six Suburban Catholic Conference or Suburban Christian Conference championship teams, won 23 regional titles and 15 sectionals, and she produced 35 college players.
In a news release issued Tuesday night by ICCP athletic director Tom Schergen, a statement by Fields indicated it was the relationships with players and coaches that meant much more than going out on top.
"The thing I will remember most about the past 39 years are the wonderful players and people that I have worked with," she said. "All of the accomplishments and the wins are nice, but it has really been the people that have kept me around this long."
Hall of Fame former Lisle coach Carlin Nalley passed along the news of the death of teacher, track coach and track official George Dekan, on Jan. 9 in Fort Meyers, Fla.
According to the Illinois Track and Cross Country Officials Association, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2010, Dekan started as an industrial arts teacher and track coach at Glenbard (now Glenbard West) High School in 1947.
Dekan served as a starter and referee for track meets from local through state and university ranks for more than 20 years, working the IHSA boys state meets from 1974-77 and the girls from 1984-96. According to ITCCOA, in 1990 he was named a national girls track and field official of the year.
In addition to the ITCCOA recognition, Dekan gained admission into four other halls of fame. The National Association of High School Athletic Directors welcomed him into its hall despite the fact that he had never been an athletic director.
Back to the big club
Last week Naperville Central sophomore Alissa Gorzak was called to the United States Under-17 Women's National Team camp. It started Jan. 11 and goes through Jan. 19 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif.
A forward playing with Eclipse Select, Gorzak also attended a national team camp last March. In 2013 she helped Eclipse Select win the prestigious National League title and the United States Youth Soccer Association national championship.
The camp Gorzak is attending is in preparation for a four-team international tournament at the National Training Center from Feb. 1-10.
Tom Hanks' favorite ball
Big news coming out of Bloomington this week included the Illinois High School Association approving a return to Wilson as the manufacturer of the official state ball, beginning next academic year.
Wilson has the contract through 2023-24. The Chicago company provided the official ball of IHSA sports from 1994-2009, replaced by Baden.
And in a case of the other shoe dropping, the IHSA board recommended a special Legislative Commission session to discuss modifying summer football policies. After the IHSA installed its acclimatization program specifying practice duration and appropriate equipment last year, some coaches felt the 25-day summer contact period soon would be on the IHSA docket. Here it is.
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