A boy needs a nickname, his grandfather said.
His parents, Calvin and Chummy -- now there's a nickname -- didn't fancy it, they preferred Clayt, the name they gave him at birth in Iowa. Not Clay or Clayton. Clayt. But grandpa prevailed.
"My parents said, 'You can call him that, but it'll never stick,'" said "Spike" Grosshuesch.
Spike stuck, of course. He turns 60 in June and the boyish nickname still fits. After 38 years as a formative member of both Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley, however, Neuqua's guidance counselor for the Class of 2014 is in the waning days of his tenure at Indian Prairie School District 204. After the May 25 graduation ceremony he'll be cleaning out his desk.
Math teacher turned guidance counselor and a student favorite in each capacity, Grosshuesch also was one of Waubonsie's most successful boys basketball coaches and a championship boys golf coach at both Waubonsie and Neuqua. As well, in 1985 he helped develop a substance-prevention initiative, Operation Snowball, which he considers his most rewarding contribution of all.
Having moved to Naperville as a tyke, he graduated in 1972 from Naperville Community High School (now Central), when Naperville North held only freshmen. Out of Southern Methodist University, Grosshuesch arrived at Waubonsie Valley in 1976, its second year of existence. He helped open Neuqua in 1997.
"It was pretty cool," he said of those early days. "I think one of the reasons why I made the decision to go to Neuqua was because I enjoyed being part of the beginning of Waubonsie and I think at the time, 21 years in, I was ready for a change. And the opportunities that Neuqua allowed me to have were just too great to pass up. I haven't regretted it one bit."
One opportunity was to become the "Voice of the Wildcats," announcer of football and basketball, which expanded on his role running the clock at Waubonsie. Possessed of a natural radio voice, in the booth Grosshuesch was smooth and fun -- except when attempting to pronounce the name of Waubonsie Valley quarterback James Antonides.
At Waubonsie Valley, Bob Mattingly laid the groundwork for the boys basketball team, and after a decade as his assistant Grosshuesch followed through. In 10 seasons his teams went 168-95 and he coached players such as current Metea Valley boys coach Bob Vozza to four straight regional titles with a 1991 sectional crown.
A man whose motto is "Magic Happens," a supersectional at East Aurora's packed gym and the more simple and patient pleasures of bonding with a group of young men than seeing them further their personal and professional lives, those were the highlights.
Grosshuesch's hiring as the Warriors boys golf coach makes a handshake agreement seem formal. Mattingly, the golf coach at the time, had just told athletic director Dick Kerner he wanted out when Grosshuesch walked in. Kerner asked Grosshuesch if he wanted the job. Sure, he said.
"That's how things were done back in those days," said Grosshuesch, who immediately made Mattingly his assistant.
Grosshuesch won 142 golf matches at Waubonsie, 143 at Neuqua, and his teams earned 10 conference championships and four regionals, with a top-10 state finish at each school.
Drawing on the counseling skills he learned through the master's program at Northern Illinois University, on the course Grosshuesch felt he was more psychologist than swing doctor. Keeping players positive was his goal. After the hyperkinetic basketball season golf's pastoral nature gave him "breathing room," too.
"They are completely different, but I think that's what kept me in both of them. If I had the frenetic pace of basketball two sports in a row I don't think I could handle that," said Grosshuesch, who got out of basketball when it began hedging toward a year-round commitment.
All the while Grosshuesch gathered honors off the court. In 1977 he was Neuqua Valley's first "teacher of the month," selected by students. Four times he earned the district's "most influential staff member" honor, and Neuqua graduates cited him with their Legacy Award four times including this year. In 2004 he was inducted into Naperville Central's Alumni Hall of Fame.
In 1985 and '86 he was on the ground floor of two substance abuse prevention programs -- respectively, Naperville Operation Snowball, which he directed from 1985 through 2013, and Star Raider.
Since 1997 Grosshuesch has been on the Snowball Board, overseeing 135 chapters in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin and other chapters in Lithuania, Poland and Russia. He'll continue in his retirement.
Based on retreats to Camp Henry Horner in Ingleside, Illinois, this civic substance prevention initiative was first developed for Waubonsie Valley and both Naperville high schools and has since been introduced at Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley. He's been on 68 retreats and has been honored both by Snowball itself and by Community Against Substance Abuse (CASA) of Naperville. Former students of his have returned to the Snowball staff as adults, Grosshuesch said, because they've seen its value.
"I've had a lot of rewarding things happen to me in my 38 years (in education), but I think that program is the thing that tops everything else," said, who plans on spending time with his two grown daughters and taking a camping trip to the Northwest -- after visiting Hawaii.
As students and student-athletes wind their way through school, some teachers stick out. Spike sticks out, because of a personal connection.
"My years in education and Snowball have taught me so many wonderful lessons about teenagers," Grosshuesch wrote in an aside to his informal resume he sent to the Daily Herald. "Their spirit and enthusiasm has kept me young at heart."
There was something familiar about the right fielder Monday night at Frontier Park, just south of Neuqua Valley, playing with a team in the Naperville Park District masters softball league.
The left-hander pulled the ball for power, slid hard into second extending singles, slapped the ball to the opposite field. He charged in from right and showed a strong arm to limit baserunners.
If he wasn't supposed to be out there three hours on a Monday night, well, perhaps we're mistaken and it wasn't former Lisle baseball coach Jim Steben.
Red Devils ready
The last of the local football coach openings was filled Monday with Hinsdale Central's hiring of Daniel Hartman, a social studies teacher and head varsity coach at Evergreen Park High School.
In a District 86 news release, Hartman stated, "Teaching is my love and football is my passion."
Seems he's got the credentials to prove it. Hartman has two master's degrees along with his bachelor's in secondary education. A teacher and coach at three high schools in Indiana before arriving at Evergreen Park, he taught advanced-placement economics before moving to social studies. In 2012-13 Hartman was Evergreen Park's educator of the year.
On the field Hartman led the Mustangs to three consecutive Class 4A playoff berths, their first since 2006, while compiling a three-year record of 27-9. Evergreen Park's 10 victories last season tied for the program record and were the most at Evergreen Park since 1994. Under him Evergreen Park won a playoff game each season and reached the semifinals in 2012.
At football-rich Hinsdale Central, Hartman succeeds coach Rich Tarka, who went 18-12, also with three straight playoff berths in three seasons.