Coach: Glenbrook South volunteer track coach remains dedicated despite life's obstacles

This is one of those stories.

The kind that makes me realize how fortunate I am to be able to write a column, and on an even more personal level (and somewhat selfishly) to benefit from the telling of these stories that put life's less important issues and problems into a more proper perspective.

It's truly a privilege, and such is the case with the story of Glenbrook South's longtime volunteer track and cross country coach Chuck Acasili. Chuck is a 2003 graduate of Glenbrook South, and he ran both track and cross country back in his school days. The coach in his freshman year was John Davis, and when Davis sadly passed away, current coach Kurt Hasenstein, then the assistant, took over as head coach.

It was in Chuck's later college years, while living downtown and attending UIC, that he decided to contact Coach Hasenstein and see if he could help out with the program. The year was 2006.

"I always enjoyed track and cross country, and I thought this would be a nice way of giving back to a program that meant so much to me," Acasili said.

"It was a little weird at first, because some of those guys were freshman when I was in the program," he said. "I had to get used to being a coach and not just a peer.

"I enjoyed it and thought I would help out for a couple years and then move on."

Ya, and not quite.

Here we are in 2023 and the young 20-year-old coach back then is now 37 years old and STILL working as a volunteer coach in the program! It's an amazing 17-year commitment, and a near full-time one as well. Between cross country in the fall, winter indoor track and spring track and field, there is very little down time for the coaches or athletes involved.

Acasili is there much of the time. He is ever-present at practices and meets with a stopwatch (or two or three), and a clipboard practically glued to his hands. He keeps records and stats, keeps runners on time and organized, and helps out with the scheduling and running of big meets.

"I enjoy doing all that, and over time the coaches have given me more and more responsibility, which I appreciate," said Acasili. "But I think the most valuable thing I do is to get to know the kids, to talk to them, to discuss any issues and problems they may have and just be as much of a support system as I can. I really enjoy getting to know the guys on the team on a personal level."

His dedication to the sport has never wavered.

"Chuck was one of those kids who just fell in love with the sport," Hasenstein remembers. "He was so proud to wear the uniform, and so much enjoyed being part of a team. He was dedicated as a runner back then, and now he has brought that same love of the game to our track and cross country programs and helped many kids in so many ways over his years of coaching here."

The Chuck Acasili story, however, has far more layers to it. The reality is Chuck has done all this coaching through some extremely difficult health issues over an extended number of years.

The problems first began in 2012 when doctors noticed something of concern. After numerous tests, he was finally diagnosed diabetes. This was a difficult transition for a young 20-something carrying on a busy life, but he adjusted well.

He had the diabetes fairly under control until around 2016 when his bladder started failing. The doctors were forced to do an operation and insert a pouch into Chuck's abdomen, which he had to carry with him at all times, basically replacing the bladder function.

From 2016 to 2019, he had some additional issues and more tests, but he seemed to have things under control until the pandemic hit and things got worse. He didn't get COVID, but the combination of being stuck inside, lack of exercise and the psychological effect of not being around the kids all played a part as he started to gain weight and the diabetes became worse.

With his kidneys and pancreas starting to fail, Chuck was told in August of 2021 that he must go on dialysis and that he would need a donor for a new kidney and new pancreas.

Dialysis started back then, and continues on today until a donor can be found. He goes three times a week from 6 to 10 a.m. to receive treatment. It's a physically exhausting and time consuming commitment, but one needed to keep him alive.

Amazingly, through all of this - through all of the operations, doctor's diagnoses, medical setbacks and more - Chuck has kept his commitment to the South program. He is out on the track at just about every practice, still doing his coaching duties despite all of these hardships.

"It has been tough, no doubt, but being around the kids helps," said Chuck. "Some of them know about my health condition, and others not so much - it is not something I announce or talk about a lot. But, on the other hand, I am very open about it, and have no problem discussing it with kids, coaches, etc."

Coach Hasenstein marvels at Chuck's incredible dedication.

"The kids really appreciate it. There are so many 'Chuck' stories, but I do remember one time where, before he was supposed to start his morning dialysis, he shows up at school. I asked him what he was doing here at 6 in the morning, and he said he just wanted to wish the kids good luck in our big meet before they boarded the bus. That is kind of Chuck in a nutshell."

Acasili plans on continuing coaching, but he needs a new kidney and pancreas. He remains optimistic.

"They seem to think I should be able to get a donor in a year or two, so I am staying positive about it all for sure."

Chuck wanted to be sure to mention the incredible support system he has had over all these years.

"Coach Hasenstein and Coach (Chris) Hilvert have been great, Dave and Lisa Zimmer from Fleet Feet where I work have been wonderful support, the kids on the team, of course, and most importantly my sister Charlene, who has been there at my side through all of the operations, and my mom and dad who supported me all the way. I live at home with my dad now."

On top of all of the other hardships, Chuck's mom passed away last year due to Alzheimer's - another difficult loss.

But through it all, Coach Acasili (the kids know him only as "Chuck") is still out there doing anything he can to help the program and help the kids.

And if any of the young men in the program need any extra inspiration to overcome their own personal problems, to deal with some of the many issues teenagers face along these sometimes tenuous years - they need only look at their coach with the stopwatch and clipboard well in hand.

He is the very personification of continuing on with a positive spirit and solid work ethic, despite whatever tough life obstacles one might encounter.

• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email

Courtesy of Chuck AcasiliGlenbrook South 2022 Sectional winning track team members wearing T-shirts in support of volunteer coach Chuck Acasili, center.
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