Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Happy to Donate My Space to “A Little Bit About Sternaman”

Posted on November 20, 2009 by Todd Civin
Gregg Sternaman being hugged by one of his Lakeville players

Gregg Sternaman being hugged by one of his Highland Park football players

Through my promoting of the award winning children’s story, A Glove of Their Own, I have been introduced to some tremendous human beings and some absolutely incredible causes.

Coach Bob Salomon, the coach of A Glove of Their Own has a heart the size of New Jersey and tries to help every first class human being and every worthwhile cause he can through the Pay It Forward message of the book.

As the unofficial media department for Bob and his book, I am often introduced to the many friends from the sports world that Bob makes and often try to promote their cause through the gift of writing that I’ve been blessed with.

Earlier this week, Bob introduced me to a new friend, Gary Bennett, a former major League catcher for 13 seasons with the Phillies, and six other clubs. Bennett, whose heart is equal in size to Salomon’s, has immersed himself in the Sternyway Foundation, a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) application pending organization whose principle purpose is to provide need based funding for children to support their participation in school and/or community sponsored athletic programs.

The Sternyway Foundation was formed to honor Gregg Sternaman, long time coach in several sports at Highland Park High School out side of Chicago. Bennett had told Bob Salomon that there are “certain human beings who grace our presence that make an indelible impact on the lives of everyone they come in contact with and Coach Sternaman is such a soul .”

He shared several stories with Salomon including what appears to be “the Coaches final quarter.”

“In November, 2001, Coach Sternaman noticed a bleeding mole on the middle of his back. After a biopsy, it was discovered that Coach had level one melanoma skin cancer.

“Surgery was performed to remove lymph nodes to guard against the melanoma metastasizing. Coach Sternaman was treated with interferon for a month. With regular follow up visits to the doctor, he remained cancer free for eight years.”

“In the past two weeks, it was discovered that the melanoma has returned. He has late stage metastatic melanoma which has spread to his brain, lung, and other body parts. Coach is currently undergoing brain radiation and oral chemotherapy. The typical survival rate for this cancer is four months to one year.”

The story, of course, moved both Salomon and me and we decided to write a story about the Coach.

I visited the Foundation site hoping to harvest enough information to write a fitting tribute to Coach Sternaman. I hoped that my word-smithing would move my readers enough to become involved.

When I got to the site, and started doing my research, it become evident that the words written on the site are written by a far better writer than me and that my craft and abilities aren’t needed to tell Coach S’s story.

So, instead of writing new words, about a man who I someday hope to meet, I’ll simply share the words that have already been written and encourage you to not only say a prayer for Coach Sternaman, but to donate to his cause.

And if you happen to be in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park IL this Saturday, stop in and meet the Coach along with former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle and former Bears star Brian Bashnagel. Visit the site for details.

So without wasting any more of your time with my thoughts and words, I hope to share, A Little Bit About Sternaman…God Bless…

A Little Bit About Sternaman

Once in every athletes’ life, if they are lucky, they encounter a very special coach.

This is the guy you think about years later. This is the guy whose teaching resonates in your head as you face life’s

Coach Sternaman here as assistant baseball coach at Libertyville.

Coach Sternaman here as assistant baseball coach at Libertyville.

challenges. This is the guy who not only made you a better football or baseball player, or wrestler…but made you a better human being.

Almost any coach can teach X’s and O’s…but few can impact a young person by teaching strength in body and character, dignity, confidence and independent thinking. This is a guy who shows you the value of hard work, the benefits of mental preparation, the importance of loving your teammates.

This is Gregg Sternaman.

A man who simultaneously is the simplest…and most complex man.

For 20 years Sternaman chose to coach high school and youth sports. He could have been a financial manager or businessman, but instead he remained true to his instincts and life’s passion by coaching young people.

The name Sternaman became identified as a tough coach and a tough guy. He rarely used his first name, Sternaman really said it all. As his years of coaching grew, so did his legend.

Stories of Sternaman drawing blood from his forehead as he busted a clipboard over his head “to make a point” at halftime of a football game. Or challenging a football player, more than half his age and twice his size, to a “bull in the ring” competition spread throughout the communities he touched.

Sternaman rarely thought twice about pulling a pitcher from a baseball game in the middle of an inning, or even in the middle of a particular batter. If Sternaman saw a player sleeping or loafing in the field, he would yank that guy immediately…and give him an earful to boot.

Parents were not absolved from Sternaman’s wrath either. As parents frequently do, they would contest a coach’s call during the game, or ask why their son or daughter wasn’t getting more playing time.

This was a good time for everyone else to vacate the field. It was only a matter of time before Sternaman put that parent in their place. These occurrences rarely happened more than once in any relationship with Sternaman.

He was known for making his point. And frequently did so through a series of colorful phrases that became known as Sternyism . The best of those have become part of sports lore throughout the North Shore of Chicago.

But as tough as he was, that is exactly how sensitive he was as well.

Sternaman was known to call an athlete at home at night to explain his actions from earlier that day. Usually, these calls included a lesson for that young person, and an open invitation to “try it again” the next day. Sternaman didn’t have a dog house. He did have quite a development center.

Pushing young people to mature, to accept responsibility and to advocate for themselves, Sternaman welcomed a direct confrontation with any player…and treated that player with respect and kindness.

Even in the heat of battle, Sternaman was aware of the personal circumstances of his athletes and tried his best to provide life experiences for these young people. Whether it was pitching in a playoff game, or getting a chance to score a touchdown, Sternaman had a good sense of perspective about “the games” he coached.

His players learned to play hard for themselves, for their teammates…and in most instances, for Coach Sternaman.

For those of us privileged enough to play for him, or watch as our children did…Sternaman symbolized what youth sports is all about. That’s why we tip our hats to Coach Sternaman. STN

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads. He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.Visit the site and purchase using today’s featured donor code SMF197 The Sternyman Foundation as $3.00 from each sale will go to this wonderful charity.

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