Softball: Bartlett’s Jim Wolfsmith is Coach of the Year
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media June 20, 2012 4:16PM
Bartlett's Jim Wolfsmith is The Courier-News Coach of the Year. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Coach of the Year Honor Roll
1987 — Sue Sullivan, Larkin
1988 — Jack Miller, St. Edward
1989 — Mike Buck, Cary-Grove
1990 — Missy Mason, Elgin
1991 — Steve Salisbury, Elgin
1992 — Dale Schabert, Larkin
1993 — Wade Maisto, Burlington Central
1994 — John Rutter, St. Charles
1995 — Mary Ann Thorson, Jacobs
1996 — Wade Maisto, Burlington Central
1997 — Sherm Morgan, Hampshire
1998 — Peg Corcoran, St. Edward
1999 — Peg Corcoran, St. Edward
2000 — Larry Hight, Larkin
2001 — Ron Traven, Marengo
2002 — Tracey Vrba, Dundee-Crown
2003 — Larry Hight, Larkin
2004 — Larry Hight, Larkin
2005 — Scot Sutherland, Burlington Central
2006 — Scot Sutherland, Burlington Central
2007 — Jim Wolfsmith, Bartlett
2008 — Mike Rolando, St. Edward
2009 — Scot Sutherland, Burlington Central
2010 — April Stary, St. Charles North
2011 — Tom Poulin, St. Charles North
2012 — Jim Wolfsmith, Bartlett
Updated: June 20, 2012 11:31PM
Bartlett had just beaten Glenbard West for the regional softball title May 26 and had a scout watching the West Chicago-Downers Grove North regional title clash because the winner would be the Hawks’ next opponent.
Trouble came in the form of a 13-inning game, and the scout had to leave. So Hawks coach Jim Wolfsmith simply said “no problem.” After his own game, he raced to Geneva to pick up where the scout left off and got a first-hand view of West Chicago, his team’s next opponent.
“The guy never stops,” Bartlett assistant Rob Call said. “He’s coaching for his teams 24 hours a day, all year round, whether it’s checking on kids’ games in the off-season or whatever.”
Said Wolfsmith: “To me, it’s what you do as the coach. You do your due diligence and work harder than everybody else. That’s kind of my motto as a coach.
“I’m going to make sure if I get beat, it’s not going to be because I didn’t work hard. Maybe something else happened, but not because we didn’t prepare the kids or didn’t work hard enough to get them ready as a coach.”
Wolfsmith’s tenacity and honest coaching style — apparent all winter on the basketball court with Bartlett’s boys team — was a key aspect of the Hawks’ run to a second-place softball trophy in the Class 4A state tournament and a co-championship in the Upstate Eight Valley. As a result, he has been named Courier-News Softball Coach of the Year for the second time.
“This may have been his best coaching job yet,” said Call, an assistant for all of Wolfsmith’s nine seasons as head coach.
Bartlett lacked a .400 hitter and had no one with more than four home runs. While pitcher Tori Burke was extremely effective at crunch time, she wasn’t a classic flame-throwing pitcher who dominates every game.
Still, under Wolfsmith the team managed a school-record 32 wins (with nine losses) and one of the most remarkable rallies in the history of the state tournament. Down to their last strike, the Hawks came back from a 3-2 deficit to score five runs and beat defending champion Moline 7-3 to make the state title game.
Wolfsmith’s players realized the fruits of their labors, and credited Wolfsmith with making it all possible.
“It always seemed like we were the last ones out here (at Bartlett’s athletic fields) practicing each day,” sophomore Kayla Haberstich said, laughing. “We just kept practicing, kept hitting and fielding when everyone else had gone home.”
There was more to Wolfsmith’s approach than just hard work.
“He’s very clear with them, concise and honest,” Call said. “He sets the tone right from the start in the winter and tells the kids exactly what he expects and holds them accountable. The kids know he doesn’t play favorites — he plays the kids who deserve to be there because they are getting the job done.”
Wolfsmith, a math and science teacher, also teaches on the diamond.
“He always wants to make an impact on someone’s life,” Burke said. “He always talks that it’s not just a game of softball and wants us applying the things we learned in softball to real life. I think that also helps us take it more seriously.
“We think and we push through intense moments. He’s really made that strong in us. We have to stay on track and keep pushing through. We persevered through the last three wins to get to the Final Four.”
And then the finals.
Wolfsmith has had three softball teams make at least the elite eight in the last six seasons, and owns a 221-107-3 career record. Like last year’s coach of the year, Tom Poulin of St. Charles North, he is able to balance the coaching between sports whose seasons actually can spill over onto each other, which isn’t easy.
“It starts with having a very forgiving spouse, who understands you’re going to be gone,” Wolfsmith said. “My wife, Sue, is so supportive of my coaching positions and my addiction to coaching.
“It means having good assistants — Rob Call in softball, Phil Church in basketball, having those people as your assistants makes for phenomenal transitions (between basketball to softball) because you can count on them to do things if you’re focused elsewhere.”
Success for all coaches, though, inevitably rests with the athletes.
“Ultimately we have great kids,” he said.
Wolfsmith called this all part of the team chemistry that made for the state run.
“The thing that amazed me most about this group is their togetherness, their unity, their chemistry,” he said. “It’s been a great year for that. It’s really true that sports teams with great chemistry find a way to make special things happen, whatever those special things are.
“A couple years ago in basketball we had a team go to supersectionals when nobody thought we were going to get there. The same with these girls. They bonded together between the trips we made, like to Ohio, and even at the end of the regular season when we lost five and were in a valley, they believed in themselves and just came together at the right time. That’s the thing that I’m really going to miss with this group.”