Former Stevenson coaches reflect on Patriot athletic culture

With hundreds of students leaving school early to support the football team during its IHSA state championship victory just weeks ago, the importance of sports in Stevenson’s very cultural fabric was once more made resoundingly clear.

During the school’s nearly 50 year history, Stevenson has performed exceptionally in nearly every sport it has competed in. As a result, the school has developed not only a well-respected name for itself, but a strong sense of community, William Mitz, former Varsity Football coach, said.

Throughout the evolution of sports culture at Stevenson, coaches in particular have been instrumental to the school’s athletic success. They facilitate the development of student-athletes as both people and players, encouraging them to grow in every aspect of their character, Mitz said.

Mitz coached the football team from 1982 to 2009. During his time in the role, the football team made 21 consecutive play-off appearances over 28 years.

The same level of success Mitz led his teams to has been seen across the board in Stevenson athletics, whether looking to basketball, water polo, gymnastics, or anything of the like. In order to achieve at such a level in a variety of sports, coaches have had to push their players to work with an incredible drive, Mitz said.

“My number one goal as a coach was to analyze the talent in my team and accordingly try and bring out the best of all my players, on and off the court,” said Frank Mattucci, former girls’ Varsity Basketball coach. “The Patriot mentality was that everyone had something to bring to the table, and so we fostered a team and community that allowed us to work together with that mindset.”

Mattucci coached the team from 1991 to 2006 and led them  to two state championships in 1995 and 1996. The team ultimately finished the 1996 season ranked third in the nation.

Even given the large number of skilled rivals to accompany the elite level at which the team was competing, Libertyville had always remained the team’s biggest rival, Mitz said.

Acknowledging the heated rivalries of the past, and arguably, their absence in the status quo, some feel that achieving the same level of athletic success Mitz and Mattucci enjoyed may be easier to do in the present day.

While he exempts Stevenson’s current teams from this description, Mattucci believes that high school sports as a whole are becoming less competitive as students focus more on the socializing aspect of the sport and have less motivation to win.

Barry Lapping, Varsity Bowling coach, disagrees with the notion of competition decreasing in the present day.

“We’re seeing a lot of kids participate in different leagues during the summer and fall, and some are also getting private coaching,” said Lapping. “People are improving as a result, both in skill and attitude, which only creates more competition in the end.”

Lapping, Mitz and Mattucci, though all coaching at different times, agree that they wouldn’t have been able to attain the level of success they did with their teams without the strong support of the Stevenson administration.

“Working at Stevenson was an exceptional opportunity to grow as a teacher and a coach,” Mattucci said. “I wouldn’t trade those years for anything because it was truly a tremendous time.”