Smith leaves lasting impact on Stevenson

Smith leaves lasting impact on Stevenson

Brenda Reyn, Graphics Editor

Monday mornings usually entice large groans from the Stevenson population: waking up early is a hassle, not to mention having to leave the warmth and comfort of bed only to sit in mile long traffic. However, for Robert Smith, physical education teacher, Monday mornings mean getting back to his passion—working in the athletics department and coaching Stevenson football.

Smith has been working in the Stevenson athletic department for over 33 years. He has coached sports such as wrestling and track and has supervised the weight room after school. However, he has spent the longest time coaching the football team. He has coached the varsity team for 28 years as a defensive coordinator, but in the last four years he has coached the freshman B football team so he can spend more time with his family.

“[This involvement in Stevenson athletics] has been such a wonderful experience,” Smith said. “Especially working with such a group that overachieves. It makes you feel like you really did a great job in coaching.”

Smith’s love for sports began at an early age. He began going to Bears, Cubs and Blackhawks games when he was five years old and still attends them today. In high school, he was a part of the football, baseball and wrestling teams. Smith recalls that his coaches were a big influence on him, particularly his football coach and gym teacher Don Olson, on whom Smith models his coaching style to this day.

“I wanted to be like him,” Smith said. “He was always a very intense, push you to your limit type of guy. He made you into the best you can be.”

Out of all the sports Smith played, football was the one that caught his eye. Smith played for his high school, Maine West, and later went on to play college football at Drake University. Smith also played for the Chicago Fire in the American Football League (AFL) in 1981. Smith explains the AFL as a professional spring and summer league that ran before the fall when the National Football League (NFL) begins.

Modeled after his former coach, Smith’s coaching technique is very intense. Smith comments that whenever he sees fit, he drills his players hard and tries to guide them to where they need to be while ensuring they understand what they did wrong and correcting it. With that being said, he always includes positive reinforcement.

“Whether I am dog tired or trying to do another rep, all I need to do is hear another word of his wisdom, and I’m out there finishing it,” Blake Drazner ’15, varsity football player, said. “As an athlete, it teaches me that you can’t wait around and let your breath come back. You’ll never get what you want if you have to stop and take a breath.”

Smith sees and admires athletes who always train at the highest level. He describes them as having a high motor—constantly working to get better. Even when not training physically, these athletes are preparing themselves mentally for the next game by studying strategies, watching recordings of their opponents and reading scouting reports.

“We try to teach our players to make right decisions on and off the field,” Smith said. “We try to push our athletes to do well in school, be polite and sophisticated. It is extremely important for them to refrain from associating in bad situations.”

Smith views the senior class this year as a group with a great attitude who always win whenever they step on the field. He sees them as a hardworking team that really understand the game of football.

“They play hard all the time,” Smith said. “There’s a handful of players on the team that always made big plays when it counted. You have to take some risks to make big plays, and it does not always come out perfect but with this group it always came out more perfect than not.”

At the end of the school year, Smith will be retiring; however, he claims that his history with Stevenson will probably not end. Smith hopes to be able to substitute teach in the classrooms or even eventually get back into coaching in later years.

“I can’t really say that I’m saying goodbye,” Smith said. “But I don’t know what tomorrow brings.”

The athletes that he’s trained and pushed towards success feel remorse about his leave, according to Drazner. However, Drazner is grateful for everything Smith has done for the Stevenson athletic program in the past 33 years.

“We have made the play-offs for 26 straight years,” Smith said. “I felt I’ve been a part of every one of them. I’ve coached with many great coaches and coached many great players. The memories will never be forgotten, and the traditions will carry on.”