Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Lee juggles multiple responsibilities

December 29, 1999

John Lee must have a closet filled with red and white clothes. As the activities directors he's on the sidelines cheering for football, soccer, cross country, basketball and wrestling teams (not to mention the spring sports). And, he's the girls basketball coach.

Attending sporting events is not a chore for Lee, however. It comes naturally for the former baseball player.

"That's what I like to do," Lee said. "I've always coached and played sports."

He played baseball for Lawrence High School. He began his college career at Highland Community College, moved to Northwest Missouri State and played his final two seasons at Baker where he was an all-conference selection playing outfield and first base.

Baseball coach Lynn Harrod strongly influenced Lee.

"One day you hated him," Lee said. "The next day you loved him."

The hate, he said, came from being criticized and forced to work.

"It was strictly business," Lee said.

But the hard work paid off with wins, a lesson that Lee remembers well.

Despite his baseball background he used to think his best coaching opportunities would be in his chosen sport Lee is in his third season coaching the varsity girls basketball team and his second year as activities director for Tonganoxie High School.

He began as a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher. His first year he coached ninth-grade football and junior varsity girls basketball. After a watching a 2-19 season from the bench, he made a commitment to never be in that position as a head coach.

He's done everything he can to prepare himself to coach the Tonganoxie girls. He attends other coaches' practices, clinics, camps, and other high school's camps. He takes every opportunity he can to pick the brains of other coaches. And he asks Leslie Foster, his assistant coach, for help.

"It's a team effort with us just as much as it is with the team," Foster said.

Practices, like those he remembers from his playing days, are challenging.

"The kids know when they come to practice, they're going to have to work hard," Lee said.

That preparation paid off in his first season when the team was picked to finish last in the Kaw Valley League. His seniors, Jackie Wilson and Katrina Korb, led a team that surprised a lot of people by finishing 14-10, winning sub-state and qualifying for state.

That season ranks among his favorite memories of coaching to this point.

"Just watching the kids grow it's awesome."

He remains in touch with all three students who have graduated from his teams in two seasons.

And this season should add to those memories. The seniors on the team including guard Marcy Dodge and center Sarah Overbaugh have had Lee as a coach since they were freshmen.

"He knows us really well," Dodge said.

That knowledge enables Lee to best motivate each player. Some, he said, respond when he gets in their face. Others require a more gentle approach.

But not too gentle.

In addition to motivating and coaching the girls team, the challenge for Lee, right now, is to balance his responsibilities as activities director.

He's responsible for scheduling games for all the teams, arranging officials, working with athletic discipline and budgets, and being available for the other coaches.

He also teaches three hours of strength training and one hour of conditioning.

While he's not able to make it to as many other games because he's with the girls basketball team, he's sympathetic to the problems the other coaches have because of his own coaching duties.

The other great challenge is balancing his family life.

"That's the hard thing," Lee said.

He has a wife, Leanne, and a 1-year-old son, Connor, who usually goes to bed before Lee comes home and doesn't get up until after Lee leaves for Tonganoxie.

"I hadn't seen him since Sunday," Lee said one Thursday morning after a long week of practices and games.

Lee is halfway to his ultimate goal. He knew he wanted to coach and be an athletic director.

"I never thought it would come this quick," he said.

The next step he'd like to be a principal or superintendent.

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