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Give coaches some credit

Afew weeks ago, I met Dalton Shaner at Eastland High School to interview him for the boys basketball player of the year story.

It was after school, and I could hear coach Tony Dunlap’s voice coming from his office. Before getting a chance to get to his office, we took Dalton up to the old gym for photos.

After talking for a while in the cafeteria, we started back toward the new gym, and I asked Shaner if he thought coach Dunlap was still around. Shaner laughed.

“He had his shoes off, so I think he was settling in here,” Shaner said. “He’s always here. It’s not even the season, so I’m not sure what he has to do.”

The next evening, I spent time with Jason Mead, our boys basketball coach of the year.

He talked about a day earlier in the week where after school, he coached baseball, had an open gym, and then spent time until 10:30 p.m. in his room doing grades for his classes.

Tired of the anecdotes yet?

Well, one more quick one.

On Tuesday, Newman football coach Mike Papoccia was watching the Comets baseball team play the Dixon Dukes, when Rock Falls football coach Scott Berge wandered up. Berge, a former player for Papoccia, was watching a relative on the Dukes.

While I was a little too far away and didn’t want to eavesdrop, I could hear words like “offense” and “40 [yard dash] times.”

You know, because the summer is only a couple months away, and that’s when minds turn toward the upcoming football season.

Heck, who am I kidding? I’ve already started thinking about things we could do for our annual award-winning football preview section.

I guess the point of all of this is that coaches often take a bad rap.

I don’t go to a single game where there isn’t someone in the crowd playing the second-guess game.

Maybe some coaches deserve it, but what I’ve figured out is that the truly good ones have spent a huge chunk of time poring over every angle that put their players in the best position to win.

And sometimes it comes down to something simple.

On Wednesday, it wasn’t about strategy or planning that led Rock Falls softball coach Kris Nunez to help her team rally out of a funk and 5-1 deficit to the Freeport Pretzels.

Instead, it took her turning her own energy level up to 11 to get the Rockets motivated.

It worked, and the Rockets rallied for a 6-5 win in eight innings.

But, the good news is that even the toughest of coaches go home ... sometimes.

As Shaner and I went our separate ways that day a couple weeks ago, I wandered down to coach Dunlap’s office.

The door was closed and locked.

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