When Julie Schroeder took over as head girls basketball coach at Sterling High School, she knew she'd have some big shoes to fill.
Fresh off three seasons as the late Bruce Scheidegger's lead assistant, Schroeder took the reins when Scheidegger stepped down following the 2007 season that saw the Golden Warriors' first run to the girls state basketball tournament in 24 years.
But Scheidegger stepped aside with the utmost confidence in his hand-picked successor to keep things rolling at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
In seven seasons at the Warriors' helm, Schroeder amassed 142 wins, a .634 winning percentage, and led Sterling to an average of 20 wins per season.
But a week and a half ago, Schroeder said goodbye to the head coaching job she had once left Burlington Central to be the understudy for.
And like her mentor Scheidegger, she resigned to make way for someone new.
"It really just came down to the fact that I've been coaching for 20 years, and thought maybe it was time to take a break," Schroeder said Friday. "It also gives somebody else a chance to help the program go further along than it is now."
There is no one waiting in the wings, but Schroeder is confident that Sterling athletic director Greg King and the powers that be at the school will find a capable replacement.
And since she's keeping her job as a physical education teacher, and will continue to be around the kids in the girls basketball program, she has little doubt that she'll stay involved somehow.
"I'll probably get back into coaching, just maybe in a different role," Schroeder said. "I'm going to still be involved in whatever I can, and be around Sterling athletics as much as I can."
King, who himself was in the same boat a few years back when he resigned as head football coach after nine seasons, knows what Schroeder is going through, but he said he's still sorry to see her go.
"It's going to be hard losing her; when you're talking Xs and Os, Julie can do it with the best of them," King said. "She's one of the better coaches out there, but if she wants something else at this point in her life, I understand completely."
King is in the unique position that he dealt with Schroeder not only as a fellow Sterling coach and as AD, but also as a parent. His daughter, Ashli, played three seasons on varsity for Schroeder before graduating in 2012.
Now a sophomore softball player at Heartland Community College in Normal, Ashli learned a lot from Schroeder at the high school level that has helped her out in college, according to her father.
"As a parent, the big thing is that you've got an idea of what you want your son or daughter to do and learn through athletics," Greg King said. "For me, it was for Ashli to become a hard-nosed, tough player – and Julie brought that out in her. I'm glad Ashli played for Julie, and it's helped her in college, especially."
Watching players come into their own like that is what Schroeder will find hard to replace on an emotional level.
"I'll miss most the relationships with the kids, watching them work hard and turn into a success on and off the court," Schroeder said. "It was fun to watch them do that, and fun to be a part of that process.
"It'll be really hard to just watch them as a fan, at least for the first few games. It will take some getting used to."
Schroeder led Sterling to the final NCIC Reagan championship in 2009-10, then the inaugural Northern Illinois Big 12 West title the following season in 2010-11. She added another NIB-12 West co-championship in 2012-13, and won regional plaques in 2012 and '13.
And following up three-time SVM coach of the year Scheidegger, Schroeder earned two of those awards in 2011 and '13.
"I came into a really good situation, and the whole goal as a coach was trying to sustain where we were when I got here," Schroeder said. "I feel like we did a pretty good job with that, with a few conference titles and a couple of regionals.
"It's easy for a program to fall when it's been so high, but through the hard wok of the kids, we've been able to sustain it. I'm proud to leave the program the way I found it, and the players I've coached are the biggest reason for that. They should be just as proud."
By the Numbers
Seasons at Sterling: 10
Years as head coach: 7
Record: 142-82 (.634)
Conference titles: 3 (NIB-12 West in 2011, 2013; NCIC Reagan in 2010)
Regional titles: 2 (2012, 2013)