Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City high school girls basketball coach Carolyn Wendte always wanted to coach basketball.
Wendte got her wish in 1991 when she was put at the helm of the CHBC girls varsity team. After 28 years of coaching in the sport she loves, Wendte will see her name in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as she was selected for the 2020 class.
Wendte learned of her honor just after her mother passed away in early December. Wendte described the timing of the recognition as bittersweet as her mother was not there to tell.
“Now that things have settled down a little bit, I am very grateful,” Wendte said. “This is an award I never even thought I would be considered for. Becoming a coach and teacher was a dream of mine ever since grade school. However, becoming a member of the IBCA Coaches Hall of Fame was way outside that dream world. Therefore, it means a lot to me that I was even considered, let alone inducted into the hall of fame.”
Wendte’s start in coaching high school athletics did not begin in basketball. She said when she first started at Beecher City Junior-Senior High School, there was no girls basketball team, so she became the cheerleading sponsor to “still be around the game.”
Wendte’s desire to coach basketball came to fruition during the 1991-1992 school year when she started coaching junior varsity girls basketball because Beecher City was going to start a co-op program with Cowden-Herrick. After just one year as the junior varsity coach, asked Wendte to be the varsity coach.
In her 28 years of coaching Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City, Wednte said her favorite part of coaching is watching her players grow on and off the court.
“I love to see the players grow and mature, not only as basketball players, but also as great individuals in the community (and) watching them earn scholarships or just go to college and come back always willing to help the program,” Wendte said. “The ideas of team effort and great work ethics are what I try to instill in my players.”
Wendte has coached the junior high girls basketball program since it started at Beecher City in 1998, so she truly gets to experience her players growing up and has the opportunity to help shape them into hard working adults.
In addition to coaching high school and junior high basketball, Wendte is also the Beecher City high school athletic director and is the secretary of both the Cowden-Herrick and Beecher City conferences and president of the junior high conference.
She has also coached high school softball for 28 years and junior high softball for 21 years. Wendte also takes her skills to the classroom as she teaches eight grade to senior-level math classes.
Wendte said she believes the fact that her players see her in the classroom and on the court shows how much she cares about her students and players becoming well-rounded individuals.
“I think this also shows the love of coaching that I have and the time and effort that I put in with these players for them to become successful in everything that they do,” Wendte said.
Wendte said she often combines her passion for math with her passion for sports. At times, she shows her math students how sports relate to math and vice versa; Wendte said she loves the statistical side of basketball.
Nearly 30 years of coaching comes with many memories and highlights. Wendte said there are too many to choose from for her, but a few stand out to her.
Wendte said just winning a game at the start of her career was a highlight because she was coaching a team that was coming off of two years without a win. Wendte recalled her first 20-win season and her team’s three year stint of appearances in the state tournament. Most of all, Wendte said she’s enjoyed coaching daughters of former players.
Always humble, Wendte said she is thankful for the many players, administrators, community members and her family for shaping her career into a successful and memorable part of her life.
“I would like to thank all of those people that considered me for this award. Also, I would like to thank administration that has given me the opportunity to coach and keep working with these young athletes, Wendte said.
“I would like to thank all of the past and present players and community members who have supported the programs in the many years that I have been coaching. I am a firm believer that consistency and having the opportunity to implement a program is a big part of coaching. Most of all, a big thank you (goes) to my family because they have always been supportive of all the time and effort I have put into coaching.”