The young Bobcats gather around to get directions from coach Steve Stoller.
Steve Stoller should be placing a golf ball on a tee somewhere in Florida right now, enjoying the sun far removed from the Ohio winter. That is what retired guys do.
But Stoller, who closed out a long career in the classroom a year and a half ago, is still teaching - he's just doing it on the basketball court. He prefers the sounds and the pace in the gym to the golf or fishing or euchre games of retirement.
Stoller, who was the head boys basketball coach at Eastwood High School for 22 years, stepped down from that post four years ago, but didn't stay away for long.
He first had the opportunity to coach the seventh grade girls team at Bowling Green Junior High, and took on coaching the boys team this year. Since the seasons essentially run consecutively, Stoller can juggle his practice schedule and lead both groups.
"At first, I wasn't that interested in the girls' game, but I thought I'd give it a shot," said Stoller, who taught in the BG system. "I saw improvement, and really enjoyed it. Then the chance to coach the boys came up, and I jumped at it. I see coaching as being about serving others - as an educational tool to have a positive impact on people's lives."
Stoller, 54, recently led his seventh grade Bowling Green boys team to a 15-1 record and a Northern Lakes League championship. There were some 6 a.m. practices, plus academic and citizenship requirements each player had to meet, but there was never any hesitation on the kids' part, according to Curt Motsinger whose son Ryan played for Stoller.
"Coach was very committed, very dedicated to his players. He was calm, but he had a very direct style. Every single kids' eyes were locked on him," Motsinger said. "He was able to read the different personalities very well, and motivate every one of them."
Bowling Green High School boys varsity coach Von Graffin said Stoller's wealth of experience and knowledge make him a tremendously valuable asset.
"Until someone's been a head coach, you have no idea what it involves, so his experience alone is unmatched," Graffin said. "He's also a great teacher of how to play the game the proper way, and he gives these young players a solid foundation. We are extremely fortunate to have Steve working with these kids."
"I am still demanding, but not as demanding as I used to be," Stoller said. "I think kids can learn a lot of life skills in athletics - we can always find something positive, and build on that."
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