Paying Greatness Forward
“A good coach improves your game. A great coach improves your life.” These words are those of the famous John Wooden, one of the winningest college coaches in US history. Rick Reeves, GHS Class of 1961, knew just such great coaches in Garrett. His basketball coach in junior high school was Robert Harman; and as a freshman, it was Dick Capin. He looks back now and says, “It was a fun and learning experience all three of those years (grades 7-8-9).” He goes on to recall that Ward Smith was the coach for varsity and JV for grades 10-11-12. Of Coach Smith, Reeves remembers, “He was very fair and you always knew who was in charge.”
Life shifts powerfully during summer 1961. Reeves’s life was changed dramatically in his senior year with first-year teacher/assistant basketball coach, Bill Schafer. He coached the freshman basketball team and assisted Coach Ward Smith for the Varsity and JV teams. Reeves immediately said “yes” when Schafer asked Reeves to help him coach the “newly formed summer Colt League Baseball Team.” During that 1961 summer, according to Reeves, Schafer “kept asking me what my plans were for the next year.” Aware that he truly had no plans and no goals, Reeves recalls, “Finally I told him I would probably join the Army.” Coach Schafer replied, “No, you are going to college.”
Surprised, Reeves learned that Schafer had already talked with his parents. He’d argued to them that Rick was academically prepared for college classes and that the finances could be managed. Reeves recalls, “He then drove me down to Ball State Teachers College, took me over to meet Coach Jim Hinga (head basketball coach at BSTC) who said I should enroll and try out for the freshman team.”
Reeves says that Coach Schafer “took me over to the Dean of Admission’s office to get properly enrolled. No problem as I was a resident of Indiana and had graduated from an approved high school. However, since it was late in the summer, I still needed to take some entrance tests and secure approved housing.”
But, all housing assignments had been made. No rooms remained. Undaunted, Coach Schafer told the Dean of Admissions that the BSTC coach wanted Reeves on the freshman team. According to Reeves, “The Dean said ‘OK’, and then pulled out another listing of campus housing with a note explaining my situation.” Coach Schafer immediately drove Reeves to the first address on the list and Reeves signed a contract for housing. He brings the story to a close, “I took the document back to the Dean of Admissions office and ‘Bing-Bang!’ I was officially a student at Ball State Teachers College!”
Fast forward to 2020. Reeves and Coach Bill Schafer are still friends in 2020. Reeves says, “He is now retired and lives in Georgia. We remain in close contact. I owe him Big Time.”
A loyal alumni association member, Reeves has missed only three of the 35 alumni weekends, two due to serious illness. He’s never missed a 1961 class reunion, having chaired or co-chaired the planning of several.
Reeves could be the archivist for the Alumni Association, a role he’s played for the nearly six decades since graduating. Lots of GHS’s athletic teams are in his computer files. For some graduating classes his databases include a record of each student’s year by year enrollment in Garrett schools. He maintains a spreadsheet on members of his 1961 graduating class, regularly entering data that monitor class reunions and changes in his classmates’ lives.
Reeves says that his drive to maintain historical data files might have begun early in life. Robert Harman, his 7th grade history teacher, was central to his growing love of history and recording data. Mr. Harman led students through the history of Indiana. Reeves said he loved “memorizing the ninety-two Indiana counties and their respective county seats.” He adds that Robert Harman was also the junior high coach “of everything – both football and basketball; I’m not sure about track.”
Back to that “Bing-Bang!”day in summer 1961. That day led to academic success at BSTC and over forty years of teaching history and physical education and coaching. Most impressively, Reeves has deliberately carried on Schafer’s legacy. He says, “I have tried to help my players and students with their post high school plans all of my teaching and coaching years in four different schools in two states, Michigan and Indiana.”
“A good coach improves your game. A great coach improves your life.” Like Schafer, Reeves has lived that same quality of Wooden’s “greatness.” Truly a transformational educator, he’s improved the lives and futures of many of his own students and players over four decades. And is still at it.
Carolyn S. Ridenour, 03.29.20