'It's just been a great career'

When Steve Reischman walked out of South Kitsap High School on Thursday afternoon, his 31-year association with the state’s largest school came to an end.

Reischman began his career as a student-teacher in 1974, went on to coach football and wrestling and, for the past seven years, served as South’s Athletic Director.

He announced his retirement earlier this year and stayed through until the hiring of his successor Ed Santos. With everything in order, Reischman cleaned out his office on Thursday.

But before he left, Reischman sat down for conversation about South Kitsap sports and his role in it.

Q: Is it finally starting to dawn on you that 31 years with this school is about to come to an end?

A: Oh, it has been for some time. I’m starting to take a few things down and I’ve had a few memories come to mind. When you go through the drawers of the office, you find stuff that you haven’t seen for years and years and it’s pretty interesting.

For lack of a better word, it feels very strange, very weird to leave after that much time.

Q: (Former South football coach) Ed Fisher brought you here. At that time, did you think it would last 30-plus years?

A: I don’t know if I really thought about it too much, there was a time earlier in my career that I was really trying to think about whether or not I wanted to stay in the teaching profession.

To me, looking back on it, it was really fulfilling, whether it was coaching or teaching or whatever I was involved in here in this district.

It’s just been a great career and I’m glad I stayed. When I was younger, I wanted to get to a place and be in a place long term. I don’t like the thought of jumping around.

Q: What lead to the decision to stop now?

A: That’s a tough one. Probably time. I guess I could say I could retire now — it was an option — but I think time spent. I think a lot of people don’t really understand a lot about this job.

There are details in this job, in the way I did it, that lend itself to spending a lot of time. I’m looking over at (the scheduling board) and there’s 475 to 500 individual contests, combined home and away, each year at this high school.

We had 1,007 kids last year that turned out for athletics. So if you can’t deal with all of that detail, then this is not the place for you to be.

So the reason I’m retiring, it has to do with time and quality of life. I have the option to leave now. I’m not leaving with any regrets.

It’s been super but I’d like to have a little bit of my own personal time.

Q: What are some of your fondest memories in your time spent here coaching?

A: I think the fondest memory is the consistency of our program over 20 years or whatever it was that we were constantly in the (football) playoffs. That to me is a more important statistic you might say than maybe winning a state championship.

Although that was tremendous for our program. We were in the state finals, I think I was there with Ed three times and won one of them and then I went with (current coach D.J. Sigurdson) once.

To put my finger on it, the consistency of the program over time, when you are not always going to have the best athletes every year or the best chemistry but the coaching staff was able to raise the level for them so they could play at a higher level and win consistently.

I’ve never been a win at all cost kind of guy and neither was Ed. Ed worked really hard to establish a winning program here but he did it by trying to develop young men with good attitudes and values.

Q: There have been some disappointments in your career, games you should have won, championships you maybe should have won, felt you should have won. Any one of them particularly disappointing?

A: I guess sometimes you remember some of the loses for than some of the wins. They take such a toll sometimes. The No. 1 would be Eric Canton’s senior year (the 1984 football season) and we were in (Spokane) and the chill factor was minus 10 degrees.

I don’t even remember who we were playing but we should have never been outside in that weather. I know every other semifinal game at different levels were all at indoor facilities. And you can look back and growl about that (South lost 28-21 to Gonzaga Prep), it would have been nice just to play indoors or not had those conditions.

I think that was probably one of the best teams we ever had. Although the 1994 team was a really good team obviously, but with those guys, losing that was pretty hard to take. It’s just a game but a lot goes into it. A lot of time and energy.

I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, and this is a more global disappointment, somehow with all the winning that took place over those years, it somehow turned into a negative, a viewed upon by some individuals in the community.

And I think that’s still out there a little bit but I guess I would just like to say is the only thing we did was to work hard. We didn’t get any extra pay. You don’t get any extra pay when you go into the playoffs.

We worked extra weeks for nothing basically. We didn’t get any extra benefits, we simply worked hard — and the kids worked hard.

And somehow, that was misinterpreted, by a few, that we weren’t doing something honestly or we were focusing way too much on football and everything else kind of took a back seat.

Sport is meant to be part of the educational process here and we never tried to make it any more than that.

Q: When Ed left, did you pursue his job at all?

A: Never was interested. Ed would always ask each year when new coaches came onboard is they had aspirations of being a head coach because he would try to mentor them maybe in a little bit different way.

I said no from day one. I never wanted to be a head coach.

I don’t think that was necessarily bad, that was just my area to contribute. I loved doing it, it was fun, and my family was involved in it all the way through.

Q: What do you think you will miss the most?

A: The old standard thing is probably the people. The coaches, the administrators, the people I work day-to-day with. There are some great people I’ve worked for and learned so much from. I think that’s it.

The thing that’s been a little bit frustrating about this position is you get a little bit displaced from the kids. With 1,000 kids going through the program a year and having coached for 26 years and having that close relationship with the athletes, I don’t have that any more and I miss that.

Q: Will we see you around much, are you completely done with this school?

A: I don’t have any immediate plans. I am interested, at some point, still doing community kinds of things.

The so-called water closet project (which upgraded the concessions at the South stadium) the community was ... the people that worked on that thing, some of them graduated from this school in the 1940s and all the way up to the current people.

get a little emotional about the people in this community because they give a lot and don’t ask for much in return. And their are always people that see different sides of everything but the hundreds of people that worked on that thing, it’s pretty amazing.

So maybe I’ll come back. There’s always things that need to be done.

But right away, I’m probably not going to be around too much.

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