Randy Wolken retirement - What others around the game have to say about the legendary coach

The news of SJO softball coach Randy Wolken announcing his retirement is still resonating within the softball community, and with his many years of service to the school in this capacity, as well as a teacher and boys’ basketball coach as well, the question was raised about what others in those comparable fields thought when they heard the news.

 

From fellow softball coaches, to administrators and even former players, Coach Wolken has left an indelible mark on the game of softball, not only in East Central Illinois, but around the state as well.

One area softball coach, Fisher’s Ken Ingold, goes back a long time with Wolken, even crossing over into another sport in the process.

“My interaction with Randy goes way back to the 1980’s, when we were high school basketball coaches competing against each other, and even back then, his teams were very fundamentally sound and competed hard, much as his softball teams did all through his career”, Ingold said regarding his history with the legendary coach.

Ingold went on to add that “I played a small part in his record-setting win total, because several years ago at the time that we played them, he (Wolken) got his 900th overall win against us”. (Wolken finished his career with 1,044 total wins).  Ingold would further comment that “it will be strange next year for a softball season to begin, and to not have Randy Wolken be a part of it”.  

Other area coaches, including Rantoul’s Travis Flesner and Monticello’s Christine Dickerson, have coached against Wolken in both the Okaw Valley Conference, as well as the new Illini Prairie Conference, and have fond recollections of him both as a coach and a person.

Flesner, who has known Coach Wolken nearly all his life, played basketball with one of his sons, and acknowledges the coach as both a mentor and colleague.

“Randy has always been very open about giving his knowledge of the game to anybody that asked.  He loves talking about the game of softball, and even though we’d face them (SJO) a couple times per year, whether it would be in conference play, regionals or our local tournament, he would always be happy to give his perspective on things”, Flesner said about the relationship that he and Wolken have had over the years.  

Dickerson, who also coached against Wolken in both conferences these past few seasons, has a lot of respect for his coaching style and the legacy that he will leave now that he is no longer the Spartans’ coach.

“When Coach Wolken gave advice or compliments, I took it to heart, because he has definitely proven that he knows what he is doing.  I attended many SJO postseason games, and loved the competitiveness and grit that his girls displayed, while also admiring his attention to detail and the overall individual”, Dickerson explained about Wolken and his coaching prowess.  

Then there are the former players of Wolken’s that have moved on to the coaching ranks.  Too numerous to name, however there are a couple that are coaching in East Central Illinois and have routinely gone up against Wolken during the past few seasons.  

One of those former players, Elizabeth Everingham, who now coaches the Salt Fork Storm girls’ softball team, offered her thoughts on both playing for Wolken, as well as coaching against him.

“I knew Coach before stepping into high school, being a participant in his pitching camps since I was about 9 years old.  I was able to learn so much about the game and the situational thinking process involved for managing a game, and he was not only our coach, but our teacher as well, and he was always willing to bring new ideas to the team”, Everingham said about what Wolken means to her as a coach and a mentor.

As far as coaching against him, Everingham goes on to add that she only coached opposite of him once, and even though she didn’t coach against him much, “I have modeled my own program at Salt Fork off his, and the one that I played under, and he was a great mentor to me as I stepped into the coaching ranks”.

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Softball, Sports

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