By Randy Whalen
Missy Mason has made an impact on athletics at Stagg.
Ask anyone associated with the school’s assistant athletic director, who has coached numerous sports at the school, and they’ll tell you of all the ways she positively affected their lives or the lives of someone they know.
In this, her final year at Stagg, Mason has something else to add to her list of accolades.
National Coach of The Year.
Athletico Physical Therapy on Dec. 7 awarded Mason with its 2019 National Coach of the Year honor. She received her plaque at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis before the Big Ten Championship Game between Ohio State and Wisconsin.
"It was quite a surprise and quite humbling," Mason said of receiving the award. "It's just been really nice and rewarding to be in the same building as so many other great people over the years."
The Coach of the Year Award was created to recognize coaches for all they do to serve their local communities, including sportsmanship, coaching success and classroom involvement, Athletico stated in a press release. The award is open to junior high and high school coaches in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.
"We are excited to announce Missy Mason as Athletico's 2019 Coach of the Year,” said Jason Bannack, vice president of outreach services at Athletico. “With over 30 years of teaching and coaching experience, she has been looked at as a leader and mentor by her students and fellow coaching peers. Her commitment to the development of those around her lives in her daily work via her infectious character and passion for success in academics.
“Coach Mason has impacted students on and off the court, field and golf course. She exemplifies leadership in every regard, whether she is coaching, teaching or being an administrator for the school. Coach Mason is truly a role model whose contributions to sportsmanship, athletic success, and classroom involvement embody the Coach of the Year award."
Mason was nominated for the award by Lindsey Banchak, an Athletico employee and member of the Stagg athletics community. Nominations were open to the public and submitted via an online entry form. Nominators were required to explain why their coach should be recognized.
Mason graduated from Hillcrest in 1981. She studied kinesiology at the University of Illinois, graduating in 1985. Her first teaching and coaching job was at Elgin High School, starting in 1986. She was the head softball coach there and enjoyed living and working in that area.
"It was Jack Doyle who talked me into coming to Stagg," Mason said of Doyle, who was the division coordinator at the school then. "I've been really fortunate to work with a lot of great coaches, both head and assistant ones, here at Stagg.
Mason was head girls basketball coach for the Chargers from 1990 to 2000. In those 10 years, her teams won 19 or more games five times and captured a pair of regional titles.
She was the head softball coach from 2001 to 2007 and 2010 to 2013. Her teams registered six seasons of 20 or more wins and won four regional championships. She's been the head girls golf coach since the fall of 2013.
She also held numerous assistant coaching roles, including in badminton and volleyball, and has been assistant athletic director since 1992.
"Missy is an amazing teacher, coach, and person that has touched and influenced the lives and careers of many students, athletes, and colleagues at Stagg for over 30 years," Stagg Athletic Director Terry Treasure said in the release. "Missy is known not just to the Stagg community, but all over this state and beyond.
"I have been blessed to work side by side with her for 15 years. The ultimate compliment I can give her is that I wish my own children could have been taught and coached by her. She is the perfect mold for Coach of the Year. It's been an honor to call her a colleague and friend.”
Sandburg Principal Jen Tyrrell, a 1999 Stagg graduate, played for Mason when the latter was an assistant softball coach in the late 1990s. She took over for Mason in 2008 as head softball coach for two seasons and, after getting an administrative job at Stagg, came back to assist Mason in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
"Missy Mason is a once in a lifetime teacher, coach, mentor, and role model," Tyrrell said. "As educators, our measure of success is the number of lives that have been impacted during a career and it is overwhelming to think about all she has touched. She has built me up throughout the years; helping me become more confident; supporting me in rising to challenges and pushing out of my comfort zone; believing in me when I did not believe in myself.
"She is not just my coach, colleague, and friend, but she has become family. As I interact with students, staff, families, and community members, I can only hope that I do it in the same real and genuine way that Missy Mason has. I hope to carry on her legacy."
It was the influence of a former coach that helped Mason become the coach and person she is today.
"Sue Boner was a big influence on me," Mason said of the former basketball and volleyball coach at Hillcrest and Oak Forest. "I looked up to my coaches the way I wanted to be looked up to when I coached."
Mason has not only been looked up to for her coaching, but also for her courage. Over a decade ago she was diagnosed with cancer. Although she stepped down from her coaching duties, she was still working much of that time. She underwent surgery, 30 rounds of radiation and eight rounds of chemotherapy. This December marked her 11th year of being cancer-free.
"I was very, very lucky," Mason said. "I was diagnosed in 2008 and both my parents died during that time. But everyone was so supportive and like a family.”
Mason has been as busy as ever in the past 11 years. Something she is proud of is that Deanna Storino Fishel and Rich Kowalczyk, both former students of hers, will fill her role as assistant athletic director.
"It's nice to see how things come full circle," Mason said. "I also love keeping up with former students and athletes on social media. It's super cool that you can reach out to them and their families now."
Now that she's retiring at the end of June, with a National coaching recognition award to boot, what will Mason do in the future?
"I have no plans now," she said. "I'm not leaving to go anywhere; I just want to enjoy retirement. As for coaching, I don't want to be one of those that takes a job away from a younger coach who is trying to get in the door and get experience. But if someone really needed help, I would see."