Prep beat

JIM PETERS: Hebron's Walker a professional with a personal touch

2014-06-05T17:00:00Z 2014-06-06T13:07:19Z JIM PETERS: Hebron's Walker a professional with a personal touchJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 05, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

The spotlight was something Rhonda Walker never sought in her 15 years as Hebron Athletic Director.

Instead, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes so her coaches and athletes could attain that attention.

Now, as Walker steps away from her administrative role, it can't pass without placing her center stage for a moment, whether she likes it or not.

"It doesn't surprise me that she doesn't want any publicity," said Mike DeFries, Hebron's cross country/boys track coach. "That's how humble she is. I can't imagine an A.D. that is as caring about the kids as she was. I can't even count how many officials would have a hug for her as they came in and left from our games."

DeFries noted Walker's knack for seeing a situation coming a mile away and resolving it before she was even approached with it. There was also a personal touch to how she went about her job.

A thank you. A kind word. A warm plate of food on deadline. You don't forget those things.

"It was always a family atmosphere with our coaching staff since I have been here and that was possible because she modeled that example every day," said basketball and baseball coach John Steinhilber, Walker's successor. "She was tough when she needed to be and quick to give a hug if it was needed. I am a better coach and person to have worked for her for four years."

Sue Spurr spent the last 14 years as Walker's secretary. She saw how she arranged for clothing and hygiene items for students who couldn't afford them, opened her office after school to students struggling to maintain their grades, helped coaches find equipment and assisted students with a scholarship recommendation. All the while, Walker also coached girls track and had teaching duties.

"Rhonda has been an amazing person to work with," Spurr said. "She is so dedicated to the students at Hebron. Her job requires her to be like a parent to over 500 students as well as all of the coaches. Many people don't realize the hours she spends in the athletic office and that she is truly on call seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I don't think she has had a true vacation in the past 15 years ..."

During Walker's tenure, the longest in the Porter County Conference, Hebron opened its new gym in the new high school and made big upgrades to its baseball, softball and track facilities, in addition to regularly hosting tournaments.

"We made a lot of progress, together with the staff," Walker said. "They're great people to work with. It took all of us. I've been very blessed. I hope I leave it in good shape and John will leave it in even better shape. All we want for the kids is to give them the best we can possibly give them, and I hope I contributed to that."

A Hawk since 1981, Walker is happy to continue teaching, allowing her to still be around students. Coaching is to be determined as she spends more time with her family.

"I love the kids, but I just can't give them 100 percent, 100 percent of the time," she said. "It's not fair. This is my heart and soul. It's an 80-hour a week job and I just can't keep it up. My faith is very important and I feel like God is tugging at my heart. He's got something He wants me to do, and I'm going to find out. It's tough, but it'll all be all right."

Even with her hectic schedule, Walker always made sure to find a way to fit in dinner with her husband Doug, even if it was re-heated concessions at her desk at 9 p.m.

Here's to some relaxed sit-downs at the table during normal supper time. She's certainly earned them.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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