Wheeler tennis coach Mike Rosta has lately learned that assistants Gary Dixon and Bob Barthold won't just volunteer their free time for court activities.
Rosta moved into a new house within the last year — and his assistants joined in on the project.
"They removed wallpaper and helped clean the house," Rosta recalled. "They wouldn't take a dime for it. That's how they are."
I understand that school budgets are tight at this point, and there was only enough money to pay for one tennis coach — no assistants. I just think this is going the extra mile to extend a hand to a colleague or friend.
As I continued to talk to the longtime tennis coaches, I began to understand some of the reasoning for their decision.
Dixon has strong ties to Rosta, giving the Wheeler coach his first tennis lesson when Rosta was 8 years old. This is his second stint as an assistant under Rosta; they worked together at Andrean.
Dixon rejoined Rosta four years ago.
"I love working with kids," said Dixon, who started coaching in 1974. "I also enjoy coaching tennis. Now I get to do both at the same time."
Rosta and Barthold, who coached at Valparaiso for 19 years, faced off against one another for several seasons, including several sectional matches. Barthold retired from Valparaiso in 2008, and he joined the Wheeler staff three years ago. He appears to have recharged his coaching battery.
"I feel like I have more energy that I did when I was at Valpo," Barthold said. "I come to practice ready to go."
I've known Barthold and Dixon for several years, and they are normally understated with their comments. Both beamed during our latest conversation, talking about how fun it is to work with Rosta, plus how much they enjoy the administration, parents and players.
It doesn't appear to be work for them.
"We have two goals," Dixon said. "We want (the players) to have a good time and get better. If we emphasize those two things, everything else will work out."
Rosta feels like one of the luckiest men in the world, and I would tend to agree. Both assistants are former head coaches, and they've coached for 60-plus seasons — almost a third of that time together.
"Coaches ask me all of the time, 'How did you get those guys?'" Rosta said. "It's just an unbelievable luxury to have them with me. They've made our program stronger.
"I just love working with them."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.