MIKE NIETO: Giannantonio a true Warrior

2014-06-12T20:00:00Z 2014-06-12T23:44:09Z MIKE NIETO: Giannantonio a true WarriorMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
June 12, 2014 8:00 pm  • 

After 35 years of teaching and coaching, Sue Giannantonio doesn't know what her plans are for retirement.

She was Crete-Monee's softball coach for 29 years and it is hard to imagine her doing anything else but coaching.

Giannantonio, who just finished up a stellar career at her prep alma mater, is going to play it by ear.

"I honestly don't know," when asked what her plans are. "I really haven't given it much thought."

For now, it is getting ready for daughter Melissa's July wedding. Then, it's carefree days. Giannantonio, Debbie Ballenger and Rick Nathan all went out together and I guess it was probably one heckuva sendoff. All three deserved it.

Giannantonio spent her entire career, minus four years as a student at Eastern Illinois, at Crete-Monee. She was also the girls volleyball coach for 17 years, and she said she didn't regret one minute.

"I am very fortunate to have spent my whole career in the same place I grew up," Giannantonio said. "I never thought I would."

She won 478 softball games and is in the Illinois High School Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Her mark is not only the wins, but how she built the program from a student-athlete to a young coach. Her teams have won five sportsmanship awards. When she had her last regular-season home game, former players came back.

"That was really cool," Giannantonio said. "My former players were here with their kids, a few of who I also coached.

"When they come back like that, it is really special."

It also shows the former players love and respect for their former Sue LeCocq. Giannantonio, a 1975 grad, is Crete-Monee.

She said she spent the last few months cleaning out her desk.

"You accumulate a lot in 35 years," she said.

And that does not include memories.

Her daughter Melissa played for her. Ron, her husband of 34 years, has been there for her and Giannantonio credits him with being a big part of her success.

"Ron used to bring Melissa to the matches when I was volleyball coach and we had a playpen behind our bench for her," Giannantonio said. "Ron would be changing diapers during the match. I think a lot of wives pointed that our to their husbands, 'See, look what that husband is doing.'"

When the Giannantonios started a family, it was Ron who told her that her coaching career didn't have to end. A lot of wives sacrifice so their husbands can coach, Ron did the same so his wife could pursue her coaching career. The long hours, late meals and tied-up weekends and Ron went along with it because he knew how important is was for his wife to coach and make a difference in the lives of young women.

"Ron was there for the big wins and tough losses," Giannantonio said. "He was encouraging and my sounding board."

She had the chance to coach her daughter, which she said was "a dream come true."

Now, someone else will be filling out the lineup card next spring, but Giannantonio said she would be available to help in any way. She won't admit it, but this is her program and she put her style and class on it.

Maybe her assistant Lauren Wesolowski will take over. It would make for a smooth transition. The hire is a crucial one.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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