2013 TIMES COACH OF THE YEAR | CRETE-MONEE'S SUE GIANNANTONIO

Crete-Monee's Sue Giannantonio is The Times Illinois Softball Coach of the Year

2013-06-20T18:00:00Z 2013-09-16T18:51:18Z Crete-Monee's Sue Giannantonio is The Times Illinois Softball Coach of the YearPhil Arvia Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 20, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

A coach whose softball squads have won no less than five Illinois High School Association and officials association sportsmanship awards over the years is, by definition, too polite to say it.

But Sue Giannantonio could be excused for thinking it:

It's about time.

After 28 years at the helm of Crete-Monee's softball team, 22 winning seasons and eight conference titles, she's finally earned her first nod as The Times Softball Coach of the Year.

"Oh no," she said. "It's nice to get the honor. I'm very humbled by it — after coaching all these years, to get the recognition."

Rest assured, this is not some sort of lifetime achievement award.

The Warriors went 18-8 overall and 14-1 in the Southland Athletic Conference — after starting 3-6. They put together win streaks of seven and eight games, the first snapped by eventual Class 3A third-place finisher Tinley Park, over their last 17 games.

"We had a lot of young players," Giannantonio said. "We pulled up three freshmen this year. Last year, we had a freshman and three sophomores.

"It took a while for the other kids to buy into what we were doing. But they did."

Giannantonio helped the process along the way she always does.

"You have to make it fun for the kids," she said. "Whatever happens, happens — you can't get it back. Just try to win the inning. Then try to win the next inning."

They've won plenty at Crete-Monee under Giannantonio. After four losing seasons in her first six, she has had only two sub-.500 teams since, in part because of the qualities she consistently instills in her players.

"Defense wins games," she said. "You've got to be strong in the fundamentals. That's what we strive for at every practice. Work on the little things, and everything will fall into place."

With the little things come some very big concepts.

"Our team has always been about having good sportsmanship, being fair and honest with my players," Giannantonio said. "I stress fundamentals, working hard, being competitive and always have fun at what you do."

It comes as little surprise, then, that those sportsmanship awards are, by Giannantonio's reckoning, the brightest highlights on her resume. That also includes the 1975 Crete-Monee Female Athlete of the Year Award, when she was Sue LeCocq and played volleyball, tennis, field hockey, basketball, badminton and softball.

"I was fortunate to come out of college and grab a teaching job at Crete-Monee," she said. "I'm a true Warrior. I've spent my life here."

That life story has included some wonderful chapters. Her husband, Ron, was Sue's assistant for a time. Her daughter, Melissa, was a freshman on Giannantonio's only regional champs, in 2005. Melissa and her fiance, Phil Striggow, were assistants this season.

Next school year, Giannantonio said, will be her last as a teacher. Though she'll retire after 35 years of teaching physical education at Crete-Monee, she'll be just 57 years old — with plenty of competitive fire left in the tank.

"You never know what the next year will bring," she said. "But if I have to give up softball, it's going to be really hard."

Until then, no doubt, Giannantonio will just try to win the next inning.

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