Saturday, May 16, 2009

Third Article for the Sun

Just had an article in the Naperville Sun published for the third time. So, um, you should read it.


When sophomore Matt LaCosse first met coach Paul Ryan on the diamond last year, he was terrified.

"He yelled at me my first practice."

The fact that LaCosse is Naperville North's starting quarterback and stands well over six feet tall did nothing to calm his fears.

Teammate Dave Considine agrees: "He comes off as a very demanding and very strict coach."

But LaCosse and Considine, co-captains of North's sophomore baseball team along with Jon Green, have since recognized what Ryan's hard-nosed style of coaching is really about.

"After I got to know him I realized that he's in it for the right reasons," LaCosse said. "He's not here to pick on anybody -- he's just here to make everyone better."

"You can tell he knows what he's talking about," Considine said, "and he really wants his players to become better ballplayers."

This June will see the retirement of Paul Ryan, who has coached baseball and football and taught English and speech for 33 years. In 2006 he was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

He's a tall man, and surprisingly soft-spoken in person. He says he recognizes the changes in students' lives from when his coaching odyssey began.

"Students are growing up a little too fast," Ryan said. "They don't see it that way, but I see a lot more pressure put on them for decisions they're making. It's forcing them to grow up sooner."

Over the years he's tried to mold his athletes not just into better players, but into better people. "I am very demanding, but I'm always trying to nurture them and build them into a better individual, someone who can get along with others, who can work hard. It's true wherever you are -- in school, in your career, in relationships, on the field."

North Athletic Director Doug Smith says some players may have trouble adjusting to Ryan's style at first, but eventually they understand his love of the game and his true willingness to see them improve.

"People like Paul don't come around much anymore," Smith said. "He's a multi-sport coach who is as dedicated to his coaching as he is to his teaching. Some might criticize an old-school approach, but in anything you need to know the fundamentals first before you can really move on."

Ryan says one of the highlights of his career was having the opportunity to coach and mentor his own son, Jon, on the field.

"I hope for my son, if he doesn't start a day, I just want him to work well with others, understand discipline, and be a team player."

For LaCosse, Considine and the rest of the team, the initial shock of having a strict coach with traditional values has given way to a deep respect. They know that the lessons they're learning on the diamond will last well past their playing days.

"Discipline helps you stay with something if you're struggling because you know it's going to get better, so you want to push yourself," LaCosse said. "It definitely works."

The two teammates laugh when Considine says of Ryan, "He definitely takes his job very seriously."

Then he grows more serious and adds, "But that's what you look for in a coach."

LaCosse nods at that. "His heart's definitely in the right place."

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