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South Elgin football coach Dale Schabert pulled the trigger last week on a decision he said he had been contemplating for months: his retirement from coaching.
Schabert informed members of his staff last Thursday night and broke the news to the incoming senior class on Friday morning that he is stepping down as South Elgin coach, effective immediately.
"Nothing's wrong and nobody's sick or anything like that," Schabert assured Monday. "It's just something I've been thinking about for a while now. I used to always ask other coaches who have stepped down how they knew it was time. They said, short answer, you'll just know. And they were right.
"I've been fortunate to do something I love for 33 years. It's the next guy's turn."
Schabert retires with a career record of 89-85 in seven seasons at South Elgin and 11 seasons at Larkin. He spent 13 years prior to that as an assistant coach at Dundee High School, Elgin and Larkin.
A Larkin and Northern Illinois graduate, Schabert is the architect of the South Elgin football program, building it from its inception as a junior varsity squad in 2005.
The Storm finished 0-9 without the benefit of seniors in their inaugural varsity season in 2006, but the program has since gone 28-29, highlighted by back-to-back playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010. South Elgin finished 4-5 each of the last two seasons against a difficult schedule.
The retiring coach made his announcement on the final day of the first session of South Elgin's summer camp.
"There's never a perfect time for this," said Schabert, who will teach Physical Education and Health for three more years until retirement. "But I think this is a good time to get out of the way and let one of the younger coaches get a shot the same way someone moved aside a long time ago so I could get a shot. Watching our young coaches work with our players this summer, you can see how enthusiastic they are and how well the kids respond. One of them deserves a chance to see what he can do."
The announcement did not come as a surprise to South Elgin athletic director Jason Ward, who Schabert warned in early June about the possibility of his retirement.
"We're extremely sad that coach Schabert is going out," Ward said Monday when reached on vacation. "Now we need a new coach. Like tomorrow. Fortunately, we have some great candidates in-house on our coaching staff. There are two guys I know for sure will be looking at the job. Both are great coaches who would bring fresh blood to the program so we should be OK."
Schabert, who also coached softball and track during his career, arrived at South Elgin in 2005 after coaching 21 seasons at Larkin, the final 11 as head coach. He led the Royals to seven playoff appearances, highlighted by a 1999 Class 6A quarterfinal appearance with a team that finished 9-3. Schabert's Larkin squads went 61-47.
"I've been at this for 33 years, longer than most of my staff has been alive," Schabert quipped. "I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish through the years. I feel we've built a good program here at South Elgin that never shies away from a challenge. I hope someone within the program gets (the job) and builds on what we've done."