The Crystal Lake South football team's season finale at West Chicago on Friday will be the final game of coach Chuck Ahsmann's seven-year tenure as head coach, he told his team Monday.
Ahsmann, a 54-year-old physics teacher, has successfully battled a rare form of cancer, marginal zone lymphoma, a form of immunocytoma, since his diagnosis at the age of 33.
The life expectancy for those diagnosed with that form of cancer is normally 10 years, but Ahsmann has survived and thrived, thanks to specialized chemotherapy treatments received at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center in Madison, Wis. After a 15-year break between chemotherapy sessions, Ahsmann required treatment again in 2014, when his blood counts lowered.
The father of three college-aged children said Monday he feels healthy and he intends to stay that way, which is why he and his wife, Ruth, made the decision before the season to eliminate from his life the inherent stress of directing a high school football program.
"We made the decision that this season would be my last because, really, I needed to look out for myself and my family," Ahsmann said. "The time and effort that you expend putting into a season as head coach is tremendous and it was starting to affect me.
"I feel good now. I know things in the future will probably go back to where they were and I need to protect myself and extend my time as long as I can."
Ahsmann said the decision was only reaffirmed after the season opener, when the Gators dropped a 45-31 decision to McHenry. Ruth met Chuck on the field after the game as she always has, but something worried her.
"She was bawling. I could see the concern in her face at that time that she was really worried about me," Ahsmann said. "She just knew I looked tired. You spend so much time preparing for an opponent and making sure everything is ready. At the end, win or lose, there is a little feeling of relief that portion is over, but that's not what this was. She saw the exhaustion in me and I think her worries came out in the form of tears.
"I'm blessed to have three great kids and they're worried about me as well. Selfish isn't a word we use a lot as coaches, but it's time for me to be a little more selfish."
Ahsmann's legacy at CL South is one of stability. After former coach and athletic director Jim Stuglis was terminated and later convicted of a felony for misappropriating public funds, Ahsmann, who to that point had been an assistant football coach in District 155 for 26 years and with the CL South football program for 10 years, stepped in as head coach and kept the football program on a winning track. His teams made the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, extending the school's streak of consecutive postseason berths to 12.
Though the Gators (2-6) have been eliminated from the playoffs this fall, they reached the postseason in four of Ahsmann's seven years as coach. He enters his final game with a 42-28 record (a .660 winning percentage).
"Things in public schools go in cycles," he said. "We had a really nice, long up cycle and suffered a bit lately, but the sophomore class hasn't lost a game in two years. That bodes well for success in the future."