Schaal brought stability to Grayslake Central football
There has been little change in recent years with Grayslake Central's football program, which hasn't had a winning season since 2011, and that's big.
A big man, Jason Schaal, will tell you so.
"When I got the job (in 2014) I was their third head coach in four years and there was a lot of bouncing around within the coaching staff," said Schaal, who replaced Ben Ault (two years as head coach), who replaced Nick Goshe (five years), who replaced Mike Munda (two years), who replaced Vito Andriola (four years). "One of the first goals I had was I wanted to bring stability within the staff."
So while Schaal, the Rams' sixth head coach this century, submitted his resignation the week of Thanksgiving after just six wins in five seasons, consider it a loss. A different kind.
"Our core group of 11 coaches were the same the entire time," Schaal said, proudly. "It wasn't a new system here, it wasn't a new system there, and I think that really helped the players in their development. When you're hearing the same message continually, over and over, that's going to help you grow and help you understand more. It's not a mixed message."
What has changed for Schaal is the size of his kids. Courtney is 7, and Jason Jr. is 5. They need Daddy. Daddy needs them.
"I remember fishing trips with my dad and my grandfather, and my son hasn't been on any yet," Schaal said. "So it's time to take him and get him in a boat."
Since 2014, Schaal has served as head coach of both the football and softball teams at Grayslake Central. It's the only life he and his wife, Renee, have known as a married couple. A man who has always preached "family first" to his staff and players, knew the time was now for him to drop one of the gigs.
"It was just too much on her this year," said Schaal, who will continue to coach the softball team, while also serving as GC's life fitness department chair. "I talked to a few coaches and they said they missed their kids growing up. They missed this, or they missed that, and I didn't want to have that happen. I got 12 more years maybe of time with my kids growing up before they become young adults."
Time flies when your kids are growing up, but time stands still when you're enduring losing seasons. Only Goshe (2010, 2011), Andriola (2003) and Bill Johnson (1989, 1990) have coached the Rams to playoff berths. Schaal's first two teams went winless. During a time when football keeps losing young players, in large part due to concussion concerns, Grayslake Central has managed to retain most of its players while picking up new ones.
That, too, was a priority for Schaal when he took over. The Rams boasted 28 seniors in 2017, more than the class produced freshman year. The 12 seniors this season were only two fewer than they number of kids who came out as freshmen.
"I wanted to do the best we could to grow the numbers in the program," Schaal said. "Our numbers were down this year compared to last year, but the retention of the players has been solid throughout each class."
In the meantime, until GC finds Schaal's replacement, the former head coach still acts as head coach.
"In my email to the parents of the 2019 kids, I said to them, 'I'm not hands-off," Schaal said. "I said, 'It's still my job to help with the college recruiting if you'd like me to.' College coaches are coming in, and it's still my job to (help), and I'm going to do it. I'm going to help with the transition when the new guy comes in."
Consider it a win for the Rams.
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