PROVO — When school kids become your life, your purpose is recharged day by day. High school coaches know this truth; they live it during careers and after they hang up the whistle.
“I’ve been blessed, I really have,” said Orem High’s Greg Sheide, who will retire after four decades of coaching baseball, basketball, football, golf and tennis — both boys and girls. He also spent his professional life as a physical education teacher. In other words, the number of kids he knows is an army.
Sheide has lived the dream. He will be honored for his 40 years of service at halftime of the OHS home game Feb. 8 against rival Mountain View.
In his wake are connections with a myriad of NFL, professional baseball and collegiate stars. A few of those names include BYU tight ends Chad Lewis and Jonny Harline, receivers Bryan Rowley (Utah) and Tyler Anderson (BYU), baseball stars Gary Cooper (Astros) and Brad Eager (Mariners) and current OHS football star Puka Nacua, who is currently finishing recruiting trips to UCLA, Washington, Oregon and Utah after committing to sign at USC.
Every school has one of these guys, a likable, do-everything multitasking machine. Sheide is a Huck Finn-type — funny, chatty, part philosopher, part do-everything coach.
Greg is the brother of Gary Sheide, who led BYU football to its first bowl game in the early '70s against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I grew up in Antioch, California, and was attending Cal-State Hayward back in 1973 when I came up for BYU’s spring football practice to see my brother," Greg said, who met his wife Eldene here. "I’d never been around the mountains before and had never seen snow. Gary said I should move up here and we’d room together. He showed me there was fishing everywhere and I love to fish, so I took him up on it and have been here ever since."
In California, Sheide said his baseball, basketball and football coaches in junior high and high school inspired him. The way these men impacted his life made him want to become a coach one day.
Former OHS athletic director Steve Downey hired Greg to help him coach football and basketball in 1979. He ended up starting the girls golf program, too.
“Greg has stayed with it for 40 years,” said OHS coach Golden Holt. “Coaching is a job that doesn’t pay that much, takes a lot of time and there is pressure from parents to play their kids. It can be very tough and a lot of coaches quit after a while.”
Sheide wakes up before the sun rises. His mind is racing. His to-do list is long, always has been. He starts looking at film on his computer. He makes scouting notes on an opponent’s tendencies. He can’t wait to get to work.
“I tell the kids I love being around and talking to them. It’s all about who they’re dating, what they want to do or are excited for. It’s a lot more fun than talking to those my age where the main topics are what medications we’re taking, operations we’ve had and what hurts,” said Sheide.
Said Holt, “We’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country with our Tiger team. Myrtle Beach, Maui, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tennessee. Inevitably, at each of these faraway destinations, someone will shout out, ‘Sheide,’ and a big hug will follow. Coach Sheide will address each person by name each and every time. He’s incredible.”
Indeed, after breakfast at Orem’s Denny’s on Friday, a couple of high school kids grabbed Sheide in the lobby by the register and he was instantaneously engaged in a back-and-forth of what was up in life. Anytime he needs a plumber, electrician or his air conditioner fixed, he can call a former player and they come right over.
To kids, a coach/teacher is often seen as a rock star. Sheide fits that role because kids gravitate to him; they know he cares and loves them unconditionally. Some of the highlights off the court and field, he says, are the weddings and missionary farewells, where he is reacquainted with at least 50 former students at each event.
He is representative of hundreds of similar men and women across the state who work unselfishly and go beyond the call of their teaching certificate and assignment to connect with teens, often the most complicated among us.
“His passion for the game is non-stop. A couple of years ago he had his hip replaced. He missed a week of practice. The doctor told him to sit out three weeks,” said Holt.
“One day he came hobbling in with his walker and 30 minutes later Richard Hardward wasn’t boxing out the way Sheide wanted. So Sheide started boxing out with his walker, showing Richard how to do it. A couple of frustrating minutes later Sheide did a Bobby Knight and tossed his walker 40 feet to the side. Everyone just busted out laughing.”
Sheide tells everyone he got 34 on his ACT test, 17 the first time and 17 the second.5 comments on this story
In the coming months, after the snow melts, Greg will resume his greatest passion, fishing. He and his brother Gary, a teacher and coach at a Pleasant Grove middle school, take off for their cabin for boating and fishing in nearby lakes at a family homestead in Minnesota. They leave the last day of school and don’t return to Utah until the week before school begins in August.
This spring, this time, Greg will leave earlier and come back later.
“I look out and see a golf course right by the cabin and my Blazer all hooked up to my boat. I look at a golf cart and the boat and think of what I ought to do. I choose the boat every time.”
Well done, coach.