For a guy who wanted to be a high school basketball coach, Dave Steinbach put together quite the tennis coaching career.
Steinbach, who has coached boys and girls tennis at Central since 1982, recently informed Don Kurth, the Lancers athletic director, he is stepping down as boys coach.
“The impact Dave Steinbach has had on Brookfield Central is hard to quantify,” Kurth said. “As a teacher, coach and mentor, Dave has taught and coached thousands of kids spanning five decades, and in 2018, he is as relevant as ever.
“His no cut tennis program has set the standard for all others. We are lucky to have had Dave lead our kids over the course of his career. He is a class act, and his presence in our boys tennis program will be missed.”
Taking a look at the depth of Steinbach’s boys teams’ accomplishments is amazing. He is the only tennis coach in Wisconsin to win 500 matches for boys and 500 matches for girls.
His boys teams compiled a 513-147 (.777) won-lost record, winning 10 Greater Metro Conference championships and four state championships. They were runner-ups six times. They also won 19 sectional titles while finishing second eight times.
On the individual front, he had 61 singles players qualify for state and 60 doubles teams.
Steinbach, who will turn 82 years old this month, explained his decision to step down from coaching the boys program at this time.
“I have to give credit to the parents and the athletes, my assistant coaches (44 over the years) and the administration over the years,” he said. “My coaching successes have been dependent on them.”
“I have many facets in my life. Coaching is the one I controlled the least. If you don’t have good players you don’t win. for example, in one of my other facets, I umpired. Nobody had more control than me. I’ve broken my life down to 10-12 tennis facets and two coaching ones – girls coaching and boys coaching.”
But obviously, Steinbach had something to do with this team’s success.
“Now the fact that we have a big program – that’s me,” he said. “I decided not to cut. So many of these kids have more talent than I had when they were 14 or 15. If someone had told me I couldn’t play tennis, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone else.”
When then athletic director Jack Charlesworth offered Steinbach the tennis coaching position in 1982, Steinbach said he had to have a non-cut program.
“I coached basketball for 17 years and I was forced to cut,” Steinbach recalled. “When Jack Charlesworth asked me to coach the boys tennis team I told me I would do it if I wasn’t forced to cut players.
“I told him it’s a lifetime sport and if I cut a player he would never play tennis again. So he agreed. The first year we had 32 kids on the team. Kids heard we weren’t going to cut and pretty soon we had 34, then 36. Then the next year I had 45. It just kept getting bigger and bigger. Once year we had 132 kids come out, but we ended with 120 – 12 didn’t finish that year.”
Steinbach points out he is the longest employed Elmbrook employee, having begun teaching at Dixon in 1960. He began coaching at Burleigh Junior High, Brookfield East’s feeder program, in 1965. Since the high schools were three-grades at the time, he coached freshman football, track and basketball.
“My real goal was to coach varsity basketball but (Laverne) Luebsdorf was at Brookfield East and he was going to be there forever and Bill Graf was at Central and he’d be there forever,” Steinbach said. “I was a good freshman (basketball) coach.
“Tennis would be my best option to be a varsity coach. I wanted to see if I could be a good varsity coach. Those two guys (Luebstorf, Graf) were entrenched and there was nothing I could do.”
Steinbach did plenty to keep busy as he also refereed football and basketball too. He also was a referee in a state championship football game.
“I was also game manager in 1982, which is like an assistant athletic director,” he said. “I did it for all the sports.”
Another reason he stepped down from coaching boys in the spring first was the weather.
“We’re leaving for Arizona and California this month,” Steinbach said. “I’ve been cutting certain facets out of my professional life. I stopped teaching tennis at UWM. I stopped officiating the Big Ten 10 years ago. I’m trying to eliminate some of the facets. Playing facets I eliminated a long time ago (he was a state-ranked player tennis in the 35 and 45 age category, but an injury stopped him from competing at 55).
“I’m eventually going to have to get out of coaching, but I didn’t want to do it all in one shot. I don’t want the program to lessen. In March I’m involved in the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament in Palm Springs. We’re always in California from end of February through March then coming back to Wisconsin in April. Well I eliminated that first.”
Other than the Grand Slams, Indian Wells is the biggest tournament in the world.
“I supervise the fitness area for the pros,” Steinbach said. “I get to see all the coaches and their pros to see what they do for their pre and post match fitness. I can bring it back to my team. They think being a good tennis player just happens in the court and not in the weight room.”
Steinbach has won 72 different awards on some level, topped off by winning the United States Professional Tennis Association Award twice (boys and girls). He also won the prestigious ‘Starfish’ Award (boys and girls) presented by the United States Tennis Association.
He was also named to the Brookfield Central Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Steinbach smiled when asked the difference between coaching boys and girls.
“The first 15 minutes of the practice,” he said. “For the girls it’s social time. You let them talk about what happened in school. Then when it’s tennis time that’s all done with. Otherwise you are going to have them talking when they should be concentrating on tennis. Most schools don’t have girls as good as we have. Brookfield Central girls are very competitive. When boys come out you’ve got to work them right away, they’re so hyped.”
Steinbach also pointed out another difference.
“Girls don’t like challenge matches,” he said. “Boys can play challenge matches and the next day they’re buddies. Girls – if they get beat – hold it. Girls would rather me tell them who they’re playing or what position they’re playing. Boys would rather say ‘let me play him and see if I can beat him or not.'”