Eagles Coach Jon VanSice Ever On The Sidelines

By Matthew Bass

This spring the Clarke County High School sports community bids farewell to a mainstay of Eagles athletics for over two decades, wrestling coach Jon VanSice, who retired following the 2023–24 season. 

Before he built the wrestling program from the ground up into a state powerhouse, Coach VanSice mentored his two boys, Kyle and Zach, in their various sports which included baseball, basketball, soccer and, of course, wrestling. But he always had time for their friends too.

It wasn’t easy for my single mother to cater to her own twin boys and their diverse extracurricular activities. So, it was normal for Coach VanSice to swing by my house on the way to Parks and Rec and take a few of us kids to the baseball fields where, glove in one hand and bat in the other, he would pound balls at us until it got dark. There were endless evening sessions of soft-toss batting practice in his garage, soccer out front, and pickup basketball at the Rec Center. All of this in between shuttling us to practice after practice, all seasons of the year.

Thus, there was Coach VanSice manning the sidelines, at least as an assistant coach, for most of the important, memorable games of my youth: the undefeated rec soccer season; the 7th grade boys’ basketball championship win at the buzzer over Daniel Morgan; and the Clarke County varsity boys’ baseball team beating future MLB Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander on his home field. It didn’t hurt to have Kyle as part of the former two, and Zach the latter. 

To those who know him and have seen his teams in action, it is no surprise that Coach VanSice was often on the sidelines to witness his athletes enjoy success. Tough, fair, demanding, understanding, patient, diligent, prepared and, above all, competitive — those are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of Coach VanSice. His athletes go hard, give it their all, and do not quit. And they do so respectfully and always with a spirit of true sportsmanship.

Recently, as I griped about the busy spring schedule of kids’ sports to a friend (because I don’t always have the patience of Coach VanSice; sorry, Jon!), they asked me: “Why do you coach?” The simple answer is that the coaches in my life, Jon VanSice chief among them, made a lifelong impression on me because of their selfless dedication to making our community better by developing its greatest resource — its youth.

So, it is suitable and satisfying (inevitable, even) that I often find my teams competing against teams coached by former athletes influenced by Coach VanSice. I know they echo the sentiment that carrying on his legacy of coaching youth sports for future generations is a tremendous honor.

As Coach VanSice and other inspirational institutional figures like him hand over the reins to the next generation, we, your former athletes, salute your service to our community. The least we can do is try our best to pass on what you have taught us about sports and about life.Congratulations, Coach Jon VanSice, on a well-deserved retirement. We all know you’ll still be on the sidelines.