This month’s Unsung Hero is Watseka Warriors basketball assistant coach, Eric Starkey.
Starkey, who is set to begin his fifth year with Watseka’s varsity basketball program, had already been coaching at the junior high level when head coach Chad Cluver brought him on to aid his varsity team.
“Eric had already dedicated endless hours over the years as a teacher, guide, and role model for Watseka’s youth. At my request, he added to his already heavy schedule the responsibility of becoming an active contributor to the basketball program at the high school level. He and I met at his house to discuss aligning the ball programs in the community and his excitement about the collaboration was both reassuring and inspiring,” said Cluver.
If there are two things that Starkey knows, its the game of basketball and how to handle a packed schedule.
“There were some weeks when, in addition to his day job with the Sheriff’s Department, he’d have six to seven games in one week,” said Cluver.
“But his knowledge of the game and competitive spirit have always been invaluable. In this past season “Stark” really hit full stride at the high school level, taking an incredibly active role not only with the kids, but also giving to me constant coaching input.”
His value resonated with not just the coaching staff, but with the players as well. Recent graduate and past Watseka Warriors basketball player Blake Castonguay said Starkey’s guidance helped fuel his interest in the sport and remains an inspiration to this day.
“Coach Starkey is a very driven and dedicated coach who wants the best for all of his players,” Castonguay said.
“He has played a huge roll on each of the last four high school seasons as well as developing the junior high kids as well. He truly wants the best for the collective group and kids.”
For Starkey, it all comes with the territory of loving the game.
“What keeps me coming back is the competition,” said Starkey.
“Basketball has been my whole life between high school, college and now coaching. I love the game and we love teaching these kids.”
As with any great coach, the rewarding factor for Starkey is being able to teach his players lessons to be put to use outside of the game of basketball.
“What I take away the most is the things that you can teach these kids beyond the games aspect,” he said.
“The things we try to teach these kids the most is to work hard constantly, be good teammates and be good listeners. To me, that’s stuff they’re going to be able to take on with them and it’s been very fulfilling.”
Another rewarding factor has been able to share his love for the game with his kids and being able to be there with them through it all.
“A big part of why I enjoy this so much has been with my kids growing up, I’m now able to be with them at practices and with their involvement I can share with them what I love doing.”