Nominate a deserving person for our Winter Supporting Cast
Kansas Pregame & Nex-Tech Wireless are joining forces to recognize the individuals behind the scenes who help area school sports teams achieve success. Administrators, team managers, assistant coaches, booster club members & more.
Jude Stecklein, Sylvan-Lucas
After 46 years of service as a coach, administrator, and educator, Sylvan-Lucas Unified’s Jude Stecklein decided to call it a career at the end May, and his retirement is well-deserved.
Starting his career at Oberlin High School in 1976, Stecklein spent eight years as an English and P.E. teacher at OHS before moving on to Sylvan Grove in 1984 to take over as the high school principal and head boys’ basketball coach.
In 1991, Stecklein worked his way into the USD #299 superintendent position, while also serving as the grade school principal at Sylvan Unified Elementary, but he was not one to stay cooped up behind a desk.
“At school he did anything that needed to be done – substituted, swept the gym floor between games, drove kids to different schools or practices, picked kids up, took kids home, etc.,” said a longtime colleague of Stecklein. “He did any job that needed to be done, for the school or the kids, without worrying whether it was under his superintendent job description or not. At the grade school and high school it was common to see him doing anything and everything, so nothing really seemed outside of his role.”
Stecklein coached the boys’ basketball team from 1984 to 2014, winning the 1A State Championship and KBCA Coach of the Year award in 1996. He later served as the head baseball coach for many years and assisted multiple other sports in his lengthy tenure.
Now he’ll look to spend more time serving as a mentor to his eight grandchildren with the assistance of his wife of more than 40 years, Rachel, and their three adult children.
Judy Hall, Southeast of Saline
After 42 years of safely busing students and athletes for Southeast of Saline, Judy Hall of Gypsum made the decision to turn in her keys at the end of the school year. She was honored and recognized by the school in May for her four decades of service.
“Judy began at Southeast of Saline 42 years ago,” Trojan boys’ basketball coach Bryson Flax said. “Everything she has done throughout her career has been for the safety and well-being of our children. She’s irreplaceable to our district. It’s difficult to find someone who is so caring and passionate about their job. It’s really not a job to her though, she genuinely loves these kids. How can someone who’s been doing it for so long, cross paths with so many people, remember all of their names and some sort of story to go along with them? That’s Judy Hall.”
Flax, who rode the bus as a student-athlete in the mid-2000s before taking over as basketball coach at SES in 2018, has taken plenty of road trips on Hall’s bus, and he, along with his team, are sure to miss Hall.
“As our guys walk onto the bus, they always greet the driver. Judy will normally give a little emotional pep talk to the boys on the way out of the parking lot. When she’s finished you tend to hear a lot of ‘thank-you’s’ and ‘love you’s’ coming from the back of the bus. As our boys exit, every one of them says ‘Thank you, Judy!’ And it never fails as she will tell them ‘good luck’ and call them all by their first names. She’s been incredible.”
Dan Balman, Hays High
Hays High’s Dan Balman first took at turn as a public address announcer at Pawnee Heights High School in Rozel, Kan., in 1983. After wrapping up his own football practice, he announced junior high football, and a personal passion project took off for the then teenager.
In 2003 at Hays High, he began announcing football, men’s and women’s soccer, swimming, and basketball. He also announced softball until 2016, baseball until 2013, and Hays High track from 2003-2007. And he’s picked up the microphone to announce wrestling meets, dance and cheer routines, marching band, and school dances. He also has recently been asked to announce volleyball.
“Dan Balman is an absolute professional at his craft and a champion for all kids,” Hays High football coach Tony Crough said. “He does more behind the scenes than most do in front, receives little credit for it, and never asks for any attention.”
Aside from being the “Voice of the Indians,” Balman also serves as a social studies and video productions teacher .
“I have been the PA voice for the Hays High Indians going into my 20th year,” Balman said. “I love every minute I get to be behind the mic because I get to see the best student-athletes in the best seat in the house.”
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