Jerry Schilf looks to end his long Benet Academy softball coaching career on a high note

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Benet Academy head softball coach Jerry Schilf has spent over two decades in the Redwings dugout, but this spring will be his last. His final regular season home game was a celebration not only for the team’s 10-0 win against Batavia, but a day to be honored by his family, players, coaches, and alumni for all he has done for the Redwing softball program. 

“I couldn’t stop smiling. I was happy to see the girls I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Some even have children old enough to play for me so it was pretty special to see them,” said Benet Academy Softball coach Jerry Schilf. 

More than winning

Schilf started in 1997 as a varsity assistant coach, and then with JV in 1999, before taking the head reins in 2000. His coaching accolades include 11 regional titles, four sectional championships, and two super-sectional wins in 2011 and 2023. The two team state appearances resulted in third places in class 4A in 2011, and 3A in 2023. Despite the success on the diamond adding up to nearly 500 career victories, winning has never been the number one goal.

“My goal was to support the girls in any way I can by putting them in a position to compete and try to help them improve their skills as much as we can and the wins will take care of themselves,” said Schilf. 

“He’s always been the biggest supporter. He has a calming presence, no matter how I’m playing. He reminds me to keep my head in the game, and I always think he’ll pick me up if I’m playing bad. If I’m playing well, he gives me compliments, and is just my biggest supporter,” said Benet Academy centerfielder Nina Pesare. 

Schilf also had support from his family, with his wife Tracy, son Jacob, and daughter Sam attending as many games as possible.  

“There’s a picture of the three of us together in 2011 with Sam as a kid holding my leg and Jacob as a kid. We had a goal to take that picture and turn it into reality and we did,” said Schilf.

That goal turned into reality with his kids joining the Redwing athletic family. Jacob played for the Benet baseball team, while Schilf had the pleasure of coaching Sam on the varsity softball team for three seasons. Sam played Softball since she was seven years old, and had her dad at her side as a coach during her career, which included regional championship seasons in 2021 and 2022 with the Redwings. They have been able to remain in close contact with Sam continuing her softball career at North Central College, where she just finished her sophomore season as a second team All-Conference pitcher. 

“I learned so much from him, he taught me how to pitch. I remember pitching with him in the front yard against this huge net and I always hit his ankles. I wouldn’t be the person or the player that I am today without him,” said Jerry Schilf’s daughter, Sam Schilf. 

“It was special. After every game, we talked and critiqued about how she can do better and she was very supportive to the team,” said Schilf. 

Softball household

For the past twenty years, it has been mostly,  eat, sleep, and softball in the Schilf household.

“He’ll come back home and he’ll still be working on the next game and what he’ll do for practice. I know how much he loves coaching and how much he loves softball, but I know this is time to end coaching and pass the torch to someone else,” said Sam. 

After this season, Schilf will turn to Janet Royal to lead the charge next season. Royal played for Schilf and served as an assistant before taking a co-head coaching role with Benet this season to help ease the transition. 

“The last thing I wanted to do was leave her with a team struggling and we’ve had years where we were struggling. So, the expectations are to continue to be successful and have Janet take what she learned and use it in her own way and she’s learned a lot,” said Jerry. 

A chance to go out on a high note

Moving up to class 4A this season, the Redwings just picked up a fourth consecutive regional championship win over Willowbrook, and have their sights set another another shot at state. Regardless of how far the Wings fly in the playoffs, Schilf will always remember the good times, the big wins, and the celebrations he has shared with the players, coaches, and family members on the diamond. 

“I just enjoyed being in that environment and being around those kids. The losses over the year did not count, the victories did but they weren’t the most important factor, it was the friendships developed over the years that counted,” said Schilf.

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