Catching up with local athletes amid COVID-19: Jake Stechschulte

By: 
Seth Kinker
Sports Editor

*This article appears in the Jun. 4 edition of The Community Post with photos submitted by Jake Stetchschulte and taken by Deborah Fish

Sports are on hold around the country as COVID-19 is being addressed. In the upcoming weeks, The Community Post will be checking in with local athletes and coaches that continued their athletic careers after high school and how COVID-19 is effecting them in their respective sport.

This week, The Community Post caught up with Minster alum Jake Stechschulte. 

Stechschulte, a 2016 graduate, played football, basketball and ran track and field for the Wildcats and just graduated from Ohio State University with a history and social studies teaching degree this spring. 

A year after graduation from high school and while at Ohio State, Stechschulte got an opportunity to be an assistant coach with the Upper Arlington Golden Bears, a division one high school boys’ basketball team located northwest of Columbus, and has been with the program ever since.

As Stechschulte now enters a year of graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in integrated social studies education, he’ll continue working with the Golden Bears. 

Basketball-centric 

Basketball has always been a part of Stechschulte life. 

From shooting hoops in the driveway as a young kid to being in the gym while his mom, two-time state champion and 27-year head coach of Minster girls basketball Nann Stechschulte, coached the Lady Wildcats during practice, basketball was a constant. 

“When I was really young my mom would take me to her practices and I remember watching practice, sitting there watching and not really thinking much about the game,” said Stechschulte in an over the phone interview. “But I feel like that laid the groundwork for me. Just being around basketball all the time and enjoying it so much, playing and now coaching.” 

Stechschulte didn’t necessarily know he wanted to be a coach from the get-go, but he knew he wanted to be involved with the sport in some capacity whether that be coaching or training.

During his first couple of years at Ohio State, Stechschulte was wrestling with a question all college attendees ask at one point or another, “what do I want to do?” 

Coaching was something that kept him close to basketball which had him interested in teaching with how the two pair together at the high school level. Stechschulte was also considering business or finance but by the end of his sophomore year he figured out he enjoyed history and social studies and wanted to become a teacher.  

“Learning (those subjects) comes easier to me as opposed to business and finance classes,” said Stechschulte. “I always knew I wanted to be a social studies and history teacher if I were to teach, I love those subjects. They intrigue me, I love learning about them and I’m pretty darn sure I’m going to love teaching them.” 

With Stechschulte’s interest in coaching, he got some advice from his former football coach at Minster, Geron Stokes, near the end of high school. Stokes knew of Stechschulte’s interest in coaching and advised him to pursue that interest. 

“I took that advice to heart,” said Stechschulte. “I started coaching a year after high school and right when I started coaching I knew it was for me. I love teaching the game and I think there’s a special thing about coaching when you start to spend time and you get more invested in a program, into a culture, into a school and into the kids themselves.”

In addition to the advice to pursue that coaching itch, Stokes knew a friend of Tim Casey, the head coach at Upper Arlington. With a wealth of knowledge on the coaching staff to learn from and a close proximity to Ohio State’s campus, it was a perfect fit. 

Stokes’ friend, Centerville boys basketball head coach Brook Cupps, helped Stechschulte land an interview with Casey and he’s been an assistant with the program since his sophomore year of college. 

Over the past few years, Stechschulte has earned more and more responsibilities within the program. At first, it was out of the frying pan and into the friar. 

“Right when I started coaching I remember distinctly on my first day, just standing there on the first drill and being like, ‘I really don’t know what to say,’” said Stechschulte. “That’s another thing I learned over time, when to say stuff, playing off of the head coach and what he’s talking about.”

 “There was a big learning curve with the program,” added Stechschulte. “The program itself, the coaches, getting to be on the same page as them. Using the same terminology and knowing the plays. The plays, that was another big part of it, Casey has more or less 30 plays, I learned all of those plays on top of college and everything else. Not only did I learn about the program and how it works but I also got to know each kid and what drives them.”

On a graphic released last week by Upper Arlington’s basketball team on social media introducing the coaching staff, Stechschulte lists Nann as his favorite basketball coach. 

With only a few years of coaching under his belt we know there are many more ahead, but The Community Post asked Stechschulte if he’s noticed any similarities in coaching style between the two and although he said their coaching styles might differ, their desire to win is second to none. 

“My family would always joke around if the Lady Wildcats lost, ‘stay out of the way of mom because she won’t be very happy when she gets home,’” said Stechschulte. “There’s sometimes after losses where I’m just so mad, just ridiculously mad and I just start laughing to myself thinking about how this is exactly how my mom reacted when I was little watching her walk in the house mumbling under her breath. I’m doing the same damn thing all these years later and I'm like, ‘what is going on?’ 

COVID-19

When the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down things across the country at the beginning of March, the season had already ended for Upper Arlington. 

That meant spring break for Stechschulte and while he was down in Florida, many states began to institute protocols to help slow the spread. 

By the time he got back to Columbus, students had already been sent home. With the news that the rest of semester would be done online, Stechschulte went with family down to his grandparents’ house in South Carolina to relax on the beach for a couple of weeks. 

“It’s kind of a running joke for all the college kids, we went off on spring break and never came back,” said Stechschulte.

Stechschulte’s college commencement was spent with his mom and dad at home in their living room and while he understood the necessary precautions were being made, it was still an abrupt end to his college career. 

“I was looking forward to having a commencement and seeing my family come down to Columbus and spend a day together,” said Stechschulte. “I understand the online commencement was necessary to keep everyone safe but I was bummed out. It stinks. A lot of college seniors, even high school seniors too, the graduating class of 2020, it's difficult. We sacrificed something for the betterment of society to not have our commencement or last day of school.” 

“I had a few friends in classes I’m just not going to see again,” added Stechschulte.  “I wish I had gotten their numbers or contact information so I could, but it’s just not going to happen that way anymore. I wish I would've had some closure with some people, I wanted to thank my teachers too. That won’t get to happen.” 

Coaching wise, Upper Arlington would normally be meeting five times a week, even during the offseason. 

As a result of the pandemic, the program has been staying connected via Zoom calls. But with restrictions lifting recently, the team may be able to start four-man workouts soon, although there are still some questions to be answered when it comes to getting back to normal.

“It’s interesting because the state says you can go back but the school district has to agree on certain parameters and how they need to be met,” said Stechschulte. “That’s something I’ll play by ear but its effected our program like everyone else.”

Stechschulte acknowledged it was tough not being able to get together to work as a team. He touched on losing out on the simple aspects of dapping each other up and saying ‘let’s go to work,’ before a practice begins and the camaraderie that is built as a team comes together to work towards a common goal. 

“I’ve been telling them, ‘make sure you’re working hard,’” said Stechschulte. “’This may not feel like it but whatever year you’re on, it's coming up, it's going to be here soon. Keep it all in perspective, look at this as more or less an opportunity to outwork people.’ If I had to guess, most high schoolers are sitting around not working out because it’s a pandemic, you can't go outside or to the park. If you have weights at home or a basket outside, this is a great time to home in on your fundamentals. Your shot. Shooting free throws. Most people aren’t doing anything, if you’re giving a little more effort it can go a long way in the time like this.”

And at the same time, he was cognizant of looking beyond the basketball court. 

“I try and text or call a player every week,” said Stechschulte. “Just staying in contact asking them about things other than basketball, that’s what I’ve tried to do. People probably need that these days. Just a simple text, ‘hey, hope you’re doing well.’”