By night, Rend Lake College’s Brian Gibson can be found cleaning campus buildings, making sure everything is ready to go for another day of college life. But during the afternoons and evenings, Gibson calls the shots on the basketball field, baseball diamond and football grid for junior high school athletes.
Gibson’s efforts and successes have at last been recognized. He recently was named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association District 21 Girls Junior High Coach of the Year.
The Sesser native is in his second year of coaching the junior high girls team at Sesser-Valier Schools. He also has coached football there for 12 years and has coached their baseball team, which is a coop program with Waltonville Schools, for five years.
This year, Gibson’s junior high girls took second place in the Class M State Tournament, which was held at Rend Lake College. The team went 21-5.
Gibson, a night-shift custodian at RLC, said he gets off work at 7:30 a.m., sleeps for a few hours and is up by 1:30 p.m. to get to practice or a game. However, he said he doesn’t mind the constant grind.
"My adrenaline gets going, so it’s not like I’m tired all the time," he said. He said his wife, Lori (a home economics teacher at Sesser-Valier), has made his situation easier by supporting him every step of the way. While he is coaching, Lori makes sure to be present at as many games as possible for their three children, Valerie, Jennifer and Kendall. Valerie and Jennifer are involved in high school sports while Kendall now plays junior high basketball.
Gibson said he was nominated for the Coach of the Year award by other coaches in Southern Illinois. "That’s what makes it so nice. A couple of guys I really respect voted for me, and that meant a lot," he said.
Gibson said he began coaching to continue the spirit of competition he had experienced during his own school sports days. He was quarterback for the Pana High School football team, where he still holds a few records.
"I could pass the ball, and we were fortunate enough to have some players who could catch the ball, so that worked out pretty well," Gibson joked.
Gibson also played college football and baseball at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisc.
"You are influencing a kid’s life," Gibson said of the coach’s role. "You have to balance discipline with rewards, or the kids don’t get anything out of the experience.
"I’m pretty fortunate," Gibson said. "I’ve just had some awesome kids. If you can get a kid to play hard, you have done your job."