Cambridge coach hits career milestone

Monday, February 28, 2005

When the Cambridge Trojans defeated Arapahoe Thursday night in the D1-11 sub-district boys basketball finals, Del Schoenfish reached a coaching milestone, recording the 500th victory of his career.

The achievement put Coach Schoenfish in elite company, as only two other active coaches in Nebraska are above the 500-win mark. They are Jim Morrison of Howells and Jerry Eichoff of Hampton.

So how did Schoenfish climb to such a lofty level? Is there a magical secret for his coaching success?

Not really, says Schoenfish. It's not so much magic as it is hard work, discipline and playing together as a team. It's also working with the players you have, rather than forcing the players to adapt to a single system.

After the Schoenfish-coached Trojans won the state championship last year, a dropoff was expected as Cambridge had only one starter, Waid Vontz, returning. And it was rough at the start of the year, as inexperienced players had to step up to starting roles. But they have quickly sharpened their games, lifting the Trojans to the sub-district finals against Wauneta-Palisade. That showcase game for Southwest Nebraska will be played Tuesday night at the McCook High School Gymnasium, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

"I guess you would call me old-fashioned," Schoenfish said. "We're not a flamboyant team. We stress defense and hard work and working together on both ends of the court."

Although it may not be glamourous, it has been a successful strategy, with Schoenfish's teams winning 68.8 percent of their games (500 of 726) in his 37 years of coaching.

After five years in Valentine, Schoenfish came to Cambridge in 1971 and has been there continuously since that time, coaching basketball all but two years: 1999 and 2000. Although he retired from teaching a year ago, Schoenfish continues to coach both boys basketball and boys golf. His golf teams have also achieved success, winning three state titles during his years of coaching.

So how many more coaching years -- and coaching victories -- are in Schoenfish's future? It's a question he has not yet decided. He just knows that, for now, he enjoys the part he plays in young athletes' development. "The greatest satisfaction comes from seeing your former players succeed in life. That's the purpose. That's why we, as coaches and teachers, do what we do."

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