Three inducted into FCHS Athletic HOF
By John Estridge, Sports Editor
It was uncertain whether Jeff Siebert would be present at the annual Franklin County High School Hall of Fame program Friday night, May 10.
The reason was one of those reasons why Siebert was being inducted into the HOF: He is a dedicated coach.
On Thursday, May 9, the FCHS girls tennis team was scheduled to play in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference tournament held at Greensburg. First rounds were scheduled for Thursday after school with finals on Saturday. (See related article).
However, it rained Thursday, and the tennis tournament was postponed until Friday, meaning Siebert would have a tough time making it to the program. He called the person introducing him, former assistant coach Rodney Grubbs, saying he (Siebert) was in a traffic jam on Interstate 74 due to an accident.
But Siebert did make the program, and his wit and his insight were much appreciated. He along with Kara Feller Wooley and Brian Bischoff entered the FCHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Kara Feller Wooley
Legendary girls basketball coach Jon Hancher introduced his former player, Kara Feller Wooley.
Hancher talked about how athletic Wooley was even as a freshman. She had 86 steals on the season. The team was playing in its first game of the sectional, and not long after tipoff, Feller crumpled to the floor with an ACL tear.
“About 30 seconds into the sectional game; however, she was laying, whining about her knee. Coach (Teen) McMillin and I went down, checked it out, and all she had was a torn ACL,” Hancher said. “At halftime, she had them tape her knee up, and she told me 'I'm ready to go in.' I looked down and told Kara 'I believe you, but maybe both of your feet should be pointing forward.'”
Without Wooley, the Lady Wildcats lost the game.
While a sophomore, the Lady Wildcats won the first basketball sectional in FCHS history by beating Greensburg in the championship game. Hancher said he really enjoyed defeating Greensburg. They lost in the regional at Seymour.
In her junior year, the basketball team went undefeated in the regular season and went to the final four where they lost to eventual state champion Indianapolis Cathedral. It was a put-back at the buzzer that won it for Cathedral.
When Wooley reached the stage, she thanked everyone for her award.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” Wooley said. “I'm really flattered to receive such an honorable recognition tonight with so many amazing eligible athletes.”
She thanked Hancher and told the crowd “The love and the knowledge he has of the game is contagious, and I want to thank you for everything you've done.”
She then talked about her coaches starting with McMillin. She had him in both basketball and soccer.
“I've never met anybody so meticulous and organized and so motivational,” Wooley said. “He even had little inspirational quotes he would give us after practices and after you would be running all these sprints and stuff.”
McMillin had a saying that Wooley still has trouble living by: “If you're not 15 minutes early, you're late.”
“I struggled with that in high school, and to be honest with you, Teen, I still struggle with that,” Wooley said.
She also thanked George Smith, Tim Buckler, Tom Schienbein and Bill Campbell, all former coaches.
“They taught so many characteristics on and off the field like respect and dedication,” Wooley said.
She thanked her parents. According to Wooley, being a parent she now knows the sacrifices her parents, Ron and Cathy Feller, made to take her to all of her athletic practices and events. Wooley said they were her first coaches. She also thanked her grandparents for attending her games. She also thanked the community.
“It's so nice to have all that support when you're out there playing,” she said.
She also thanked her teammates. She named three former teammates who are also in the athletic hall of fame: Whitney Gillman, Miranda Eckerle Rauch and Amber McMillin Orozco.
“They were so competitive, and they brought out the best in each other,” Wooley said.
According to Wooley, sometimes practices were more competitive than actual games were.
“I couldn't have done any of this without them,” Wooley said.
A gifted athlete, Wooley enjoyed several sports as a youth. However, when she went from middle school to high school, she found she had to pick three sports.
“Logically thinking like any eighth grader, I said 'I'm going to pick my sports on their outfits,'” Wooley said. “I was a tomboy, so I said 'we're not doing tennis: I didn't want to wear a skirt.' Track, the shorts were a little too short for me. And I didn't want to wear spandex for volleyball so that's how I came up with soccer, basketball and softball. I guess it worked out.”
She told the seniors in the audience and all the rest of the athleteswho were there, because it was also senior awards night, to understand how fast time flies.
“Enjoy every minute; enjoy every practice and every game because your youth, your health and your ability to play sports are not guaranteed.”
She thanked the athletic department and the school for the night. She finished the night with a quote from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.
“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
Basketball: She was All Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference on three occasions and the EIAC MVP in 2002. She has the most steals in a career, 327; most steals in a single season, 105; most steals in a single game, 12; highest free throw percentage in a season, 83 percent; most free throws consecutively made, 16; highest 3-point field goal percentage in a season, 41 percent; second in career points, 1,107; second in career assists, 245.
Softball: She was three times All Conference, Academic All-State Honors in 2002; She was second in school history for doubles on a season. She also had a .484 batting average for a season.
Soccer: She was two times All Conference. She won Academic All-State Honors in 2000. And teams she was on won sectional, regional and semistate titles.
Venerable coach Brice Sayne introduced Brian Bischoff.
“I've had the honor and the blessing to coach great athletes throughout the years at Franklin County High School,” Sayne said. “This young man is one of them.”
Sayne explained Bischoff was the first athlete in FCHS history to play on two all star teams in one year, football and baseball.
“What I would like to talk about is working with Brian as a coach,” Sayne said. “He didn't need a lot of motivation. He was super competitive when he came in. He always loved to win. He had that burning desire to be the best at whatever he did be it sports, whether it was academics: whatever it was, he always wanted to win.
“He and his fellow teammates made each other better,” Sayne said. “They knew if they played together as a team, they would all be successful. Great athletes surround each other, play together as a team, and they would all be successful. They knew if they were successful as a team, the individual accolades would come later.”
As an example, Sayne told a story about Bischoff's freshman year and the freshman football team was unbeaten. Bischoff was the team's quarterback. Bischoff also worked at the Mounds Restaurant. Just before the conference championship game with East Central, Bischoff had a bad cut on his finger, Sayne described it as Bischoff cut the end of his finger off.
The coaches were upset, but they asked former athletic director Todd Sacksteder, who was a freshman at the time, to step in as quarterback, and the team won the game.
Now, Sayne and Bischoff are next door neighbors.
“I get to shout at him when he's on his mower all the time,” Sayne said. “He comes over, and we talk a lot. One of the things that I really appreciate a lot: when he addresses me, he still calls me sir. You don't know how that makes me feel. Makes me feel very appreciative of you and all the kids I coached along the way.”
“What an incredible honor for me to be here tonight to receive this award,” Bischoff said.
He thanked his former classmate Doug Deters who nominated him for the award. He also thanked the school corporation, administrators, school boards, faculty and staff as well as coaches past and present, his parents, Steve and Cheryl Bischoff, and his family.
Bischoff also thanked specific coaches who instructed him during his high school years: Greg Moe, Kent Grider, Steve Wewe, Gene Stewart and Tom Jonas in football. In basketball, it was Tom Schienbein, Charles Sprague and Jeff Siebert. And in baseball, it was the late Jim Hughes he thanked.
“One of the reasons I'm here tonight is because the coaches I have mentioned,” Bischoff said. “One of the many reasons we are able to participate in high school athletics is because the many coaches who give countless hours of their time, their guidance and most importantly, their patience. Coaches give all of us the opportunity to go out and perform not only for ourselves and our teammates but for the school and the community.
“The second reason I'm standing here tonight is my second family,” Bischoff said. “When I talk about my second family, I talk about my teammates. I say this because you are with them as much as your real family. You win together, and you lose together. You laugh together, cry together, sweat together, bleed together and at times, fight one another. But when they're gone, you miss them just like a real family member.”
Bischoff said many times people put themselves before the team.
“This award may be an individual award, but without a great family like I had to help me along the way, this would never have been possible,” Bischoff said. “So, I would like to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I miss you all. When I look at this award, I won't think back about any one thing I did, but all the good times we had as a team.”
Bischoff read a quote from Raiders football coach and former announcer Jon Gruden.
“I got a lot of the greatest values in life from playing sports, from playing football – teamwork, sportsmanship, my work ethic, resiliency, dedication – I got it all by being on a team.”
Bischoff also had words for the youth in the audience.
“You can't achieve greatness, overcome obstacles, you can't move forward and achieve success without those around you, your teammates,” Bischoff said. “Embrace them. Love them. Watch out for them, because at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, it's you and them responsible for the outcome. Not your parents, not the fans and not the refs, just the team.”
He once again thanked everyone who helped him along the way by giving him the opportunities to succeed.
“It was and still is greatly appreciated,” Bischoff said.
He also used a Vince Lombardi quote.
“Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
Football: He was on the 1991 south all-star team. He was the 1990 EIAC MVP. He was on the Richmond Palladium-Item all-area first team in 1990. He was also a three-time letter winner in football.
Baseball: He was on the Richmond Palladium-Item all-area first team in 1991. He was a baseball south all-star in 1991. He was named the FCHS team MVP. He was a three time letter winner in baseball.
Collegiately: He was the starting safety for the University of Evansville as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior and a senior, he was the starting forward on the Indiana University East basketball team.
Former assistant tennis coach and Franklin County's Mr. Pickleball Rodney Grubbs introduced Jeff Siebert.
According to Grubbs, while Siebert coached other sports, tennis was his passion.
“He went after his passion,” Grubbs said. “His passion for many years was tennis.”
Grubbs said Siebert was a great high school tennis player at BHS.
According to Grubbs, Siebert really bonded with his players during bus trips. He would tell ridiculous, silly and stupid riddles.
The only thing not allowed on the bus was country music, Grubbs said
But he also worked his players hard.
“Kids that went through his programs were very, very happy that they went through it,” Grubbs said. “They knew at the end of the year, they were a lot better than they were at the start of it. And they knew they were a lot better because of coach Siebert.
Also, Siebert started summer tennis camps for the younger players. Some of the camps sported 70-80 participants.
Siebert said he did not want to coach after he graduated college and went into teaching.
He was playing many different sports. He wanted to spend time with his family.
But when he started teaching at Laurel, he was wrangled into coaching. At first, it was intramural sports. Then, he started coaching more.
And now he’s glad he did. Siebert said coaching sports got him out of his comfort zone: doing paperwork and dealing with parents, and it is important for people to get out of their comfort zones, he said.
“I don’t know how many young people we have here tonight, but I would emphasize to you to take a chance and get out of your comfort zones because rewards can be great.
“The worse thing that can happen is that you can fail,” he continued. “Just like Thomas Edison failed over and over again until he got it correct. And if he hadn’t, we’d be sitting here in the dark.”
Siebert said many people had a great influence on him. Most of them are coaches. But the people who had the greatest influence on him were his parents.
“My athletic career got started with my dad,” Siebert said. “We played table tennis.”
While in elementary school, his dad regularly won the games. By high school, he was able to beat his dad.
“He always had a good personality about himself,” Siebert said. “He was a good winner and a good loser, and I think he passed that on to me.”
Also, while in high school Siebert hit many tennis balls against the wall of the locker room down by the swimming pool.
He said while he enjoyed athletics and wanted to do well in athletics, his parents did not pressure him about athletics.
“I think that’s one of the reasons I really enjoy them today,” he said.
His coaches who were influential in his life went back to Little League, Paul Waltz and Whitey Merrill. Siebert was on the Indians
“Whitey Merrill took me under his wing,” Siebert said. “He used to call me slugger.”
Siebert said he was little, so he really didn’t slug the ball.
“But he always had a smile on his face and a good word for me,” Siebert said.
The tennis program at BHS started his sophomore year. Larry Harvey was his first coach.
“Larry Harvey was a very strict disciplinarian and either you hated him or you loved him,” he said.
Siebert was in the latter club.
“Other than my parents, he was the most influential person in my life,” he said.
Another coach was Ken Handley. He was an intramural coach with Siebert at Laurel.
Then, Handley was an assistant basketball coach at Laurel while Siebert was the head coach.
“We worked very well with each other,” he said.
Next was Tom Schienbein. They worked together on the first boys basketball team at FCHS.
“I respect him a lot, and he’s a tremendous coach himself,” Siebert said.
Then came tennis. He spoke first of Jack Froman. Froman went on to start the tennis program at Batesville High School. They did the first summer camp together.
Next was Grubbs. He talked about how he brought his sons over and they practiced while Grubbs helped. Grubbs’ sons played college tennis and are now very successful high school tennis coaches.
John Ingerman has been an assistant to Siebert for many years and is currently the assistant coach. He took over the BHS program in 1972.
“He’s great with kids and has a great personality,” Siebert said.
Siebert won seven sectional championships with his boys tennis teams. He won 11 sectional championships and three regional championships in the girls tennis program.
He had undefeated teams in 2005, 2007 and 2018. He was named the 2005 District Coach of the Year.
In boys tennis, his record was 167-125 and in girls tennis, his record is 237-100.