In my 9 years coaching at Loyola, our teams have had a great deal of success. Between swimming and water polo, Rambler squads have won multiple Catholic League and Sectional Championships, took 4th place at State in both swimming and polo, took 2nd and 3rd place trophies in water polo in and most recently won the water polo State Championship. This is obviously due to great kids and great parents. I have had great polo assistants helping me over the years and we have had outstanding swimming head coaches and assistants throughout. With high school sports, attrition comes with the territory. We get an entirely new group of kids every 4 years, and coaches come and go. When I look back at my 9 years at Loyola, I feel lucky that I have actually had a constant through-line over the last 7 years. His name is Patrick Stein.
I will never forget the first day I met Patrick, it was in November of 2007. I asked him to do a nice easy 200 yard warm up. Young Patrick did nothing short of sprint the whole thing. I knew right then and there we had a winner and a future leader. Clearly my request to do the warm-up ‘easy’ fell on deaf ears, as to this day Patrick has never taken anything easy, and had always given 110% in all endeveours. In the Spring of Patrick’s freshman year, we won our first JV Catholic League Polo Title in 21 years. For being new to the sport, he sure didn’t look like it, scoring 15 goals in 19 games and was a coach’s dream on defense. Sophomore year, Patrick took a leadership role on the JV Polo team, and was the definition of a ‘Leader by Example.’ He was the hardest worker on the team, held himself and his teammates accountable and was nothing short of amazing in the pool, scoring 87 of the team’s 250 goals, while also leading the team in ejections drawn and assists. Patrick had a great swim season as well. Patrick, along with Danny Stauder, Brendan Husleman and Patrick Rahill set a Frosh/Soph school record in the 400 Free Relay that still stands as the Loyola Record 5 years later.As a junior, Patrick continued to grow as an athlete, but more importantly as a leader. I can honestly say that every single member of our current swimming and water polo teams have benefited from Patrick’s dedication to the weight room. Patrick led the way as our teams took to the weight program like never before. He pushed his teammates, and mentored those younger than him. The ‘Crush It’ spirit has never changed since, and we have Patrick to thank for that enthusiasm and hard work. At the 2010 JV Conference Championship, Patrick showed what hard work can do as he simply dominated the meet. He won the 200 Freestyle (1:52.32) the 100 freestyle (50.39) and his 200 and 400 Freestyle Relays not only won, they remain Conference Meet Records to this day. Patrick then took his leadership and speed to water polo season, and didn’t disappoint. Patrick was a starter, 4th on the team with 29 goals and helped lead Loyola to a Sectional Championship and a bid to the State Tournament for the first time in 3 years. Patrick was named captain of both the swimming and water polo teams for the 2011 season and had developed into what we as coaches want from all of our athletes; hardworking, unselfish, a Man for Others.
It often amazes me when these fine young men at Loyola teach me a thing or two about life. As a coach, you do your best to teach life lessons through the medium of sport, but sometimes they are taught to you. As we all know, Patrick Stein’s life changed forever in the fall of 2010. From that moment on, Patrick has taught me more about hard work, dedication and never giving up than any other human being or individual life experience ever could. Patrick has taught everyone that we should take nothing for granted, taught his teammates and coaches that having wonderful experiences through sport is a privilege that has been given to us, and most importantly that the words “I Can’t” or “I Give Up” are simply unacceptable. His positive attitude is contagious and continues to serve as an inspiration to our Rambler athletes, and anyone who has met this warrior.
In 2011, I watched a swim team rally behind their leader to take 4th place at State, our highest finish in 20 years. I watched a water polo team that started the season 0-5 take 3rd place at State. That historic run was no doubt initiated by Patrick’s first visit to Loyola on his water polo Senior Night. His inspirational visit was the first time all season our full team was on deck ready for battle, and they took down one of the best teams in the state in front of a packed house who knew Patrick would be in attendance. Patrick continued to attend games that season, the difficulty of which I cannot begin to comprehend, but the results of which cannot be overlooked. Patrick led us to that trophy, was present in every huddle and every team meeting, and there will be a 3rd Place State Trophy in the trophy cases at Loyola for eternity that says ‘Captain – Patrick Stein’ to commemorate his true leadership and strength.
Patrick’s positive effect on the aquatics programs did not stop there. In 2012, whenever possible Pat continued attending games to watch his teammates make another historic run, taking 2nd place at State, our highest finish since 1989. Having Patrick on our bench made the stressful situations seem calm, and in what can only be defined as a miracle, even made his crazy coach calm down a bit (insert Patrick’s infectious laugh, here.) Having Patrick at games over the last 4 years, knowing all he wants is to jump in the pool and get back to dominating the game he loves so much, inspired a group of freshmen in 2011 to lead as they were taught by their captain. They did, and they have a State Championship to show for it. Whether he believes it or not, Patrick got us there.
I can’t imagine what would be going through my mind if I was in Patrick’s shoes, yet he takes the time to ask me about our team and the players on our team every time I have the privilege to visit with him. Prior to this polo season, Patrick asked me “Is Shewchuck any good?” Pat was referring to 2014 Captain and fellow OLPH graduate Cameron Shewchuck. Steiner, the answer is yes, but I think you now know the answer to that as you were on deck for our magical State Championship Game. Cam was one of the main reasons we won a state title this year, and was named Illinois Player of the Year for his efforts. At the All-State banquet, Cameron gave a great speech thanking all of the appropriate people for helping him accomplish such great feats, but went out of his way in his speech to thank Patrick Stein for teaching him what it means to be a great teammate and a leader. Since the fall of 2007 I knew Patrick Stein would have a positive impact on our program. He has, he continues to and he will continue to inspire everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting such a fine young man. Pat, you are the strongest guy i’ve ever met. Your outlook on life is an inspiration to many, including myself. Keep fighting, brother.
Dan Hengelman Head Coach, Loyola Academy Boy’s Water Polo