Congratulations to Coach Sara Schwendinger on earning the 2023 IHSAA Character Counts Coach of the Year! The honor is presented jointly through the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the Robert D. & Billie Ray Center at Drake University, Character Counts, and through the Iowa Games.
“When I found out, it was overwhelming in the best possible way,” Schwendinger said. “My heart is full, and I am grateful.”
The award recognizes a person’s commitment to youth, enthusiasm for educational athletics, and being a great role model for students, parents, coaches, athletic directors and administrators. Roosevelt principal Steven Schappaugh said Schwendinger is a great coach and easily meets all of the criteria.
“Attending Coach Schwendinger’s practice is a treat,” said Schappaugh. “Her programs (Boys Track and Field and Boys Cross Country) have team meals, movie nights, mentorship programs, and more to build community. Cross country set the standard for service projects in our school, and now other programs are inspired to emulate what is happening within her program.”
“My coaching philosophy for coaching is lead with love,” said Schwendinger. “I think if you love kids, and they understand how you value them, they will do anything for the success of your team and become their best selves. Any endeavor that will allows you to become your best self will serve you in life.”
Schwendinger joined the district as an assistant boy’s track coach in 2017, leaving behind a decade of work in what she describes as ‘corporate America’. By 2018 she took over the Boys Cross Country program, and in 2021 she started leading the Boys Track and Field program. She is also a personal trainer. She said she’s driven by the need to help people reach their full potential.
“Some students don’t know how successful they can be,” she said. “I think the one thing sports does, including track and field and cross country, is it teaches kids to believe in themselves. It teaches them they can do hard things, and that they have a community they belong to.”
Roosevelt Activities Director Charles Zanders lifted her up as a model for living out what she believes.
“Coach Schwendinger is setting a positive example for her athletes and helping to create a culture of good character and ethical behavior,” said Zanders. “When coaches live the values that they preach, their athletes are more likely to internalize and adopt those values as their own.”
Along with the recognition Schwendinger will receive as the Character Counts Coach of the Year, Roosevelt will receive a $1000 grant funded by the Iowa Institute for Character Development and the Iowa Games to help Roosevelt further promote and enhance character development.
“[Coach Schwendinger] is very deserving of this honor and the Athletic Association is extremely proud to present it,” the association said in an award letter to Schwendinger.
Schwendinger will be honored publicly on Thursday, March 9, during halftime of the 4A Semifinal Basketball game at Wells Fargo Arena.