Pride and humility are opposites. Yet Steve Roth embodies both attributes.
Roth, who has coached various sports but most notably track and field, at Washington for the last 43 years, was the embodiment of both feelings Monday when he received an award of $5,000 for the school district for finishing in the top 15 of voting for U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach.
In the nationwide contest, he was described as an icon of the community and a pillar of the school.
“It feels great to get this honor, it’s very humbling,” Roth said. “It means a lot for me to win this for the school district because it has given me so much over the years.”
There were over 1,000 coaches nominated for this contest. That number was whittled to 50 in voting, then to 15 with each of those 15 winning money for their respective school. Voting continues through Nov. 13 for the top three. One vote per day per person is allowed at www.themostvaluablecoach.com.
The school held a special ceremony for Roth Monday morning.
“It is not about me, it’s about all the excellent people and athletes that I have touched base with. This is for them,” Roth said with that ever-present smile. “They have all done so much for me, it’s great to give something back to the school and community that I have loved so much.”
A number of people Roth has touched base with spoke.
Cade Hennigan had Roth as a P.E. teacher in elementary school and as a track and football coach.
“He treats all of his athletes like they are the best at what they do,” Hennigan said. “That is really appreciated.”
Doug Dunlap, who was the Washington athletic director for 20 years, said, ”He is a giver. He is not doing it for the money. What makes him a great coach is because he cares for kids as a person, not just as an athlete.”
Dave Hoffman, who was the principal at Lincoln, saw Roth trimming the grass around the track in one of his first encounters with the legend.
“Mr. Roth has always paid attention to detail and those details are usually the kids,” Hoffman said. “He took a lot of pride in that. He is one of a kind, a gem.”
Roth has kids of his own, and his wife Tammy said his coaching only enhanced family life.
“I have never viewed Steve’s coaching as something that took him away from our family, but as something that added so much to it,” she said. “Yes, there are long hours away, but it is something he loves so much, it has never seemed like an intrusion on our lives. His student athletes are like his own children, Steve wants success for them so badly, not for accolades for himself, but for them. We’ve been married for so long, his teaching and coaching have always just been a natural part of our home life. We all join in the excitement and joy of his sports! We have so many memories associated with them. It has kept him young at heart!”
Who would know better than his wife?
“I can truly say as the person who probably knows Steve the best, that this is something he was destined to do in life, I can’t imagine him doing anything else. It has never been a ‘job’ for him, it is his love in life.”
Roth’s love of helping and pleasing others is evident in the way he decorates his house for the holidays.
Roth has been known to play Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, wearing a pink bunny suit for the latter.
Roth is proud of his organization of a Special Olympics event locally.
“We had them in the gym with the high school kids working out two days a week for three months,” Roth said. “I think it is one of the best things that I have ever been associated with.”
U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach program honors current coaches of K-12 school-affiliated sports teams who connect to the good in all of us, by inspiring their players through true leadership and community involvement. At the end of the program, the final three winning coaches will receive a donation of $50,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, for their school. The first-place coach will also be awarded with a Samsung tech prize package, valued at $30,000, for their school. The winning coaches will be announced Nov. 20.
Whether or not he wins more for hius school, Roth is already a winner, both on the track, the field or wherever he may be.
“Winning the state championships are among the top five things I have done,” Roth said. “I have enjoyed the ride.”