When asked why he stuck with it so long, he explains it’s about working with the players.
"I enjoyed being around the team and helping everyone have a chance to be the best they could be,” said Coach Gleaves, who was a multi-sport athlete at Carter High School in Dallas, and a highly recruited running back who played punter at Rice. “I looked at the roster in front of me at the beginning of each season and took it from there, one practice at a time, towards a common goal. I will miss the wins, a few losses, practices, and competitions. I will cherish all of the great times with the players and fellow coaches and parents as we worked together to make each season a great learning experience for all.”
“His years of service can be summarized under the heading Consummate Professional,” said Athletic Director Vince Arduini. “During his years as Head Football coach – 1994-2018 – and as Head Varsity Boys Tennis coach, Not Without Honor remained the standard for his players.”
Coach Gleaves might have ended up on the East Coast instead of in Texas if it wasn’t for a linebacker who took the spot he was eying in the NFL. Gleaves was a four-year punter for the Rice Owls and received a tryout invitation for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1980. Towards the end of the tryouts, the players would get a notice under their door if they were cut. Coach Gleaves and his roommate waited anxiously, hoping for no news. When a lone slip of paper finally slid under the door, it was for his roommate. Excited to be on the team, Gleaves reported to his locker the next morning only to find his equipment missing. He was then directed to the coaching staff and was told that they had chosen a linebacker over him. It was what the team needed at the time. Being the ultimate team player, Gleaves understood and packed his bags for Dallas. His loss was the gain of thousands of young athletes.
“It can’t be understated how significant of a role Coach Steve Gleaves played in my life and the lives of thousands of other young men who didn’t know anything about life until we stepped onto the football field and learned it from that man,” said former St. John’s starting quarterback and captain Lawson Gow ’08. “He wasn’t a movie version of a great football coach. That kind of coach that classically talks tough, doles out legendary sound bytes and ends speeches with hearty, motivational helmet slaps. Rather, Coach Gleaves was exactly the kind of big-hearted, encouraging role model we needed to give us a blueprint for the kind of men we should become.”
After a few interviews in Dallas, Coach Gleaves traded in his suit for a whistle and headed to Houston. With connections at Kinkaid, Coach Gleaves started his coaching career with the Falcons. There he met his wife, Carol, while they were coaching football and field hockey respectively. He worked his way up to the helm of the varsity football team in his last three years at Kinkaid. Segueing to St. John’s
, he eventually took over from Skip Lee as the head football coach. Many people would tell you that Coach Gleaves was a football man. He played in high school and college, was one player short of the pros, and his dad had played at Duke. Throughout his coaching career at both Kinkaid and St. John’s, however, he was also the head varsity tennis coach. In his 42 seasons on the court, he brought his team ethic to an individual sport.
“Before I met Coach Gleaves
I had always thought of tennis as an individual sport,” said former tennis captain and 4-time All-SPC player, Eric Gao ’16. “He always emphasized the responsibility we had for our teammates and the importance of sportsmanship when competing. He was a great role model whose advice I looked forward to every changeover.”
Coach Gleaves was a tennis coach who paid attention to details. He reviewed game schedules, lineups, and bus transportation. He demanded the same of his players. The bags were lined up a certain way. The players were clad in black shorts and white tops. His first order of business, however, was people. He listened first and got to know each of his players and showed a genuine interest in their lives. There are several sayings on Gleaves’ latest tennis team. “Place not pace” is one of them. Gleaves was tactical and never in a hurry. He made sure his troops were cared for and in control. But he recognized when pace mattered. He wanted points to end when they were supposed to, and if you were lucky enough to hit with him, you had better be ready for his cross-court forehand and never assume the point was over until the second bounce.
Xavier Gonzalez ‘14, another 4-time All-SPC and captain said, “Coach Gleaves is a consummate gentleman, strong and kind. Tennis can be a tricky sport to coach because there are many different matches going on at the same time, and the players are used to an individual format without coaching. Coach Gleaves always found the sweet spot of just how much to say without overloading us as players, usually sticking to a one really important observation. He said it in just the right way, with warmth and confidence, to motivate us to follow through. He was an amazing role model, full of joy, fun, and enthusiasm, and yet always balancing it with dignity and poise. It's bittersweet to hear that he is retiring, but I wish him a very happy retirement with his family!”
Coach Sam Chambers, who has served as an assistant coach with Coach Gleaves for the past six years will assume the role of Head Coach for the Varsity Boys Tennis program. Coach Chambers has just completed 30 years of service to SJS and the Maverick Athletic Department. Chambers pioneered the development of lacrosse at St. John's and in the Lone Star state, and his teams were consistently at the top of the state rankings, winning two state titles and the inaugural SPC championship. The sportsmanship award given every year by the area lacrosse referees honors Chambers for his respect for sport, his players, and their opponents. He holds his M.Ed. in Sport Psychology from UVA, and he is certified as a Tennis Professional by the USPTA.
Coach Gleaves will be dearly missed, and he leaves Chambers and the Mavericks with a rock-solid foundation. As the team moves forward, they will continue to build upon his deep legacy of learning and love of the game of tennis.
Coach Gleaves, the team salutes you with one of our favorite cheers: “TEE IT UP!”