Call him “Coach.” That is what most people have called Steve Gleaves after he graduated from Rice University in 1980. From inside the lines as a rising star running back with Dallas Carter High School to a scholarship player at Rice and finally a Philadelphia Eagles free agent, Gleaves continued with his passion and excellence in athletics with a whistle and a cap. He is in his 39 years of coaching and just finished his last season (25th
) as head coach of the St. John’s Mavericks Football program. A man of routines, Coach Gleaves coaches for many reasons- first and foremost to help make an impact on the lives of his players from the gridiron, to the hardwood, and for a change of pace, the tennis courts.
After being released by the Philadelphia Eagles in the summer of 1980, he starting coaching at the Kinkaid School that fall. A coach of all seasons, Gleaves focused on football in the fall, basketball in the winter and tennis in the spring. Kinkaid needed a head tennis coach and Gleaves did not hesitate to jump into the role in his first year. Tennis was not new to him as he played the game in his youth and thought of the sport as a good balance to football. He always liked it. In his work, all he needed were players, competition, and a team. He eventually became Kinkaid's head football coach as well.
"Coach Gleaves a was young tennis coach who drove a motorcycle and we all loved playing for him," said Kinkaid alumnus Ronnie Jacobe. "He was one of the guys."
“Tennis was relaxing,” said Gleaves. “Football was very competitive and I did not have to worry about as many things in the sport of tennis. I have been fortunate to coach other sports. It rejuvenates me to start a new season. A few years ago I took a break and did not coach in the winter. I did not know what to do with myself."
As relaxing as tennis might have been, it did not stop Gleaves from coaching an SPC championship team at Kinkaid in 1986. In 1991 Coach Gleaves left Kinkaid to coach at St. John’s, once again in the role of coach -no matter what the season. In 1994 he led the St. John’s Boys’ tennis team to an SPC championship and followed it up with an SPC football title in 1996 in his fourth season as head football coach. He had a working routine- summer football, early football, football season, winter basketball season, spring tennis season, summer camps...In the football season, it was a weekly pattern. In schools, it was an annual way of life.
“One of the things I love about coaching and education is the cycle of planning and preparing and seeing your efforts pay off in a variety of ways," said Coach Gleaves.
Besides being one of the few coaches to win a conference title in different sports (football and tennis), plus winning numerous coaching awards, Gleaves is mostly known for the positive mentoring of his players.
“Watching the players develop and grow and see the team gel is very rewarding, said Steve. “We want to win, but the important part is playing as a team and making sacrifices with hard work to improve on an off the field and courts.”
“Coach Gleaves was a great influence on my life and all who had the privilege of playing for him,” said David. Tipps '01 “He consistently got the most out of the talent he was given, and he taught all of us to play the game the right way. Years later, he greets all of his former players with a large smile and actually cares and wants to know how your life is going. It was great to play for him and has been a pleasure to know him.”
“I was lucky enough to play for and captain Coach Gleaves' first SJS football team,” said Victor Young '95
. “I have great memories of the successes and disappointments from that year and I think of them fondly from time to time. I remember the wry smile he had when he got a new idea or when one of his players got it right in practice for the first time. He had a kind of quiet dignity that he passed on to all his players back then. Never get too emotional, just fight hard and soldier on. Each person playing his best individually so that we rise to the occasion together. I was also privileged to play for Coach Gleaves' tennis team for four years and my fondest memory of him comes from the tennis season of my senior year. My last match ever for St. John's and the last time I ever represented the school on the athletic field was in 1995. Normally the job of the tennis coach is to move from match to match, giving instruction to various players and cheering them on. That day as my teammates played on different courts, Coach Gleaves sat courtside and watched every point of my match. To me, it was the end of a four-year journey that we took together. After, Coach Gleaves told me that ‘it was the best tennis I had ever played in my life’ and I will never forget that.”
“Steve was there at the beginning of my SJS football career,” said Jim Bell ’97. He was my 7th-grade coach and I could tell even then he was a kind, unassuming yet driven and an excellent role model. I was called up to varsity my sophomore year as a backup QB and my respect for him only grew. My junior year we were 1-9 but we stuck to the plan and won the SPC Championship with an 8-2 record and win over Casady in Dallas.”
Coach Gleaves continues on in his seasons of coaching. He is currently coaching 8th-grade girls basketball. This spring will be his 39th season as a head tennis coach in the SPC, a role he will continue with at St. John’s doing what he does best, coaching!
Sam Chambers- Athletic News