By Maggie Devereux
Executive Sports Editor
One of the very first gifts now-head football coach Mike Sebestyen received as a child was a tiny football. As the child of a head football coach, the sport was in his blood.
“From the day I was born, football was around me,” Sebestyen said. ”As a kid, I always held on to [that football].”
His father, Don Sebestyen, coached at Fenwick, Geneva and Mount Carmel, leading Fenwick to the 6A semi-finals in 1981 — the farthest the team has ever gone.
“The impact my father had on kids in general and his impact on young men was very inspiring to me,” Sebestyen said.
Now, 13 years after Sebestyen began his coaching career at Prospect, he will take over the head coaching position from retiring coach Brent Pearlman. This will be Sebestyen’s eleventh year with the varsity team, as he worked with the freshman team his first three years, one year as a student teacher. However all throughout his coaching career, he continues to trace his love of the game back to his childhood.
By listening to and watching his father, Sebestyen got an understanding of what football really consists of. To him, it isn’t just a game anymore: “it’s about teaching life skills and teaching young men to grow up and be mature adults who can be successful contributing parts of your society.”
In high school, Sebestyen began to put what he learned onto the field, playing football for the first time at Fenwick High School. In Berwyn, Ill., where Sebestyen grew up, football wasn’t a high-interest sport. Because of this, his first chance to play came with a Friars uniform.
“Where I came from you played basketball or soccer — you didn’t play football,” Sebestyen said. “I was one of the few guys that came out of my town that played football, which made me somewhat different.”
Sebestyen played safety and quartback during high school, and also baseball in the spring. Both games greatly impacted what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, which was to coach.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if [I got a job coaching] football or baseball, I just wanted to coach something,” he said. “But football has always been the one that’s a little closer to my heart. I love the sport, I love being around it.”
As Sebestyen continued to be around football, he developed his own reasons for loving the game. According to him, the best part of the game is getting to develop the relationships with players.
“To develop those relationships with them where they want to come back and talk to you is the part I enjoy the most,” Sebestyen said. ““The opportunity to see [players] grow and mature long past the time you get to coach them and the time you get to spend with them [is my favorite part].”
One of Sebestyen’s most memorable moments was when he introduced his son Matthew to junior Sam Frasco. Matthew had asked to see the football players, but when he met Frasco he told Sebestyen “no daddy, the other football players,” because Frasco isn’t very big. However, one of Sebestyen’s favorite parts of the game is seeing a “five feet nothing, 140 pound” kid do incredible things.
“To have a kid like that do the things he does on a football field because he just sells himself out for everything, to watch a kid like that develop and grow, you just sit in amazement about what kind of person that kid has become,” Sebestyen said. “Those are the types of things I like about coaching.”
According to Sebestyen, being named head coach hasn’t really changed anything regarding his position; it just has brought a more responsibility and a few more phone calls to answer.
“All that really has changed is now there is a different title in front of my name. It’s still the kid’s program, it’s still about this school, it’s still about what they want. That’s what makes all successful programs that exist in this school.”
As a new legacy starts where Pearlman’s left off, football also remains a key ingredient to Sebestyen’s family. His inspiration for football began with his father and he continues that family tradition with his son.
That very same football he received as a baby, he passed on to Matthew.
“I gave it to Matthew when he was born,” Sebestyen said. “And now he throws it around all over the place.”