Chris Schwarz ‘86 has been honored for a career of coaching kids toward greatness.
This past January, Chris Schwarz ’86 (left), a social studies teacher and freshman baseball coach at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, stood up in front of about 500 people and accepted an award that would surely earn him some extra credit points from his students.
Schwarz received the Coaching Corps Game Changer Award, which is given by professional athletes in the San Francisco Bay area and honors the coaches who profoundly impacted their lives.
Schwarz was nominated by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher George Kontos, a 2003 West Nile High graduate. Schwarz was Kontos’ coach during his freshman year of high school, and Kontos, who previously was a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, presented Schwarz with his award during a ceremony that took place at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
“It was certainly an unexpected honor,” Schwarz said, “and a humbling one, too.”
Schwarz has taught and coached baseball at West Nile High for 26 years. He played baseball throughout his youth and said he responded positively to coaches who were particularly interested in working with children. “I always viewed coaches as role models,” he said.
At Kenyon, Schwarz continued to play baseball during his sophomore, junior and senior years on the Hill, and his love for the game also extended into the classroom. For his history honors thesis, he worked with his advisor and history professor, Reed Browning, to research the infamous 1919 Black Sox scandal.
“Other than my father, I’d say Reed was one of the most influential people in my development,” Schwarz said of his mentor. “I met him on my first day at Kenyon, and here we are 35 years later, and I’m still in touch with him. It’s been a great gift.”
Of Schwarz, Browning said, “He was one of those students who faculty members sort of identify as friends. We could walk around campus and talk about things or sit in my office and talk about things.”
The two have kept in contact over the years, and Browning said it has come as no surprise to hear that Schwarz is thriving both in his own classroom and out on the field. “He was a person who seemed very well grounded — he knew what he wanted to do,” Browning said. “He was happy with himself and with the world. He liked people, he liked Kenyon and he was very curious.”
Watching former students and players go on to achieve professional success in their sport is an exciting perk of Schwarz’s job, but he said the true reward comes from helping his student athletes prepare for their lives beyond high school. “Throughout my career, the one thing I have learned that has become essential to both my teaching and my coaching is that it truly is an honor and a privilege to do what I do,” Schwarz said. “I have the opportunity to work with these students and these athletes — to be a small part of their development.”
Web extra: Watch a highlights video from the 2017 Coaching Corps Game Changer awards.