Ron and Rick Patberg and Sarah Stair have spent most of their adult lives coaching young athletes.
The Patbergs and Stair, former high school and collegiate athletes themselves, have established themselves as respected coaches in the community, and on Tuesday, they reaped a little reward for their years of dedication. They were named recipients of this year’s Jack Cramer Ideals of Athletic Competition Award.
“It’s quite an honor,” Ron Patberg said. “It’s not why (Rick) or I got into coaching, but it’s unbelievable to share it with your twin brother. He and I share the same philosophy of coaching, and to share it with him, there’s not many words for it, honestly. I’m very thankful that all your hard work and time commitment is being recognized.”
The Patberg twins grew up in Huntingburg and helped lead Southridge to back-to-back Final Four appearances in basketball in the single-class system in 1985 and 1986. They went on to play at Hanover College, then came to Columbus to start their careers.
Over the past 31 years, Ron coached at St. Bartholomew, Southside Elementary and Central Middle School before coaching freshman and JV boys at Columbus North for six years. He has been an assistant on North girls teams the past 11 years, helping lead the Bull Dogs to three state finals appearances and the 2015 Class 4A state title. That team was led by his daughter Ali, who won Miss Basketball honors and now plays at Indiana University. His younger daughter Kenzie also played for North.
Also in the past 31 years, Rick has coached at St. Bartholomew, Taylorsville Elementary, Central and St. Peter’s, where he coached his daughters Sydney and Kelsey. He also has been boys JV, freshman and varsity assistant coach at North.
“It’s certainly an honor and a fantastic award to win,” Rick Patberg said. “Certainly, we’re not into coaching for that. We’re in it to impact kids’ lives. I feel grateful and blessed to have won it with a lot of fantastic winners to have won it prior to us. We sometimes come in a package deal, Ron and I, so it’s great for both of us.”
Both Patbergs also have coached numerous travel teams over the past 25 years.
“When we talked about getting into coaching, our high school coach (Gary Duncan) said parents either want a coach that’s great at developing their child and teaching life skills and make them a better person with regards to leadership or they want a coach that can coach Xs and Os,” Ron Patberg said. “I really tried to develop both of those. It’s never been about the wins and losses, it’s about building those character habits that help you succeed in life.”
Pat McKee, who was the North girls basketball coach the past 11 years before resigning in March, submitted a joint nomination of the Patbergs to the Cramer Awards committee last year. The Cramer Awards did not take place in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Both bring high levels of knowledge and passion to teach the game of basketball to their players,” McKee wrote in his nomination letter. “More importantly, both bring a big-picture perspective to their efforts, teaching elements of life to their players through the game of basketball. There is no question that both Ron and Rick have contributed greatly to the youth in the Columbus community for the past 30 years.”
Meanwhile, Stair’s contribution in Columbus has come mainly at Columbus Christian. She played volleyball and softball at Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran High School and softball at University of Indianapolis.
Stair was assistant volleyball coach at Columbus Christian before serving as head coach the past four years, leading the Crusaders to Indiana Christian School Athletic Association state runner-up finishes the past three seasons. She also had been an assistant softball coach at Columbus Christian before taking over as head coach this spring.
“I am incredibly honored,” Stair said. “For me, what gives me a passion for coaching is seeing these girls thrive and have success on the court and build that into their lives. Some of them become third, fourth, fifth daughters for me. At Columbus Christian, I took the last five minutes of every practice and did what we called a heart-to-heart. I would write my own devotionals, and we would teach things that were more important than volleyball. I made sure that I was a role model both on the court and off the court to these girls. I wanted to train these girls in character as much as in athletic ability, and I never took that lightly.”
Joe and Marilyn Jerman nominated Stair for the Cramer Award.
“She once commented that she always tries to never ‘yell’ at her team or correct them harshly during a game,” the Jermans wrote in their nomination letter. “She makes those times opportunities to teach and to reinforce their hard work. As you can see the girls’ attitude before, during and after games, you will see that Sarah’s method of coaching is reflecting her desire to build character into each girl.”
Stair, who coached her two daughters in volleyball and softball at Columbus Christian, resigned as coach there following this past softball season. Her oldest daughter Hannah just graduated and is headed to Grace College, and her youngest Emily has transferred to Columbus North, where she will be a junior.
Sarah Stair has continued coaching at The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis, but she will miss coaching high school.
“Club is still a little different since I can’t take those five minutes at the end of practice for devotionals or prayer,” she said. “But so many players are Christian, so they talked to me one-on-one, and I was still able to instill that character, even if it wasn’t at the high school level.”
The Cramer Awards ceremony will take place at a time and location to be determined.