CALUMET TOWNSHIP-Ivan Zimmer is enjoying himself. The veteran coach has seen all sides of the game that has been a major part of his life for more than 40 years and says 2008 is as much fun as he has ever had.
“It’s been a lot of fun this year,” said Zimmer who has guided Calumet to a 7-1 record this year. “This is a good group of kids and they have done everything that we have asked them. It’s a great thing to watch a group of young men play to their potential and realize what hard work can do.”
Zimmer returned to Calumet prior to the 2007 season and guided the Warriors to a 5-6 record and a 3-4 mark in the newly minted Greater South Shore Conference. This is the second year of his second stint as Calumet head coach. His previous tenure at the Warriors helm lasted nine years and ended in a 28-63 mark. The highlight of the first time around was 1999 when the Warriors went 8-2 and won the Lake Athletic Conference Blue Division.
Calumet (7-1, 6-0) is a game away from winning its first conference championship since that 1999 team. On Friday, Calumet travels to unbeaten Wheeler for a game that will decide the Greater South Shore Conference championship. The game with the unbeaten Bearcats will be a tough one for Calumet, a fact that Zimmer acknowledges.
“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Zimmer said. “Wheeler has a very good team with a lot of weapons. We’ll have to be at our best if we hope to win. I know that our kids will come and compete as hard as they can.”
Calumet has a few weapons of its own, with the speedy Darcell Ballentine and George Ezell leading the charge. The only debit on the Calumet ledger is a one-point loss to Clark early in the season.
“We were still doing some learning about ourselves early on,” Zimmer said. “I think we are a much better team now. Our players have worked hard in practice and have done a great job of absorbing what we have been telling them.”
Zimmer has known success before while pacing Region sidelines. In 14 years at Andrean he won three consecutive sectionals (1989-1991) while finishing 75-69 record.
“I learned that kids are kids, no matter where you coach,” Zimmer said. “We had success at Andrean and I hope that we can achieve similar success at Calumet.”
Zimmer learned a lot while playing defensive end as a Nebraska Cornhusker from 1965 to 1967. He has also learned a lot about character and hard work and those lessons were never more on display than last month when a contingent of Calumet football players went to Munster to help pile sandbags after the devastating floods.
“We have kids of good character,” Zimmer said. “It’s one of the things that has made this season so much fun.”
The year he spent in hiatus from Calumet was spent at Seton Academy in South Holland where he served as an assistant coach for the fledgling program.
“That was a great experience,” Zimmer said of is Illinois experience. “It was fun and I was glad to be able to help out the program there.”
“We take one week at a time,” Zimmer continued. “I am not thinking beyond this week and our game with Wheeler. It’s the only way to survive in this business.”
Zimmer is a teacher at the school and has no plans on slowing down.
I’ve got my health and a wife who supports what I do,” Zimmer said. “As long as its fun then I think I’ll keep going.”