Siblings in charge
Steve Schirm and his younger sister, Mindy, grew up with a passion for basketball. They often played against each other on the family farm near Correll (11 miles west of Appleton) as often as they could.
It's been 21 years since Steve graduated from Appleton in 1989. But he and Mindy, a 1994 graduate of Lac qui Parle Valley, are still passionate about the sport. Steve is the head boys coach at Lac qui Parle Valley, while Mindy is the head girls coach and activities director at New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.
"We talk about our teams all the time with each other," Steve said. "She e-mails her game results to me after every game. I'm not as organized as she is."
Steve played two season of basketball at Concordia, Moorhead, then coached the JV team there for two years before graduating in 1993. He then returned to Appleton and was named the head boys coach for the 1994-95 season and was also a substitute teacher at the high school. He coached for three seasons and then bought the family farm in 1998, resigning as coach in order to concentrate on farming.
"I don't teach now," he said. "I'm a full-time beef cattle and grain farmer."
Steve and his wife of 11 years, Shelly, have three children; Isabel, 9; Landon, 6; and Lane, 1.
He returned to coaching again this season, but finds the hardest part is balancing the two careers.
"Time commitment is the hardest part about coaching," he said. "Making sure I'm giving enough time to the program and to my family. It's hard to find a balance."
But both siblings find a lot of enjoyment giving back the sport that they have been passionate about since those early days on the farm.
"The most rewarding part of coaching is watching the boys take what we work on at practice," said Steve, "and then perform under pressure and come away with a victory."
Mindy followed Steve to Concordia College in Moorhead and played four years of basketball and three years of softball there before graduating in 1997.
Like Steve, she was named a head coach right out of college. She took over as head girls basketball coach at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton for the 1997-98 season. She was then married to Paul Sparby the following summer and the couple moved to New Richland when Paul was hired as an elementary principal. Mindy, meanwhile, found a teaching job as a part-time health and physical education instructor in Owatonna. After teaching there for two years, she made the trip to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to coach freshman volleyball and basketball and B-squad softball. She became the head girls basketball coach in 1999 and then was also hired as activities director, as well as a health and physical education instructor at NRHEG in 2000.
"I enjoy both parts of the job so much that I don't mind the work," said Mindy, who is the mother of 3½-year-old twins Joshua and Lydia. "It does get tricky at times juggling them both, but the administration is very supportive and helps when things get tough with supervision of activities. And I wouldn't be able to do this without the support from my family. Paul was a former head coach, too, and helps me with certain basketball situations."
Mindy said being an activities director allows her to work with officials in a different capacity, too.
"I enjoy working with the officials when I'm rescheduling events when they get postponed because of bad weather," she said. "It's nice to meet and talk with (officials) off the court and not just on the court."
Mindy, now in her 11th year as head coach, has a 208-109 career record.
"Steve and I talk about different strategies and styles of play," Mindy said. "It has always been a passion of ours. But we also talk about how to deal with things like how to pick captains, team discipline and what to do in different situations when there's a conflict. Steve has always been a great sounding board for me."
Mindy has always looked up to Steve, whom she credits with teaching her the game.
"He would come back from basketball camp in the summer," she explained, "and we would spend countless hours on the court going over what he had learned."
Steve was a mercurial guard for Appleton, averaging 10 points and an area-best 9.2 assists-per-game his senior year to earn a second-team All-Area selection.
Mindy was a first-team All-Area recipient her senior year when she led the area in scoring at 17.9 points-per-game. She finished her career with 1,173 points.
Now she has taken all that knowledge she received from her older brother and is teaching it to her players in another part of the state.
"I try to keep up with Steve's team as much as I can by watching scores on the internet," she said. "I am glad to see him back as a head coach. He has a lot to offer kids as a basketball coach and a role model."
NRHEG is currently 21-6 this season after winning its Section 2AA-South playoff opener over Southland. The Panthers will meet Hayfield on Friday in the semifinals. The LQPV boys are 11-12. But the Eagles have steadily improved this season, winning three of their last four games, including a close loss to a solid Dawson-Boyd team. The Eagles will open Section 3AA-North on Saturday at Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
"I've kidded to Mindy that we might be the winningest sibling coaches in the state," said Steve. "But she is carrying the load."
But, she insists, her success wouldn't be possible without his help fueling her passion years ago on the farm.