Morton coach and teacher remembered
The Morton community lost a highly-regarded teacher and coach last week.
Four days after suffering a major medical trauma, Joal Stanfield, 34, died Aug. 27.
The Lincoln Elementary School third-grade teacher also was the Morton High School varsity boys tennis head coach.
Jon Wheat was Stanfield’s assistant, including leading the frosh/soph boys tennis team.
“We had the most unbelievable coaching and working relationship that you could ever have,” Wheat said.
Wheat added that Stanfield and him brought out the best in each other despite being two completely different people.
Stanfield was a standout Potters tennis player in the late 1990s. He was a Mid-Illini Conference doubles champion as a sophomore before winning the singles title his last two years.
Stanfield qualified for state in 1997 and again as a senior in ’98. He was honorable mention all-state as a junior with a top-32 finish.
His 129 total wins rank sixth all-time at Morton. He coached four of the five ahead of him.
Pete Martin was Stanfield’s coach in his junior and senior seasons.
“His integrity was there when he was 16 as a junior,” said Martin.
Stanfield often would play balls that were a couple inches out, giving opponents the benefit of the doubt, even if it could jeopardize a match.
He assisted Martin, currently the girls tennis head coach, before taking over the boys program in 2005.
“It’s an ideal situation,” Stanfield told the Morton Times-News in a season-opening preview article of becoming the head coach.
Stanfield has the longest tenure (10 years) and most victories (126) of any coach in a program that has a .728 all-time winning percentage.
His squads won nine sectional and three conference titles. Morton was in the top 20 at state four times.
He also wanted to succeed the right way. Early on, Wheat said Stanfield instilled the tenet of “character before victory.”
While Wheat called Stanfield the most competitive person he has known, wins and losses were not the most important.
“It was so much more than just tennis — being able to work with young people changing their lives,” said Wheat.
Stanfield coached some of the area’s elite players such as Grant Reiman, Trent Reiman, Brock Reiman, Jordan Nestrud and others.
He wanted to make a player’s tennis experience memorable whether they had state ambitions or were not going to make the regular line-up.
“If you were the No. 9 or 10 player, you were just as important as if you were the No. 1 or 2,” said Wheat. “They truly sensed that he cared about them.”
Nestrud, an acclaimed player who was a senior in Stanfield’s first year, told Wheat at a gathering of about 40 people Aug. 27 at the MHS tennis courts that Stanfield cared more about the person than the tennis player.
The overwhelming turnout for the impromptu playing session under the lights to honor Stanfield indicated the level of admiration felt for him.
Stanfield taught at Glendale Elementary in East Peoria before landing a position in 2012-13 at Lincoln.
“He was absolutely elated to come teach in Morton,” Wheat said. “He loved being here. He loved this school.”
Stanfield had a personality that resonated with everyone from 8-year-olds to high schoolers to adults.
Martin said it was special seeing how many people’s lives Joal has touched.
“He had the ability to
be able to connect with anyone and make that person feel special, feel important,” said Martin.
His girls teams got to know Stanfield well, through the summer programs the coaches ran and with him helping in his offseason in the fall, and were much better because of hitting with the boys, Martin said.
Stanfield and his wife, Kiyle, have three children.
The Morton Chamber of Commerce has organized a fundraiser for the Stanfield family. Go to www.crowdrise.com/stanfield/fundraiser/mortonchamber to donate or for more information.