Max Payleitner fell in love with coaching and it’s what sparked his interest in education.
A former college baseball player at Valparaiso, Payleitner initially planned to become a physical therapist.
That changed when Payleitner had an opportunity to coach a high school summer league baseball team. His feelings shifted from playing the game to coaching it.
“I was enjoying the coaching aspect more than playing,” Payleitner said.
Payleitner ended his college playing career his senior season, transitioned into the coaching world and began student teaching at St. Charles East High School in the fall of 2008.
Now in his 11th year of full-time teaching, Payleitner splits his time between the wellness department, running the adaptive physical education classes and special education classroom time. His wife, Megan, works for the Mid-Valley special education cooperative.
“I fell in love with coaching and working with kids, trying to give them the most positive experience possible. ... I really fell in love with coaching,” Payleitner said.
“Even more so in the special ed field, every student needs that individualized communication processing strategy. ... Even those students who don’t have identified disabilities, everyone benefits from that personalized communication structure. It’s helped me evolve as a communicator, a teacher, a person, just when you’re working with students with disabilities it pinpoints the need for individualized attention.”
Payleitner is an assistant coach for wrestling, football and the varsity softball team. The communication aspect Payleitner feels strongly about fits directly into what he does out on the playing surfaces.
“This is my 37th high school sports season I’ve done [coaching five sports in that time],” Payleitner said. “Those are all athletes of different types and needs. The student-athlete has changed over the last 10 years.
“What they need, how communicating works, I’ve grown. I do much less yelling. I do much less hounding. I’ve learned that as a parent myself, an athlete, student ... the hounding and the yelling is not effective.”
There could be some who believe the current generation of athletes is potentially “soft.” Payleitner believes they need “different kinds of communication.”
“That’s just the evolution of how people operate these days,” Payleitner said. “Each of the sports I coach, whether you’re working with female athletes in softball or [male] wrestlers, everybody is different.”
The instances when former athletes or students reach out – whether in the moment or after their Saints’ playing days are over – stick with Payleitner and keep his passion burning.
“That motivates me because there are things I’m passionate about,” Payleitner said. “I’m passionate about the sports I coach, working with kids [and] every day making the classroom a fun, positive experience. When you can see that kind of spark being created in students – having them create their own passions – that is something that gets you going. That makes it worthwhile.”