Shawn Sons has always wanted to be a head coach.
Now, after 15 years serving on and off as an assistant coach for the St. Bede softball program, that goal is becoming a reality.
St. Bede athletic director Nick McLaughlin announced Wednesday that Sons was hired to replace Rob Ruppert as the Bruin softball coach. McLaughlin also announced the hiring of Jill Urban-Bollis as the girls tennis coach.
“It’s awesome,” Sons said. “I coached out there off and on for so many years in an assistant role. To be at a point in life where I can finally step up and be a head coach, which is something I always wanted to do, is awesome. I’m really excited.”
Sons said he never was able to take a head coaching position because of work commitments and raising seven children.
“With what jobs I had or how many of my kids were playing sports and having different activities, it was tough to dedicate the time to be a head coach properly,” Sons said. “Now is just the time for me. My kids are at school and most of them are moved out. I’m at a point in life I’m able to do it now.”
Sons has been on staff during a string of recent success for then Bruins, including a Class 2A supersectional appearance in 2018 and a Class 1A third-place state finish in 2019.
“I want to bring energy – not that there wasn’t energy before – and just some of my coaching philosophies that as an assistant you don’t really bring to the table. As head coach, I’m hoping to do that. We have a good thing out there. The coaches remain the same. We have a good staff. As far as changing anything, there will be no real big swings there, just a little bit of philosophy stuff.”
Sons said he hopes to keep St. Bede’s winning ways going.
“I think we have a lot of talent,” Sons said. “The sky is the limit. We lost some good players, but we also have some good players returning. We have to put the work in and see where it goes from there.
“I’m looking forward to the group of girls we have. We want to continue the recent success St. Bede softball has had.”
Ruppert, who served has head coach since 2016, stepped down because of work commitments but will remain on staff as an assistant.
“I took a new job a couple years ago as a supervisor and it’s too much between the two of them,” Ruppert said. “I thought we had a really good run. I took over a program that was kind of down, and I’m not saying it’s because of me, but the people around me also, we brought the program up to prominence. We’re probably one of the better programs in the area. It’s been a lot of fun. Making the run to state a couple years ago was fun. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s going to be a lifelong memory for me.”
While Sons is a familiar face at St. Bede, Urban-Bollis is new to the Bruins athletic department.
Urban-Bollis played tennis at La Salle-Peru before graduating in 1987. She continued her tennis career at IVCC and then the University of Illinois-Springfield, playing on national qualifying teams all four years.
Urban-Bollis graduated from Illinois-Springfield with a Bachelor’s degree in 1991 and a Master’s degree in 1993.
She has run the Peru recreational tennis program for the past five years.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to share my knowledge of tennis and combine it with what St. Bede already has in place,” Urban-Bollis said. “It’s going to be interesting coming off the COVID year. I see it as a rebuilding time as everybody regroups back to some normalcy. I hope it continues to go in that direction.”
Urban-Bollis said she’s looked at the Bruin roster but is unsure who will and won’t be back because some girls played tennis last year because volleyball was moved to the spring.
“I’m not sure which direction some players will go,” Urban-Bollis said. “I’ve had quite a few emails and texts the last few days telling me they’re interested in playing. I look forward to meeting the girls. Our first practice is Aug. 9.
“I see it as a year full of growth and change. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to have great, positive attitudes as we build strategies and work habits on and off the court. We’ll focus on teamwork and look at individual talent as we build the team. We’re going to see where it takes us. There might be a learning curve for all of us along the way, but I look forward to the challenge.”