A handful of current and former Olivet High School girls’ basketball players, along with long-time assistant coach Russ Stolberg, were asked to share some of their thoughts about retiring coach Rob Fleming. To say the least, the outpouring of love and praise was extensive. Below are some of the comments:
“It was truly unbelievable playing for Coach. He is a great man, friend, mentor and coach. He made me understand so many valuable things about basketball but also life in general. He is a basketball guru!
“I think what made coach so successful was the relationships and trust he built with his players. The chemistry was something I will always remember. He loved every single one of the athletes no matter if they were all-stars or not. He helped with on-court things and off-court things. He is just overall a great guy that genuinely cares for everyone. And that goes a long way with a coach.”
Kelsey Fraley, Class of 2013
“Playing for Coach Fleming is playing for a man who genuinely cares about you and the team. It was so much fun learning the game from him and being able to implement it out on the court. He is the reason why I am the player and person I am today. He will never give up on you and is always willing to go the extra mile for whatever you may need. I vividly remember all of the laughs, tears, victories, and losses that have shaped the tradition. He will forever be an Olivet legend, but the best part of all of it is that he becomes a part of your family.
“He is successful because he puts his heart and soul into the program, which is reciprocated by the players and coaches. He is competitive, as you can see from the article on him and his brother, and strives to be the best for his family. And by family, I mean the whole Olivet community that supports the program and stood by his side for all of the years. He is the most influential coach that I have had. Any player would be lucky to wear the Olivet Eagles name across their chest. His success will continue the legacy for many more years to come.”
Hayley Walkowski, Class of 2014
“Playing for Coach Fleming was something every great athlete dreams of having. It was unforgettable. Coach cared about you on and off the court. He invested so much time in you. He brought out the talent in you that he knew you had. When you called to get in the gym, Coach was always ready and willing to make sure you got in. Now don’t let these sweet comments fool you. Coach definitely ‘coached’ you during games, and you could certainly hear him, but that just showed he cared. Like he always told me, ‘T, I only raise my voice at you because I know what you can do and I know you can handle it.’ He wanted to win just as much as we wanted to win. He made you work hard, and he let you know when you were playing well and when you weren’t playing at the level you should be. Sometimes athletes lose their passion for a sport after playing for a coach they may not have liked, but Coach Fleming made my passion for basketball even greater. Playing for Coach Fleming is something no Olivet player will ever forget. Coach Fleming will always be ‘Coach’ to me.
“What made Coach so successful is a number of things, but a main one is his investment in his team. He cared about every player. Coach talked with each and every one of us every day at practice. He’d make his rounds to all of us as he swept the gym every day. Even him sweeping the gym every day showed how much he cared about the game and his team. He worked with his players during the season and the off-season. Like I said before, Coach wanted to win just as much as we did. Sometimes me and Coach would have a ‘chat’ during a huddle in a game, but that’s only because we both wanted to win. Coach was successful because of the time he put into each of our lives. He made his players want to work hard, which paid off during our games. He always gave us 110%, which meant that we gave him our 110%. Having a coach that truly cares about you makes for a successful team. That doesn’t mean you’ll always win, but it means that you’ll always be improving. And when you’re always working hard and always improving, then it’s bound to pay off…He made a difference in the lives of his players.”
Teona Feldpausch, Class of 2017
“Playing for Coach Fleming was an honor because of how successful he has been as a coach in the Olivet program. His life dedication was to make his team feel special. I’ve never felt so cared for by someone as I did with him. He pushed his players to the max simply because he wanted us to be successful, and, without him, most players wouldn’t have went on to do the things they have done. Coach Fleming was a safe place for most and listened to all the problems we had, both as a team and individually. He would yell, or as he would say ‘coach’ us, but he would be the first to give us a hug after a bad day or a loss. Playing for him is something I will never take for granted because he is an amazing human along with an outstanding coach.
“I think what made Coach so successful was the amount of time he put in behind the scenes. He would stay up for hours watching film and breaking down the opponents to make it easier for us to understand them and eventually win against them. His love for the game was also what pushed him to so much success; I have never seen a man so competitive in my life. He wanted to win, but mostly he wanted us to win. He always talked about how winning wasn’t for him, that it was for the team. I think that was what set him ahead of everyone else as a coach. He cared more for any of his players than he did himself.”
Logan Kyre, Class of 2017
Playing for Coach Fleming is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There is nothing better than playing for a coach who is also a best friend. We would get laughing so hard during practice that we could barely breathe. He is the kind of person that you love and respect with your whole heart, and that is why as players we would push ourselves to the limit physically so we could play well and make him proud.
“He treats us like normal human beings, and is always there for us to talk to when something is wrong. He’s successful because of the relationships he builds with his players. We want to play hard for him, and he wants to be the best coach possible for us.”
Noelle Rohde, Class of 2017
“Well, here are some observations (and things some people may not know) after coaching with Fleming for 20 years…
- No matter what gym we entered in the state, people immediately knew him and respected him.
- The countless hours he spent with our athletes outside of the season working on their game are immeasurable.
- He valued developing the girls as good people just as much as developing their basketball skills.
- The number of athletes he helped earn academic and athletic scholarships in college was impressive.
- He broke his foot with a foot stomp the first game of a season one year and it hurt him the entire season. He still stomped, though.
- He pulled his hamstring one year when I told the girls he could get rim. He snuck over to the next gym to practice and hurt himself.
- He is a skilled badminton player.
“As for why we worked well together…
- Our philosophies were similar. Know your opponent better than they know you.
- Winning is not by accident, rather winning is by design.
- You can’t cheat the game. Hard work pays off.
- Defense wins games.
- We respected each other. We both were smart enough to realize that we might need to change some of our core beliefs of basketball to win games.
- We believed in putting girls in situations to be successful.
- We treated the players like you want coaches to treat your own children.
- We truly enjoyed being with each other and the girls.
- We tried to never let our egos get in the way.”
Russ Stolberg, OHS Assistant Coach