Tinley Park’s Podbielniak is 2013 Jenny’s Steakhouse/SouthtownStar Softball Coach of the Year
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org June 14, 2013 11:26PM
Tinley Park coach Wendy Podbielniak | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 17, 2013 7:03AM
If there’s one thing Tinley Park coach Wendy Podbielniak never will pass up, it’s a chance to present a challenge to her players.
So it was two years ago when she spied Alyssa Gunther and Alyssa Williams looking at a pretty barren softball banner hanging in the gym.
“I said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ ’’ Podbielniak related. “One of them said, ‘There’s a lot of room on that banner.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s for you to fill it.’ ’’
The banner won’t be quite so barren after the 25-8 Titans made their mark in school history with a third-place finish in Class 3A.
The run to state was the first-ever for a Tinley Park team. The 25 wins was the second-most, one behind the 1991 squad that went 26-11.
“It was wonderful,” Podbielniak said of competing at EastSide Centre in East Peoria. “What a fantastic experience for the kids.
And the coach?
“That’s always your goal,” the 2013 Jenny’s Steakhouse/SouthtownStar Softball Coach of the Year said. “To be here, in the fourth year, and to do what we’ve done with this program in a very short time is absolutely incredible.
“We changed the expectations, myself and my coaches, and have stuck to our guns. And they have responded in the way a coach dreams of.”
In four seasons at Tinley Park, Podbielniak has compiled an 86-44 record. For eight years prior she was the head coach at Bremen. As a player, Podbielniak was a standout catcher at Mother McAuley before going on to a successful college career at St. Xavier.
From the beginning, one word that always has been associated with Podbielniak is intensity.
“Yeah, being the youngest of six, you could attribute that to my family, my brothers and sisters,” she said, chuckling. “They never played nice with me. We were all very competitive and we still are. We don’t play a lot of bean bags at family events because sometimes it gets a little out of hand.”
Another is aggressiveness. Podbielniak rarely stands still in the third-base coaches box, and her players rarely stand still on the bases. That was never more on display than in the Class 3A supersectional, when Gunther led off against Peoria Notre Dame with a slap infield single and promptly stole second and third.
There likely isn’t a page in the softball playbook that Podbielniak hasn’t perused.
“I attribute that to my coach at St. Xavier, Kathy Young,” she said. “She just picked things apart for us. She just taught us every position. It wasn’t, ‘OK, you’re a catcher.’ It was like, ‘Think like an outfielder. Just think ahead.’
“The way she did game preparation with me personally is the way that I coach. She taught me a lot about the game, from start to finish.”
Podbielniak plans on that being a standard among the coaching staff at Tinley Park for many years to come.
“I will be here until I retire,” she said. “I love it here. The thing is, when you’re in that role and you’re coaching what I call blue collar kids, you don’t have that one kid who stands out. You get them to play together, you get them to gel.
“These kids are all from this area, they all grew up together. I love these hard-working kids. They have a ton of heart, and if you can get the right chemistry of talent and get them to play together, this is what comes of it. It’s fantastic.”