by Kaelyn Sayles, athletics intern
Lakeside girls basketball program head Sandy Schneider has been at the Upper and Middle schools in various capacities for over 30 years. The 2016-2017 season marks the 25th anniversary of her 1992 state championship team. We look back at one of the most impactful teams in school history, share Schneider's coaching philosophy, and bridge past and current Lions.
Lakeside girls basketball coach Sandy Schneider might have taken a page out of legendary coach Pat Summitt's book. Summitt once said of sports – "I love teaching both the game and the life skills accompanying it. I have always said the gym is my classroom."
Schneider feels the same way, and her passion for teaching and coaching shines through when she speaks.
"I love sports. I love it at every level," Schneider said. "Competition gives you juice. It gives you something to care about. It keeps me young."
There's something captivating about Schneider. Her intensity draws you in, and her stories, filled with her laughter keep you engaged, wanting more.
Schneider was hired at Lakeside in 1979, and has held many positions and roles since then.
"It was kind of an accident," Schneider said, laughing. "My mother happened to be playing tennis with the athletic director's wife at Lakeside and found out about the job."
A happy accident.
Sure, she's retired a couple times from coaching at the Upper School, but never from teaching. And, even then, she still coached at the Middle School.
"The first time I retired, I meant it," Schneider said, again laughing. "I always mean it."
The last time she "meant it" was after the 2008-2009 season. Schneider had coached Lakeside for 26 seasons. She thought that was it: her final retirement from coaching high school girls basketball.
But she wasn't finished after all.
Before the 2016-2017 season, the opportunity opened up for her to take over the helm of the program once again. She hadn't coached at the Upper School since Lakeside Director of Athletics Chris Hartley had been at Lakeside, but he had watched her coach at the Middle School.
"Seeing how her middle school athletes grew and really adored her and really played hard for her, the magic was clearly still there," Hartley said.
So, he reached out about leading the girls basketball program, even though, he admits, he thought she would say, "no."
Schneider loved coaching at the Middle School, but the Upper School was pulling her back. She missed forging relationships with an older group of kids and sharing her passion for basketball.
"When you're with them every day for a really long period, you have the chance for a greater connection and hopefully maybe a greater impact," Schneider said.
When Schneider said she would come back and devote herself to the program, the decision to move forward was easy.
Having her back, Hartley said, is a game-changer.
"In everything she does, she's raising the bar," Hartley said. "Here we have this coach with an intensity that you feel the minute she walks in to the building. She is always learning as a coach, and her kids know that, so her kids always want to be learning, too."
Schneider has a storied history at Lakeside.
Longtime Seattle Times reporter Sandy Ringer covered Lakeside girls basketball teams for many seasons. She still remembers watching Schneider coach.
"I remember Sandy always being a positive, encouraging coach. And obviously a very good one," Ringer said. "She set the standard back in those days and knew how to get every ounce of effort from her players, who always seemed to enjoy playing for her."
When Schneider last stepped down from coaching at the high school level, her teams had achieved 473 career wins, nine league championships, and eight district championships. She took 17 teams to the State Tournament, and Lakeside still holds the 3A girls basketball record for the longest tournament appearance streak (10). Schneider led five of those teams to State titles (1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, and 2003). Lakeside holds the 3A record for most State Championships (five). Those impressive accomplishments recently earned her a spot in the WIAA Hall of Fame.
She is quick to dismiss the notion that those state titles mean everything to her personally. For Schneider, state championships are about the team; about the experiences her players gain from competing.
"It's not about me. It's what we as a group were able to manifest, and it's about the kids," Schneider said. "It's the tournaments, it's the locker room, and it's the challenge of overcoming obstacles.
It's the falling short and getting back the next day. It's the day-to-day: Can we do it? Can we be bigger than ourselves? Can we set a vision and work in that direction, and can we make it happen? And, if we fall short, can we learn the next year from it?"
In true Summitt spirit, Schneider instills in her teams the idea that sport prepares them for life.
"The kinds of things that they can learn in this group are things that they can use when they don't get into their first choice for college, or their relationship fails, or when things don't work out," Schneider said.
Schneider also instills in students that handling success gracefully is just as important as handling failure.
"How do you treat your successes? How do you stay present in the moment without getting weighed down with all the expectations and all the noise? What I try to instill in my kids is to be in the moment," Schneider said.
Ringer vividly remembers watching Schneider model this message for her teams.
"She was as competitive as they come, but always seemed to keep the wins and losses in perspective," Ringer said. "These were life lessons she was teaching her players, many of whom I believe went on to become coaches themselves."
Schneider loves recalling stories of past teams.
She laughs, eager to share her memories.
In 1990, Lakeside won their second state title. Then, in the summer going into the next year, star player Michelle Perkins tore her ACL at a National AAU Tournament. Lakeside had to be without her for the 1990-1991 season.
"The '91 team actually was probably one of my better coaching efforts because we got to State with basically a core of freshman," Schneider said.
That experience fueled those freshmen, a group who had been playing together since 5th grade, to fight to get back to State the next year.
"And here comes the '92 team," Schneider said.
Their 29-0 undefeated season was capped off by the defeat of defending State Champions Battle Ground 52-50 in the state title game, led by senior Perkins (who had never lost a state game), freshman Takiyah Jackson, and a core group of sophomores.
With the addition of Jackson and the return of Perkins, the '92 team was destined for a great state run.
Schneider won't forget what kind of impact Perkins had on her teams.
"Her drive, her passion, her ability to want the ball, get the ball, and make the play at the end, it was so incredible," Schneider said. "You put that engine with these talented young kids...it created '92. These people were champions. They were the best of the best at that time of their lives. It doesn't happen very often that you're the best at anything."
Almost 25 years later, Schneider is back at Lakeside striving to build a program of champions.
When members of the 1992 team came back to Lakeside to celebrate the anniversary of their championship and cheer on the current team, a bridge was created between past and present.
It was an opportunity for the current Lions to see what was possible.
And, in a way, to see a slice of their future."This is who they're going to be in 25 years," Schneider said. "Beautiful, flawed, loving, hardworking, caring about life, and contributing to society. That's who they're going to be, too."