After giving up the coaching life in 2018, Ryan Shick was unsure whether he’d ever return. 

The 2003 Charleston High School graduate had spent the better part of a decade coaching basketball and tennis, but he decided to take a break after his family moved to Carbondale.

After a four-year break, Shick is coaching girls basketball at Johnston City High, a smaller school with an enrollment about 350 a little north of Marion.

Shick teaches social studies at Johnston City, a 30-minute drive from his home. After Lenny Clark stepped down as the girl’s basketball coach, Shick weighed his options before applying. 

“When my wife and I decided to move to Southern Illinois and I got the job at Johnston City, they already had a girls and boys varsity coach,” said Shick. “When the coaching job for the girls opened up, I was on the fence with my own two kids now getting older and realizing everything really how much time and effort went into coaching now that I hadn’t for four years.”

It came down to one simple reason. 

“What made me finally decide was the group of girls I knew I would be coaching,” said Shick. “I had had a lot of them in class already and they were great kids. Their drive and work ethic really drew me into wanting to work with them again.”

Shick has been around the game for a while.

He was a former starter for Charleston’s 2002-03 team that won a Regional Championship and went 23-8. He then coached the freshmen boys at CHS and the boys tennis team for several years. After leaving Charleston, he was the varsity girls basketball coach at Kincaid (South Fork) for several seasons, which had an enrollment under 100. He then took over as the varsity boys basketball coach for three seasons at Edinburg High, a school of fewer than 100 students about midway between Taylorville and Springfield, before stepping down in 2018. 

At Johnston City, the Indians are on pace to finish with one of their best records in the last 20 years. Last year, the team finished 13-16. Through 10 games this season, the Indians are 8-2. 

The Indians have won 20 games only once in their school’s history. The team has posted just four winning seasons since 2000. 

Shick said the players works hard and are coachable. 

“I believe it is because of the focus and effort they put into practice every day,” said Shick. “They want to learn and get better, which is all a coach can really ever ask for. They are unselfish on the floor, and working well as a team. There are no ego’s here, no one that thinks they know everything already. I enjoy competitiveness the girls bring in both practice and games, and them never backing down to a challenge or opponent. Watching them translate things we do in practice into the games, and the look of confidence and accomplishment on their faces is what really makes it fun for us coaches.”

The winning is enjoyable, Shick said, having players who seek to improve is better.

“I am enjoying it, winning aside,” said Shick. “Obviously winning helps, but when you have players that want to get better and you can help them to do that then that is satisfying. I have had teams in the past that won in which it was not at all enjoyable, and then teams that barely won anything but the group was like this one and it was satisfying.”