Outside of Linda Sheridan’s old office at Shadle Park was a poem fragment that summed up her feelings about life: “What lies before you and what lies behind you isn’t as important as what lies within you.”
Sheridan, who built Spokane girls athletics into a state-wide power and influenced former players to become coaches themselves, died Saturday at age 65 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Former Highlanders volleyball player Kirstin (Tutt) Davis said Sheridan died at Hospice House after being diagnosed in October 2011.
Services are pending, although current Shadle volleyball coach Brooke Cooper said Sheridan wished to have the memorial service at the school she built into a volleyball and basketball powerhouse.
Sheridan, affectionately known as “Squat” for her diminutive stature, coached the Highlanders to seven state championships, including five in volleyball. Her teams’ combined records during her 24-year career were 820-214.
More important, Sheridan taught life lessons that her players carried on to the next generation.
“So many young women went into teaching and coaching because of the impact she had on our lives,” said Judy Kight, who played for Sheridan from 1977-79 and just retired after coaching Mead to seven state volleyball titles. “I found that anyone that ever played for her knew we played for a great person.”
“She taught us that life is a journey and to live it to the absolute fullest, to take risks and not be afraid of failure,” said Cooper, who played for Sheridan in 1988-89 and took over as Shadle’s volleyball coach in 1999. “Just to keep pushing. That was the biggest thing, especially watching her go through what she went through.”
Sheridan, along with good friend Buzzie Welch and Bernie Hite, were the pioneers who turned the GSL into the state’s top volleyball league. Sheridan’s teams won state titles in 1984, ’85, ’87, ’88 and ’93. Welch’s Lewis and Clark Tigers won state titles in ’92 and ’94.
Sheridan and Welch began the all-city camp for youngsters, influenced the GSL to play best-of-5 matches instead of best-of-3, and created one of the region’s top tournaments, the Crossover Classic.
The two remained great friends and visited many hours at their respective cabins at Priest Lake. Sheridan shared hers with her partner and former assistant coach Linda Wolcott.
“I think we had something that you don’t see much in sports anymore,” Welch said. “When we were in a game, we did everything we could to win the game. When the game was over, we left it on the court and remained friends. Idealists, I think we were.”
Sheridan won state basketball titles in 1988 and ’89.
“I’m not sure she consciously got up in the morning and said, ‘I’m going to teach people a lesson,’ ” said Randy Lothspeich, who served as Sheridan’s basketball assistant for eight years. … “One of the main things you could glean from her is she trusted people and allowed them to develop their own strengths.”
Lothspeich said he saw Sheridan on Saturday and was the “morning guy” who visited her at the hospice.
“She was a great mentor in how she dealt with kids, everything she understood about the psychology of the sport and how to get the most out of kids,” said current Shadle girls basketball coach Chad Dezellem, who served as Sheridan’s assistant for seven years.
Shadle’s old gymnasium was christened Linda Sheridan Gymnasium when she coached her final GSL home volleyball game in 1998. The remodeled gym was named Linda Sheridan Court in August 2010.
Sheridan was inducted into the Washington State University Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2012. She’s also a member of the Inland Empire Sports Hall of Fame.