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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Legend To Step Down Sheridan Says This Is Last Basketball Season At Shadle

The 803 career wins, 16 Greater Spokane League titles, 30 state qualifying teams and seven state championships don’t define Linda Sheridan.

Squat does.

The Shadle Park girls basketball and volleyball coach is known as “Squat” to her close friends and, more surprisingly and importantly, her players.

“I think it’s a term of endearment; I like it,” Sheridan said. “It’s a rite of passage.”

Make the varsity and coach Sheridan becomes Squat.

Like most things dear to Sheridan, the name evolved from a relationship she had with a player and that is what she’ll miss most when she quits coaching.

Sadly, that day is approaching quickly for basketball. Battling health problems, Sheridan said this will be her last season as the Highlanders basketball coach and next fall will be the end of her volleyball career.

“I hoped to quit teaching and quit coaching on the same day,” she said. “I never really got well after I got sick two years ago. I can’t take the long hours, the stress and strain for seven months. (Basketball) is the hardest, it’s the second one. I want to have a few good years after I retire.”

Two years ago Sheridan was very ill and there is still some debate about exactly what she had and what caused it.

Legionnaire’s disease was ruled out and atypical pneumonia is the verdict, but Sheridan said, “The jury is still out.”

Her immune system is still weak and she has parvo, “which is unheard of,” that has caused all her joints to have arthritic symptoms.

“It just got to be pretty clear to me it’s not worth my health,” she said. “I love it and love the kids, but it’s not worth my health.

“I’m going to do volleyball one more year. I’m hoping I get to keep that commitment. It’s hard to run volleyball without your hands. I always thought I would leave on my own terms… . Coaching is what I like most about my job.”

She’s not choosing between volleyball and basketball, it’s just that volleyball comes first, after summer vacation when she can recharge her batteries.

“I love them both. I love the practices involved in volleyball. I really love the strategy of basketball,” she said. “I guess I love volleyball practice and basketball games. I love team sports. I love seeing a group of kids coming together, creating something.”

To bring her basketball career to a close, the school is planning a short ceremony Thursday night between the boys and girls games against Central Valley.

A Shadle Park and Washington State graduate, Sheridan is the only coach the Highlanders have had except for the year she picked up her masters from Whitworth.

There were few opportunities for female athletes when Sheridan was growing up. Coaching was a requirement when she started teaching in California 29 years ago, but when she returned to Shadle after five years, her extra curricular activity was to be the drill team.

When the opportunity came to coach, “there wasn’t a lot of competition,” she said.

With a limited background, Sheridan worked hard to improve, attending every clinic she could get to. But while the X’s and O’s of coaching came gradually, she was always known as a terrific motivator, getting the most out of her teams.

“We’re with the kids six days a week, 3 hours a day,” she said. “Hopefully, we have something to offer.”

Although the GSL has been known as a basketball and volleyball power, Shadle Park was the first. The Highlanders won five state volleyball titles, the first in 1984, the last in 1993, and two in basketball, 1988 and 1989.

Sheridan was asked after the first title why she didn’t quit while she was on top. Her reply was, “If you’re coaching waiting for the one big one, you’re coaching for the wrong reason.”

Note the consecutive volleyball and basketball titles came in the same school years.

“I would be lying if I said (those two years) weren’t pretty magical,” she said. “Those kids were magical as athletes and students.”

But she is just as proud of her first teams, back when it wasn’t cool for girls to sweat.

“It took a lot of courage to be a female athlete in the 70s,” Sheridan said.

That’s why she worked on the psyche of her first 6-footer, Debbie Comstock.

“I used to tease her, trying to make her comfortable with her height,” she said. “I called her ‘Stretch.’ She called me ‘Squatty Body.’ That became ‘Squatty,’ then ‘Squat.’ … I’ve always thought it was a good thing.”

For all her success - a 366-122 record, six GSL titles in basketball - sharing a nickname with her players is more important than winning.

“Winning is great, that’s something you can always take pride in, but it’s always been about the kids,” she said. “I’m going to miss the practice. I love the games, I love the big games, I love the pressure, but I love the gym time with the kids. That’s where teams are created. They’re not created in games.”

Her All-Sheridan basketball team is impressive and although most of the basketball players were also outstanding volleyball players, the All-Sheridan volleyball team will have to wait until the end.

Coaches she has shared an enjoyable rivalry with include Sam Janke at University and Jack Blair and Ron Adams at Central Valley when the GSL was just becoming a power, and Mead’s Jeanne Helfer in the 90s.

“Then there is Terry Reed, one of my all-time favorites,” she said. “We had a great rivalry, a lot of respect for each other.”

Reed’s LC teams were second and third to Shadle Park’s championship teams.

She is also thankful for the coaches who have stayed with her for so long, particularly as No. 1 assistants. Earning seven-year pins in basketball are Larry Parton, Randy Lothspeich and Chad Dezellem.

A half-dozen GSL Coach of the Year honors, former state coach of the year and 1990 WSU Outstanding Alumni Award are among the numerous awards Sheridan has received.

Next year, though, she’ll trade them all in, just to hear the Shadle Park point guard ask, “What do you want us to do, Squat?”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (1 Color)

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Sheridan basketball file 366-122 record 6 GSL titles 13 state qualifiers 1988, 1989 state titles

2. All-Sheridan basketball team Denise Schlepp 1977 Krista Dunn 1983 Lori Lollis 1989 Julie Holsinger 1981 Kelly Bartelson 1995 Jennifer Tissue 1993

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. Sheridan basketball file 366-122 record 6 GSL titles 13 state qualifiers 1988, 1989 state titles

2. All-Sheridan basketball team Denise Schlepp 1977 Krista Dunn 1983 Lori Lollis 1989 Julie Holsinger 1981 Kelly Bartelson 1995 Jennifer Tissue 1993

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