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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘She put girls sports on the map’: Late Shadle Park coach Linda Sheridan to be inducted into Hooptown Hall of Fame

All because of one person.

There are hundreds of Linda Sheridan disciples walking the streets of Spokane and other parts of the world, touching the lives of athletes or raising families.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, took Sheridan’s life 11 years ago at the age of 65, but her enduring legacy continues.

Next week, the former Shadle Park High head girls basketball and volleyball coach will be inducted in the third class of the Hooptown Hall of Fame. It was an honor well earned coaching on and off the court.

Former Central Valley and Coeur d’Alene girls basketball coach Dale Poffenroth remembers the early years of building his program at CV. On a Friday, Sheridan’s Highlanders thumped the Bears by 50 points and the next night beat Mead by 49.

Mead coach Jeanne Helfer called Poffenroth.

“She said we’ve got to do something about it,” Poffenroth said. “I told, ‘Jeanne, I already had. I apologized to Linda after the game and told her I was sorry that they worked all week and didn’t get anything out of the game. And I told her that the next time we played them we were going to beat them.’ ”

CV was much more competitive the next time, but Shadle still won.

Blowout aside, Poffenroth had much respect for Sheridan and attended her funeral at the gym named in her honor.

“I don’t think there was anyone better at motivating kids than she was,” Poffenroth said. “If she had to break the ice, she’d call a timeout and get the kids laughing. I couldn’t do that, but she did a great job.”

Sheridan coached five volleyball teams and two basketball teams to state titles. She won volleyball and basketball titles in the same year. She finished with a combined 820-214 record in 24 years, a winning percentage just shy of 80%.

She was affectionately known as “Squat,” but not just anybody could call the diminutive Sheridan by that moniker.

“There was a rumor when she got hired that a tall, lanky blond was hired from California,” said Judy Kight, a longtime successful volleyball coach at Mead who played both sports for Sheridan. “Then she showed up and has this squatty body. You didn’t have the right to call her squat or squatty unless you were her athlete. It was a term of endearment.”

The Crossover Classic volleyball tournament is named after Sheridan and the late Buzzie Welch, who coached at LC and was a friendly rival.

Kight remembers a highly competitive match with her Mead team and Shadle at the crossover. During a brief break, Kight was sitting on the bench and leaned over to look at Shadle’s bench.

“We were in a battle and I was wondering how we were going to get it done,” Kight said. “I leaned forward and she was looking at me. It’s a memory stuck in my mind. I don’t remember who won, but I took the best of what she taught and applied it in my coaching. She had the integrity to really push us to become champions, to bring out the champions within us, and she showed us that work is love, too. It’s love to work hard and build resilience.”

Shadle Park head coach Linda Sheridan reacts to a missed shot by her team during the first overtime period of a 1994 State AAA Tournament loss against Olympic at the Seattle Center Arena.  (The Spokesman-Review Photo Archives)
Shadle Park head coach Linda Sheridan reacts to a missed shot by her team during the first overtime period of a 1994 State AAA Tournament loss against Olympic at the Seattle Center Arena. (The Spokesman-Review Photo Archives)

Former LC coach Julie Yearout played both sports for Sheridan and graduated in 1983. She discovered how her coach impacted her life well after her playing days.

“Probably more after I started coaching,” Yearout said. “She was well ahead of her time in what she knew about the game.”

Sheridan coached long before club teams and offseason development became a thing.

“It wasn’t like it is now,” Yearout said. “Her development of athletes happened during the season. She was so deliberate at what she did. We got good in the season. She definitely knew what she was doing and paid attention to detail.”

Sheridan didn’t keep it all to herself. Coach after coach talked about how she took the time to share wisdom with them.

“She was such a great mentor,” Yearout said.

Poffenroth recalled the first time CV qualified for state.

“Linda called and asked me if I wanted her to come to practice and explain to the kids the purpose in going to state was not just to have fun,” Poffenroth said. “I walked into the gym and there she was waiting for me. She spoke to the kids and it made all the difference in the world.”

Poffenroth was among the throng that turned out to celebrate Sheridan’s life at her funeral in the gym appropriately named after her.

Former Ferris volleyball coach Stacey Ward played for Sheridan and was teammates with Kight in the late ’70s.

“I was always nervous when my teams played her teams,” Ward said.

It was 1993 when her team finally beat Shadle. That year Ferris, Shadle and LC finished in a three-way tie for first in the Greater Spokane League.

“Linda was always supportive,” Ward said. “I came to appreciate her a whole lot when I started coaching. She could mold kids together into a team that was amazing. One of the more beautiful things about her was her way of empowering a team. At the time when girls were starting to get a little recognition, she was a cheerleader. She was always promoting equity for girls. She put girls sports on the map in Spokane.

“For me, she is the person who made me believe I could have a career.”

Sheridan has been gone 11 years, but her impact continues.

“A lot of people can coach, but by far her influence was greater than anyone I’ve known in my life,” Kight said.

In the end, Sheridan didn’t let the bitterness of dealing with ALS affect her.

“Even when she was diagnosed with ALS, she modeled how to go out gracefully,” Ward said.