The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) annually bestows an honor, regarded as the highest achievable accolade in high school sports and activities, upon 12 individuals with their respective enshrinement into the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) is proud to announce that long-time girls’ volleyball coach at St. Francis High School in Wheaton and the winningest coach in IHSA history, Peg Kopec, has been selected as a member of the 2016 NFHS National High School Hall of Fame inductee class.
“No coach in state history has had more success than Peg Kopec, and few have done it with more class,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson, “If you didn’t know anything about Peg from a wins and losses perspective, and simply watched her coach, you would say that she epitomizes what a high school coach should be
. She is a teacher who genuinely cares about her players, fostering their development as players and people.”
Peg is the 26th individual representing the IHSA to be honored in the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame and will be formally honored at an enshrinement ceremony banquet on Saturday, July 2, 2016 as a part of the 2016 NFHS Summer Meeting in Reno, Nevada. Inductees must be nominated by their respective state association and categorized based on their contributions as Athletes, Coaches, Officials, Administrators or in the Fine Arts. Peg is the eighth IHSA enshrinee to represent the Coach category and the first female coach.
“Being inducted into the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame is a very special honor,” said Kopec. “To be nominated by my state association (IHSA) is so rewarding because this is recognition by those who really know both me and my work. I feel most humbled, grateful and affirmed to be nominated and selected to such a prestigious group.”
Peg’s amazing career began at St. Francis in 1972 and concluded this past November
(2015) at the IHSA State Finals, where she guided the Spartans to their fourth consecutive state championship and the 12th overall in her career. In 42 seasons at St. Francis, Peg amassed a career record of 1,248 wins, 260 losses and 2 ties (.827%), while qualifying for the IHSA state finals 20 times in that timeframe. Her teams earned seven other trophies (two 2nd place, four 3rd place, one 4th place) that accompany the dozen state titles in the school trophy case. Her career victories, state final appearances and state championship wins are just a few of the Illinois high school coaching records she holds regardless of sport. She retires with the fifth-most career wins in high school volleyball history according to the NFHS Record Book.
“Peg’s 1,000 plus wins really speak for themselves. She knows the ins and outs of the game of volleyball and willingly shares her knowledge with her colleagues,” said three-time state champion coach of Joliet Catholic Academy Chris Scheibe. “One of the things I admire most about her is that she has created a winning atmosphere, yet it is not all about winning. She has created a program where girls want to play for her because of how special she makes the experience.”
Under Peg’s guidance, St. Francis has been known for the voluminous team traditions her squad annually engages in, from presenting each player with the lyrics to the Bette Midler song The Rose, playing a real-life Hunger Games during an overnight team lock-in, tying ribbons on trees after postseason wins, throwing rubber ducks into the crowd during pre-game intros and staging an annual team theme photo (that has included the coaching staff posing in full KISS make-up and attire) just to name a few.
“Peg’s absence of ego created the family atmosphere that exists within St. Francis volleyball,” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director and Volleyball administrator Stacey Lambert. “She will talk to you for hours about her current and former players, as well as the unique traditions they conduct as a team. It becomes very clear in those conversations that while playing your best and having success is important, it is the secondary goal of what she tries to accomplish in coaching
Peg’s countless career accolades include induction in the Illinois Coaches Association (ICA) Hall of Fame, being named Coach of the Year by both the NHSCA and the NFHS, as well as being selected to the Chicago Sky’s Title IX Team in 2012, which honored nine women who were pioneers and leaders in girls' athletics at all levels.
The other members of the Hall of Fame Class include: Ken Beardslee (Athlete, MI), Marlin Briscoe (Athlete, NE), Joni Huntley (Athlete, OR), Tom Southall (Athlete, CO), Steve Spurrier (Athlete, TN), Pete Boudreaux (Coach, LA), Jack Holloway (Coach, DE), Chuck Kyle (Coach, OH), Eugene “Lefty” Wright (Official, MN), Tim Flannery (Administrator, OH/NFHS/NIAAA) and Ennis Proctor, Administrator, MS). Click here for NFHS release on HOF class
Peg Kopec is the 26th NFHS National High School Hall of Fame member from Illinois, joining:
Norm Geske (Official from Buffalo Grove, inducted in 1982)
H.V. Porter (IHSA & NFHS Staff, 1982)
Arthur Trout (Coach at Centralia, 1982)
Dwight "Dike" Eddleman (Athlete at Centralia, 1983)
Vergil Fletcher (Coach at Collinsville, 1983)
Milt Sprunger (IHSA Staff, 1983)
Fred "Brick" Young (Official from Bloomington, 1983)
Harold "Red" Grange (Athlete at Wheaton, 1984)
Bart Connor (Athlete at Niles West, 1986)
John Griffith (Special contributor from Chicago, 1986)
Charles Farina (Coach at Leyden & Gordon Tech, 1987)
Quinn Buckner (Athlete at Thornridge, 1989)
Gordon Gillespie (Coach at Joliet Catholic, 1989)
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Athlete at East St. Louis Lincoln, 1989)
Keith Parker (Official from Granite City, 1990)
David Robertson (Coach at New Trier, 1991)
William "Red" Schmitt (Coach at Granite City, 1993)
Tom Frederick (IHSA & NFHS Staff, 1994)
Larry Wilcoxen (Official from Walnut, 1994)
Ola Bundy (IHSA Staff, 1996)
Dick Deitz (Official from McLeansboro, 1996)
Joe Newton (Coach at York, 2004)
Dana Miroballi (Athlete at Wheeling, 2009)
Jan Heiteen (Fine Arts, Coach at Downers Grove South, 2012)
Haig Nighohossian (Official from Granite City, 2013)