West Side Stories: Steven Reynolds, 'The Second Half'
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Looking up to life-size cutouts of his team hanging from the rafters of the Great Western Forum, Coach Steve Reynolds said, "THIS…was a complete surprise."
After 10 years of serving the church and community, Reynolds wanted to make an investment in Washington High School, as he felt like that was the hub of the west side.
Reynolds is now entering his 10th year coaching. His girls' basketball team is also heavily involved in the community.
"When we were losing, we were still serving. This has always been my heart. We were always doing that. But of course, when you're winning then you're on the scene."
When the Panthers lost the State Championship in 2021, Reynolds wanted to tour, take the runner-up state trophy and breathe hope into the community.
The I Dream Tour was built off a speech Reynolds gave before they left for the State game in Indianapolis. They visited 10 schools in two weeks. They encouraged kids to dream, ate lunch with them, and took pictures with them.
"The beautiful thing about this is the kids (players) are from this area. And if you give them a platform to care, and to love and to serve, they eat it up. They love it. They ask, 'what are we doing this year?' It's been a staple of our program."
The next year, they won the 3-A State Championship.
This was familiar to the Washington girls' basketball team that lost State in 2006, then won in 2007. Those life-size cutouts were hanging in the rafters looking over them for years. Now, they joined them.
The stage grew larger.
Unexpectedly, Reynolds really saw the impact his team made on the community and Washington alumni when he was coaching softball that spring.
"It was the end of the season, and we went to New Prairie…I'm coaching third base and an older gentleman sitting in a lawn chair says, 'Hey Reynolds, good job with the girls. Class of '65!'
Everybody just started yelling the year they graduated from Washington. Look, I'm at New Prairie…and by now I'm on the fence because people are coming up to shake my hand…I'm coaching the third baseline in the first inning and they're delaying the game because of everybody's pride about graduating from Washington. And these are people that don’t look like me…it’s just a side of Washington I didn't know."
Now, Steve and Marcy can't just go get groceries. It's an event.
"When we won, literally our lives changed. I remember for probably about a month, I don't think I paid for dinner…We'd go to Little Caesar's to pick up pizza and they'd say, 'Oh Coach, don’t worry about it.' It was just awesome."
This only supported what Reynolds already knew so many years ago. The west side had his heart, and it was on purpose.
"It's the spirit of, we got your back. We're not gonna let you fall. We're not gonna let someone disrespect you…That's heavy for me. That's the foundation of the west side. If you're in you're in. You're ours."
The list of influential individuals that had Reynolds' back and started him on his path is a mile long.
From the coaches that came before him like Grant Gondrezick, Moe Scott and Seabe Gavin, to the teachers and security guards at Washington that laid out the blueprint for working with kids, like Dr. Nicole Garcia. They all made an immense impact on Reynolds' path, and the tools he has used to, as he says, serve.
"It's not hard work, it's impossible work. And they're getting impossible work done."
Reynolds has been that person, now, to so many. He has changed the lives of so many kids including Frannie Galicia.
He first met Frannie when he was a security guard for Washington. She was a 6'5" Sophomore he would see walking the halls that never played basketball in her life.
She was incredibly shy and would not fall for Reynolds' offers to teach her to play. That is, until the following year.
Reynolds started teaching gym class, and she finally came up to talk to him.
"Mr. Reynolds, is it too late to try to play?" Galicia asked. His prayers were answered.
Reynolds devoted many hours to developing her not only as a player, but as a person.
The following season, Galicia was the starting center in the 2021 3-A State Championship game, and currently plays for IUSB.
"It's a bit indescribable…because the work's not done. I'm 43, I'm still young. I'm still thinking through and dreaming of what this could be."
That dream lives and breathes on the west side.
"We know the plight. We know the reputation. We know where this thing bends or turns sometimes. Flaws and all. Every side of town has flaws. Every family has flaws. But there's just this love embedded in all of it. And it's real. For west siders it's unconditional."
Jena Stopczynski / ABC57Mila, Steve, Marcy, Amiyah and Kira I Dream Tour I Dream Tour Steve Reynolds and Mayor Mueller Frannie Galicia in the 2021 State Championship
Jena Stopczynski2021 State Runners-up
Jena StopczynskiI Dream Tour Steve and Mila Reynolds Players giving to the community Champions billboard Steve and Mila Reynolds during softball season Reynolds family 2021