(Glenview Lantern) Walter Sherman is not one to back down from a challenge.
So nearly 50 years ago, when he was asked by superintendent Norman Watson to become Glenbrook South’s first athletic director, football coach and physical education department chair, he didn’t have to think twice.
“How can you say no to something like that,” said Sherman, who accepted the position in 1962. “It was a challenge and something different. It was really interesting and exciting to be starting a new school.”
The task was nothing new for Sherman, who became the original football coach at Glenbrook High School in 1953, before the schools split.
But this time, it was different.
As the athletic director and physical education chair, Sherman, now 85, was responsible for overseeing and creating two entire departments — starting from scratch.
Constructing the dome
At that time, the outside structure of the gymnasium — commonly referred now “The Dome” — had just been completed, but there was nothing inside.
Sherman was shown plans for the inside of the structure, and was surprised to see there wasn’t much planned other than a basketball court in the middle of the gym.
“The first question I asked the architect was, ‘where is the running track?'” he recalled. “I thought there would be a track of some kind.”
At the original Glenbrook High School, the runners took to the hallways when they needed to practice indoors. Sherman didn’t want that to be the case at GBS.
So the locker rooms were made smaller, leaving room for an indoor track.
The next task was finding room for the rest of the sports.
GBS’s original nine sports, according to Sherman, were football, cross country, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming baseball, track, golf and tennis; all of which were male-only sports.
With the swim team was set to practice at Glenbrook North, there were only two more indoor sports left to worry about.
“We had gymnastics on concrete and we had wrestling on concrete,” Sherman said. “So I promoted the idea of having wood floors being put down. Which they did do.”
With gymnastics and wrestling practicing at opposite ends of the of the basketball floor, the facility was equipped for both teams.
Selecting the uniforms
With the gym in order, Sherman’s second order of business was to select the team uniforms, starting with his football team.
In a meeting with a salesperson designated to design the jerseys, Sherman was told some students expressed a desire to wear light blue uniforms.
He considered the idea, but turned it down because Maine West already wore a similar color.
It didn’t take Sherman long to come up with a second choice.
“Just at this time a jet flew nice and low over Glenbrook South, low and loud coming in for a landing,” he said. “And I turned to the salesman and I said, ‘we have to have navy blue’.”
The hardest choice, the primary color, was behind him so he moved onto the secondary. Sherman proceeded to choose gold and white as the trim. When questioned about which shade of gold he wanted for the uniforms, Sherman immediately knew that it had to be the same as Glenbrook North.
“If we were going to have gold, why should we have a different color gold?” he said. “The old Northbrook school was gold, Glenbrook North is gold, and Glenbrook South is gold. So the same thread of gold runs through all three schools.”
Building the program
Since all teams started at the freshmen and sophomore level, it took a few years for the Titans’ athletic program to make a name for itself.
The first year, GBS only competed against freshman and sophomore teams. In year two, they were able to form junior varsity teams. It was not until its third year of existence that Glenbrook South fielded varsity athletics.
From there, it didn’t take long to make its mark.
In their first year, the Titans’ football team — led by Sherman — finished with a 6-1 record and a conference championship.
Without a playoff system in place, a conference championship was as big as it got at that time. But what may have been even bigger was the Titans’ win over Glenbrook North in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Sherman admitted it was “exciting” to take down the rival school, but said his team didn’t treat the game unlike any other.
“We had the goal to win every game,” he said. Our goal was to do our best at all times. Now if that meant winning, wonderful. It didn’t always necessarily mean winning either but that was our goal – to do our best.”
GBS won 17 conference championships in Sherman’s tenure from 1962-70, including a football and basketball championship in the 1964-65 season.
In 1967, the golf coach approached Sherman and suggested the team had a chance to beat New Trier, a powerhouse at the time, if they were able to host the Trevians in Glenview.
“So I contacted the state and they gave us the district golf tournament, and we won it, we beat New Trier,” Sherman said. “And we proceeded to the state tournament, and we won the state tournament in golf.”
That win marked GBS’s first state championship.
Sherman admits that the GBS coaching staff was a driving force behind the school’s success, but it was the advancement of lower-level programs that gave the Titans an edge.
Starting with basketball, Sherman began offering athletics at the junior high level. As time went by, more sports were added, which led to more prepared athletes entering the high school ranks.
End of an era
When 1970 rolled around, Sherman was once again approached by superintendent Watson.
This time, it was Glenbrook North in need of his support.
With GBS athletics now well established, Sherman left the school in 1971 to help revamp the Spartans’ football program.
“I guess I like a challenge,” he said. “Rather than just being in a maintaining position, to go back against doing something creative … its’s more fun.”
Sherman would remain at GBN until his retirement in 1990. He currently resides with his second-wife, Joyce, in Northbrook, where continues to visit both schools on a regular basis.
Sherman said his time with South is filled with nothing but fond memories, noting he never dreamed of the having the chance to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.
“It’s marvelous,” he said. “I’m very proud of the building and the program and all the success that they’ve had down there. I think it’s just a wonderful school. I’m proud to have had a part in it.”