Rem Woodruff

Rem Woodruff

News Report Staff

Fundamentals.

That’s what Rem Woodruff is stressing over and over again as he looks ahead to his first season as the head coach of the Effingham Hearts basketball team.

“It’s a challenge to take a sport like basketball and try to equip young players with fundamental skills they will need to achieve success,” the 57-year-old, long-time educator, administrator and coach, noted.

“As a coach, there is a challenge to not make the game over-technical, yet teach them the fundamentals to develop their skills,” Woodruff added. “My No. 1 job is to help these young men learn to play the game right.”

Woodruff was named the coach in May after Ron Reed resigned after 15 seasons. After coming to the Effingham School District, Woodruff served as an assistant coach for 10 years under the school’s previous three head coaches – Bob Lockart, Jim Corrona and Reed.

“I’m familiar with this program and I have a sense of responsibility for this program,” Woodruff explained. “A lot of people and families have put a lot of time and energy into this.

“I have an understanding of the history and significance of this program. I felt I needed to be here,” Woodruff added. “I also have a passion for working with young men and teaching the game of basketball. Those are the things that motivated me to apply for the job.”

Woodruff is not a stranger to coaching. After growing up in Salem and graduating from high school there in 1978, he attended Kaskaskia College and then transferred to Eastern Illinois University, where he graduated in 1983.

He first got involved with coaching while student teaching, and after graduating from EIU, he was hired as the head basketball coach in the Southwest School District, located about an hour south of Joplin, Missouri.

He was a junior varsity coach at Dieterich, a graduate assistant under Rich Herrin at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and then a JV and head coach at Casey-Westfield.

“It was a unique experience seeing basketball at a different level,” Woodruff recalled, referring to his two years at SIU. “It was a different environment, but I learned a lot.”

During his four years as a head coach, Woodruff compiled a 63-42 record. That included guiding Casey-Westfield to the 1993 regional championship.

He came to Effingham in 1994 as the Director of Technology. He was responsible for helping design the curriculum for business and computer classes. He served in that capacity for 18 years before being promoted to assistant superintendent five years ago. He is now retiring from that position.

He will inherit a program that has gone 268-154 during Reed’s tenure. That includes eight seasons of 20 or more wins, three regional titles and five straight Apollo Conference championships.

“I appreciate the hard work and dedication Ron put into the program,” Woodruff said. “He did an amazing job and made a lot of sacrifices over the years so that Hearts basketball could reach a high level of success.

“But I don’t feel any pressure. I’m driven from within to meet challenges and help players develop,” Woodruff added. “I’m here for the program and the community. Both the school and community mean a lot to me.”

His plans for the program are quite simple and straightforward.

“The role of sports can be important for our students,” Woodruff noted. “It can teach them about the good and bad things in life. There are important things they can learn in the process – fundamentals, how to compete and developing relationships.

“I hope to create a program that recognizes and respects those things,” the coach added. “That is an experience I want our players to have.”

Communication is another important aspect that Woodruff plans to build in his program.

“I think we’ve lost a little of that from grade level to grade level,” he said. “I believe good communication must exist throughout all levels of the program.

“We must make a commitment to teaching fundamentals on both offense and defense,” Woodruff continued. “There are drills you can do at all grade levels that will help kids develop. Then you build on those as the kids come up to the higher levels. Successful programs have that type of synchronization. No matter what level, it’s important we’re all working on the same things.”

His coaching philosophy centers on his teams being “grounded in the fundamentals of the game. We will work hard on these and then match that to the players we have. Different teams have different skills and we will adapt to that. I learned that through the course of time.”

Woodruff likes an up-tempo game on offense. He said he doesn’t like to micromanage on offense, but will establish a framework and expect his team to play within that framework.

“We will spend a lot of time on man-to-man fundamentals on defense,” he added. “Man-to-man is the foundation for any defense. You have to keep the ball in front of you, make the other team take jump shots and then box out and rebound. But we’ll also play a variety of zone defenses.”

There have been six open gym workouts so far, plus the team has participated in a tournament in Evansville, Indiana.

“The talent level was high in that tournament,” Woodruff admitted. “We came to quickly realize the kids have to compete on every possession, both mentally and physically. If you don’t have as much talent, you have to find other ways to compete.

“You don’t always have the same type of athletes with the same skills every year,” he added. “We have talked a lot about what we can do, plus we’re evaluating our strengths and determining what we can do to put us in a position to compete and be successful.”

Woodruff will return two starters – Landon Wolfe and Mason Hull – plus Ryan Sandifer also has some varsity experience.

“So far, the kids have been willing to work,” the new coach said. “They’ve been in the weight room and spent time working on fundamentals. If their work ethic continues and they buy into what we’re trying to do, we’ll move forward and improve. This is a transition for all of us.”

Right now, Woodruff’s staff includes Blake Doehring as the junior varsity coach and Jeff Staser as a volunteer coach who will help at all levels as time permits with his job. Woodruff is still looking for two coaches – a freshman and a sophomore coach.

Woodruff’s last day as assistant superintendent is Friday. During his final week, he has been running a basketball camp in the mornings and then wrapping things up in his office during the afternoons.

“I’m trying to make sure all the summer projects are going in the right direction,” he said.

He is excited about the basketball season that will begin in about five months.

“This is where I want to be. I’m here because I want to be,” Woodruff said. “I will use the skills I’ve gained through the years and, hopefully, making things better. That’s the goal.”