“… That tied in with what the Hamilton administrators presented as far as the picture of Hamilton and what they are trying to create. I want to assist with that.”
Stewart learned the value and importance of emphasizing service while coaching at La Salle for eight years under current Milford football coach Tom Grippa from 2003 through 2010. The mission at LaSalle was to create servant leaders, and Stewart said that “moved” him as an educator and coach.
When he took over at Lebanon, initially on an interim basis in March 2011, Stewart was able to incorporate that mission into his program. He began an initiative, “Called to Serve,” in which each head coach was responsible for doing a community service project with his or her team, and the Warriors also started a “Captain’s Council” to teach student-athletes servant leadership skills.
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Those are concepts Stewart would like to bring to Hamilton, as well as the potentially the idea of a Women’s in Sports Symposium, like the one Lakota East athletic director Rich Bryant held, allowing some Lebanon students also to attend.
“I want to make sure we’re not just serving our student-athletes but that the student-athletes are also serving the community,” Stewart said. “We need to honor the strong tradition of Hamilton athletics. People need to understand who came before them and celebrate that in what we do right now.”
Hamilton originally was set to hire Franklin director of business operations Rodney Roberts; however, he decided to stay at Franklin instead and thus opening the door for Stewart.
Principal John Wilhelm said the Big Blue are fortunate to have Stewart, calling him “a perfect fit” because of his experience and familiarity with the Greater Miami Conference and the OHSAA. Wilhelm has known Stewart since 2011 when Stewart took an interim administrator role at Monroe for six months while Wilhelm was a teacher there. The two had stayed in touch over the years when their respective schools competed, and Wilhelm “felt comfortable and confident” in Stewart’s abilities.
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Stewart’s focus on service and building leaders especially resonated well with Wilhelm.
“Athletics is not just about wins and losses for us here,” Wilhelm said. “We want to build solid citizens. He’s been working on programs at Lebanon we would like to incorporate here, and that resonated well with me, as well as his commitment to education. As a licensed principal, he understands the importance for our students is not only on sports but having options upon leaving Hamilton.”
Stewart said it also helps moving to a job closer to home. His wife, Brenda Stieger, teaches and coaches softball at nearby Fairfield, and he looks forward to the shorter commute whenever schools are reopened.
This time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic will help him more easily transition, as he ties up loose ends at Lebanon and prepares to acclimatize himself with the staff and students at Hamilton. Stewart worked with Hamilton boys basketball coach Kevin Higgins from 2014 to 2018 at Lebanon and followed football coach Nate Mahon’s career when he was a player at Hamilton because his wife had him as a student at St. Peter in Chains School.
“For me, the chance to make an impact in Hamilton with what’s going on there was something I couldn’t pass up, but it’s bittersweet leaving Lebanon because of the great kids, great administration and great staff. I don’t throw that around lightly. I really enjoyed my time at Lebanon, but now I’m looking forward to this new opportunity.”