DOWNERS GROVE – Tom Redig always preached a team-first mentality to his Downers Grove North boys swimmers.
But one of Burke Sims’ fondest memories of his high school coach came after an individual honor.
“The year I won the state championship [in the 500-yard freestyle] after taking second, he knew how hard it was for me,” said Sims, who earned a degree from Stanford and is working and preparing for graduate school in New York. “Just the look of joy on his face as he ran over and shook my hand, and then he gave me a huge hug when he gave me my medal.”
Starting his DGN coaching career in 1986, Redig had a profound effect on Sims and hundreds of North swimmers over the years, until he retired from coaching in 2009 and teaching in 2010 because of health reasons related to removal of a tumor from his spine in his 20s. Redig and his wife, Patty, formerly a coach with Express Swim Club, had moved to Arizona to alleviate some of the complications of Redig’s health situation but recently moved back because their daughter, Kayla, is battling breast cancer.
To show support for the Redig family, the DGN swim and dive teams are hosting an alumni fundraising event at 5 p.m. Aug. 30. Donations will be accepted at the event to offset the medical costs incurred by Tom and Kayla.
A dual meet featuring members of the current squad is planned, as is the dedication of a Wall of Fame honoring the Trojans’ 30 National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association All-Americans. Academic All-Americans also will be honored.
A former chemistry teacher at North, Redig helped build North’s swimming program to one of the best in the state.
“Pretty much every DGN swim kid in the last 20 years has been coached by one or both of them,” Janice Sims said of of Tom and Patty Redig. Janice Sims is the mother of Burke Sims and current North swimmers Maddie and Gabby Sims and lead organizer for the event.
Redig’s coaching career at North was capped by Sims’ state title, but his legacy as a coach goes beyond times and state titles.
“The fastest person on the team was just as important to him as JV guys in the outside lanes working their way up,” Burke Sims said. “I have nothing but great things to say about Tom. One of the closest relationships I’ve had in my life was with him. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to swim for him.”