Don't judge this coach by his cover
Author(s): Joe Bush
Date: January 19, 2001
Jerry Auchstetter watches movies like "Blue Chips", "Any Given Sunday" or "Remember the Titans," and he seethes. Wild-eyed coaches busting their lungs to motivate their players.
"Coaches get stereotyped a little too much," he says. "I'd like to break out of that mold."
Auchstetter - an IHSA Hall of Fame football coach who guided Geneva to a 153-43-1 record in 20 seasons - means this on a few levels.
He's written and published not a children's book, but a grandchildren's book.
It's titled "Boney," and it's set in North Dakota and features a grandpa and a grandkid and the title character, a mutt that the grandpa discovers half-dead and that heals into a hero.
Auchstetter began writing the story to let his seven grandkids know that he loved them and not to judge people or things by first impression.
The book is dedicated to 11-year-olds Kelsey and Alex, second- grader Tyler, first-grader Richie, kindergartner Maddie, 18-month- old Adam and 3-year-old Austin.
They don't know their grandpa as a legendary football mentor or onetime Vikings athletic director, so his budding and perhaps one- book literary career won't be as surprising to them as it is to adults who know him.
"The biggest part of the book is trying to show people another side of him," says Auchstetter's son, Steve, father of Adam and Austin.
Auchstetter the Elder admits it: he was the stereotypical stoic, steely, take-no-mess, old-school, mud-and-blood football coach.
"You've gotta be firm, you've gotta be tough," Auchstetter says of his peer-group coaching style. "In the '70s and '80s we were a little more tough on discipline."
For Auchstetter, respect was a quiet affair.
"People always knew what he meant," says Steve, a Kaneland varsity football assistant. "He never had to yell."
So sure, Boney goes from barely surviving a wild-dog-pack attack to earning a spot in a pet hall of fame and the reader sees that scarred is only skin deep.
Unless the reader knew Auchstetter, however, the full effect of the moral of the story would be missed.
He started putting together the story two years ago, mostly while jogging. Auchstetter read advice from the lady who wrote "Shiloh," another dog story, that sitting in a comfortable chair listening to soothing music was a good way to compose.
"I tried that and fell asleep," he says with a laugh.
Some of the 170-page book came from his past, some from his imagination. The Mendota, Ill., native knew rural folk and their ways from his days spent visiting his grandfather's farm in Earlville.
Boney's name came from a dog left on the doorstep of his wife Linda's sister, who lived in Jefferson, Mo.
A festival from the story sprung from Auchstetter's childhood memories, as did a territorial rooster that used to chase him around the Earlville homestead.
In the book, which is written for middle-school-aged kids, the rooster gets after Boney.
"Some things you never forget," he says. "(The book) probably tells more about me than what I displayed as a coach."
There are seven characters in the story who were Auchstetter's favorites. They are named Kelsey, Alex, Tyler, Richie, Maddie, Adam and Austin.
Adam was born while Auchstetter was halfway through the book, so he had to add another character.
With the book done and for sale at the Geneva Borders as well as at Amazon.com, Steve had a question for his dad.
"What if there's another grandchild?"
"I guess I'd write a sequel."
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