Linda and Brent Steelman entered the Surry County Hall of Fame together on Saturday after a lifetime of teaching and coaching at Elkin High School.
The two started their teaching careers at Elkin in 1972. A year later, they got married.
Both Linda and Brent consider their time in the Buckin’ Elk family as memorable, and they wouldn’t want to go into the Hall of Fame any way other than side-by-side.
“It was quite humbling to be selected. We feel blessed,” Brent said. “We’d been coaching together for 26 years, the same sport too in basketball, so it just felt right to have this happen to both of us. It’s quite an honor, and I’m guessing there aren’t too many husband and wives that have matched that time period of coaching.”
Linda and Brent came to Elkin High School in 1972 because of the dream to coach sports. Brent was a teacher at West Yadkin’s K-8 school and was looking to jump into the high school level. Linda was a student-teacher at Surry Central, but she jumped at the opportunity to coach girl sports at Elkin.
Brent spent time coaching a variety of sports. For a short period, he was the head coach of the S&S Motor Class A Women’s Softball Team that won back-t0-back state titles in 1975 and 1976. At Elkin, he coached boys tennis from 1976-1980 and the freshman football team from 1972-1982.
However, there was one sport that always stood above the rest for Brent, and that was basketball.
“Those sports just kind of went with the job description,” Brent said. “I just enjoyed coaching, and I had the responsibility to coach those tennis and football teams when I first got there, but basketball has always been my first love.”
When Brent arrived at Elkin, he immediately became the junior varsity basketball coach. After two years, he earned the varsity position and coached the Elks’ senior team from 1974-2002.
During his time as the head basketball coach, Elkin won eight Blue Ridge 1A Conference championships, two Western Sectional 1A titles and advance to the Western Regional Final on two separate occasions.
Brent spent many years driving the basketball bus and carting the Buckin’ Elks to all of their road games during the winter months, but right behind him for a long period of his coaching career was Linda, who coached the girls team for 15 years.
Linda enjoyed success in basketball as well, leading Elkin to the Western Regional Final on several different occasions, but she enjoyed the most success during the fall season as the head coach of Elkin’s volleyball team.
“I don’t think people always realize how hard it is to be as good as we were for an extended period of time,” Linda said. “It took us a while to win the big one, but I was still able to appreciate the success we had before that. The path to get there is really hard.”
The period of time Linda mentions was a stretch from 1993-1996 when Elkin’s volleyball team represented the Western regional in the state championship for four consecutive years. The first three appearances in the final match of the season ended in failure, but the Elks finally gave Linda a state championship in 1996.
Linda rode off into the sunset that year and retired as Elkin’s volleyball coach after the title.
“That’s definitely what sticks out when I think about my time at Elkin,” Linda said. “I told the girls, ‘regardless of what happens, I’m going to retire.’ I was getting old and tired, and people don’t understand the stress and the pressures of going through the playoffs year-after-year.”
Right by Linda’s side in the state championship were her two twin daughters, Lindsey and Hillary. They were seniors during that 1996 season and Linda is eternally grateful for that final jubilant experience with her daughters on the volleyball court.
Brent and Linda also had another set of twins, two younger boys named Travis and Blake. Brent’s two sons played basketball for their father at Elkin as well.
The boys in the family never won a state championship, and the girls like to remind them of this fact.
“All of our kids started sports when they were little toddlers,” Linda said. “It was our niche. It’s exciting and it has always been a family tradition to play sports. I got it young from my dad, and we passed it on to our kids and now our grand-kids.”
Linda joins her father, Kelly Jack Swift, in the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame. Swift was a famous minor league pitcher who set the record for most wins in a minor league season with 30.
The Steelmans were unable to attend the ceremony on Saturday as they were in Pittsburgh, PA celebrating Hilary’s wedding, but they are invited to come back next year and stand alongside the 2016 inductees.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16