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PAXTON — It’s a story that makes wives near and far shake their heads in disbelief, in a way they only could shake their heads at their husbands.
About six years back, the big day had arrived for the oldest child of the Overstreet clan, Justin. He was getting married. As the ceremony neared and those in the wedding party waited just outside, the cell phone of his dad, John, began buzzing.
A mere commoner’s instinct would have been to ignore the call. But John Overstreet didn’t become one of the best athletic directors in all of America by ignoring crucial phone calls from his bosses.
“We were getting ready to go down the aisle, and he got a phone call about something with school,” recalled Overstreet’s wife, Dawn. “I’m like, ‘Really?’ He took it. He took it … (PBL superintendent) Cliff McClure called and he’s like, ‘Dawn, I have to take this.’”
If you listen long enough, such tales are endless about the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School athletic director. There’s also the time Overstreet’s youngest son, Dylan, was a freshman at PBL and popped into dad’s office.
“He was like, ‘Oh, just booked officials for your senior year in basketball,” Dylan said.
Nobody does communication or organization better than Overstreet — “Two years in advance is normal for him,” PBL boys’ basketball coach Scot Vogel said.
Since taking over as AD at PBL High in 2001, Overstreet’s attention to detail has kept Panthers athletics running as smooth as can be. And now the man so often behind the scenes, who makes certain that events start on time and all the logistical happenings are a full go, has received his rightful recognition.
At a ceremony last week in Fargo, N.D., Overstreet was honored by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for his quality work in the past year and his career as a whole. He was one of the eight finalists from across the country who was up for the national athletic director of the year award handed out by the NHSACA.
Overstreet didn’t win the ultimate award — an AD from North Dakota in the profession for 42 years took the big prize — but hey, a tie for second and a big plaque is still quite the accomplishment.
How, you may ask, does Overstreet stand out at a position that can’t be analyzed by wins, state championships and conference titles?
Well, let’s start from the beginning. For Overstreet, that would be around 5:30-5:45 a.m. every day when he rises. He’s usually at PBL High by 6:30 in the morning, sometimes earlier, and it’s not surprising to see emails from Overstreet hit the inbox before 7 a.m. From there, he just doesn’t slow down.
Among the athletic director responsibilities he takes on at PBL High: scheduling contests for about 20 teams across different levels; setting up by himself or helping with the set-up of just about every home contest in any sport; scheduling officials for all those contests; fielding a multitude of calls from counterparts at area schools, coaches, parents, athletes and media; overseeing the athletic eligibility of student-athletes; ensuring that student-athletes have proper waivers and physicals filled out; helping set up the logistics and transportation to road sporting events; and attending many sporting events, home and away, to fulfill PBL’s goal of having an administrator present.
That’s not anywhere near a comprehensive list, either. It’s merely the basics, on top of teaching what amounts to about half a load of government classes and coaching cross country in the fall and track and field in the spring.
“A lot of nights, it’s 10 o’clock or so when he gets home,” Dawn said.
“He’s go-go-go. He’s always going,” Dylan added.
Still, a lot of ADs have a similar scope of responsibilities. Arguably what sets Overstreet apart among his peers is the role he plays for the Sangamon Valley Conference. His official title is executive secretary/treasurer. You might as well say he’s the lead organizer and point man for all things SVC.
Overstreet’s been influential in helping lead the SVC as realignment talks are forcing area conferences to re-evaluate their future and look for stability. This hasn’t been a one-time issue for the SVC, either; it’s a topic Overstreet has helped the league address every few years when the situation inevitably arises.
“He keeps everybody well informed and does a great job,” said Momence AD Terry Schaafsma, a friend and peer who’s been on the job for 12 years. “He’s very professional and runs a meeting well. He’s very knowledgeable and well-versed. He’s a good guy, and that goes a long ways … John’s a leader.”
Overstreet also runs the conference website, a nod to his technological acumen. He may not be a web designer, but the site has all the standings, schedules and other info you’d ever need, and it’s easy to navigate and up to date.
And, Vogel points out, Overstreet’s a whiz on Twitter, too, often updating scores in real time.
“He uses technology well. He’s one of the few ADs tweeting all the time,” Vogel said.
“He’s got a system for everything,” Dylan explained. “He’s crazy with Excel and stuff. When it comes to ordering stuff, he has all these different formulas. It’s probably more simple than it looks, but he’s got it down to a T. He’s really good with computers and stuff like that. He has to be to juggle all those sports.”
PBL hosts the SVC boys’ and girls’ track and field meets and is often involved in hosting the volleyball, boys’ basketball and girls’ basketball tournaments as well.
That’s in part because the school is geographically located in the middle of other conference members, but it’s also because Overstreet will run an event as efficiently as anyone else could.
And, his friends and family would say, he likes being the guy in charge and running something the right way.
“That’s the easiest way,” Dylan said. “He’s been at the school for 30-plus years. He just feels comfortable (running the show). He’s just ran so many different things.”
“He takes a lot of pride in that,” Vogel said. “Everything he runs, it goes off without any hitches. That’s the thing. That’s not easy to do.”
The job is hectic for Overstreet, but it’s also what helps keep him going. Those around him can’t see him sitting idle for an extended period of time, at least not yet in his career. He’s a 1977 graduate of Paxton High, where he was a state track champion, so he’s always had that “go-go-go” mentality Dylan spoke of.
After working to put himself through school at Parkland College the University of Illinois, Overstreet started teaching in the PBL district in 1983, first at the junior high level before moving up to high school. With Overstreet’s early mornings, late nights and long-time Paxton roots, it’s possible he’s spent more time at the high school in Paxton than any other person ever. With a greater degree of certainty, you could venture to say he’s spent more hours than anyone else at PBL High since Paxton and Buckley-Loda consolidated in the 1990-’91 school year.
“He loves it dearly. It’s his home away from home,” Dawn said of her husband’s affinity for PBL.
And so, Overstreet will continue to put in the early mornings and late nights at PBL. He won’t do it for the recognition, because that’s not who he is. He’s a laid-back, reserved individual, and it took an urging from Dawn just to get him to tell others at the school that he’d been honored as one of the nation’s top ADs.
Instead, Overstreet will vigorously attack his AD duties because it keeps his juices flowing, and there’s no one who could do it better.
“It means a lot to him. He’s not a guy who wears a ton of emotions on his sleeve, but he does care about what he does,” Dylan said. “He wants to do it the right way. That’s a reflection of our school. And that’s a reflection of the award — he’s committed to PBL.”