Schwartz makes impact on athletes, coachesApril 20, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — Adam Schwartz occupies a coveted spot in the community, perhaps even more prestigious than the mayor’s office.
Schwartz, 24, has used his enthusiasm and contagious positivity to become a steady fixture for Jasper athletics. He’s often seen carrying the Wildcats’ flag around the court during home boys basketball games to hype up the crowd before tipoff. Then he takes a seat on the bench to cheer and support the team as an assistant coach.
“It’s fun being a coach for them,” he said. “I give motivation to the team so they can win.”
Schwartz’s life as a Wildcats institution had humble beginnings. Schwartz, who has Down syndrome, was a special needs student at Jasper, but he had a special knack for connecting with everyone he came across. And that’s how he first drew notice from Jasper boys basketball coach John Goebel.
“Everybody knew Adam,” he said. “He’s so personable and friendly. I got to know him just by talking to him in the hallway.”
Goebel learned that Schwartz was a huge basketball fan, and extended him an invitation to hang out with the team during practice and sit on the bench during games. He figured that Schwartz’s abundance of positivity and black-and-gold fandom would be a great asset to have around the team.
“We gave him a uniform and asked him to come to our practices and sit with us during the games,” he said. “Adam is a good role model for the kids. He’s always positive, loyal to a fault and he loves without condition.”
So Schwartz remained with the team throughout high school, and his presence was so invaluable that Goebel made him an assistant coach after he graduated in 2014. But along with boosting the morale of the boys, he’s not afraid to share his insights on where the team can get better.
“We need to work on free throws and defense,” he said without hesitation. “When you do better on defense, you do better on offense. You show them things they need to work on and they do it.”
But that’s not the only way Schwartz likes to stoke his competitive fire. He’s been an active Special Olympics athlete for 16 years. He participates in a combination of track and field, bowling and cornhole. He also played youth soccer and took part in unified track and field and wrestling at Jasper. Schwartz credits former Wildcats wrestling coach and Indiana Wrestling Hall of Famer Rick Stenftenagel with encouraging him to pursue sports and competition.
“Mr. Stenftenagel got me started with wrestling,” Schwartz said. “It was fun and interesting. He let me wrestle on Senior Night.”
All of Schwartz’s activities have added to his legend and made him something of an icon around Jasper High School. He serves as a role model and inspiration for everyone he comes in contact with, and Goebel wishes there were more people like him in the world.
“He’s the kind of person everyone should strive to be,” Goebel said. “He’s just an honest, decent and caring human being. He always has words to pick people up when they’re down. He would have the right to complain about some of the hands he’s been dealt in life, but he doesn’t. He keeps things in perspective, and he’s a team-first guy. I can’t imagine the program without him.”
“I love competition,” Schwartz added. “All the years I’ve been doing it, others could also do the same things. I’m there for them if they need help.”
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