Dave Brost didn’t write the book on how to be a successful high school athletic director.
He learned the job as he went along.
Brost, 62, is retiring in May after working for 19 years as an athletic director, the last 13 at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort. During that time, he has guided one of the most successful and most diverse athletic programs in Illinois.
East has won four state championships during his tenure and captured eight first- or second-place trophies in IHSA state tournament competitions.
The Griffins have gone from a what—what’s a Griffin? Answer: A mythological creature with the head of an eagle the body of a lion. To a who: East teams have become fixtures at the top of many state-wide polls since then-coach Aimee Lonigro led the Griffins to the Class AA state softball title in 2002.
Brost did write the book on the Griffins’ softball championship season. It’s titled, We Can Do This. He also is the author of Poetry in Motion—a book of his own poems. His interest in writing ranks second only to his interest in the welfare of his extended family—the students, faculty and staff at Lincoln-Way East.
He is proud to tell anyone who will listen 66 percent of the boys and girls participate in the athletic program at East, the list of 28 sports offered by the school running the gamut from badminton and baseball to water polo and wrestling.
“Why is that important?” Brost asks rhetorically. “Because to be involved is to be a better student and a better person. Statistics show that kids that are involved will succeed—and it doesn’t have to be in sports, it can be in clubs. It can be student council and music and drama.
“But the more you’re involved, the more you’re vested into the school, the more you’ve developed friendships and you’ve got responsibilities. You’re just more conscious of being organized and doing the right thing.”
End of an Era in L-W East Athletics
Brost’s last official function at East will be the May 22 spring awards banquet. His legacy will live on for many, many years to come, according to his right-hand woman, Terri Rossi, East’s administrative assistant in athletics. She said he has touched the lives of many in extraordinary ways.
“Dave is the pulse of Lincoln-Way East,” Rossi said. “He’s very fast-paced. He runs circles around me. He’s all about the kids and the recognition of our students. You can witness that as you walk down our hallways.
“And the students—every day I will see somebody, one of our students, looking up at those pictures (hanging in the halls at East). Dave started that here when East opened up in 2001. And it’s interesting even when you watch visitors walk through the school that are attending events. They look at the pictures.
"Again, it’s a testimony to our student-athletes and how successful they are and how successful our programs are. But it’s also Dave putting up all those photos. And he puts them up himself.
“He drags a ladder or, right now, a desk. And he runs it up along the wall. He hangs those pictures up. The kids absolutely love it, love him. He’s a high-energy person.”
Brost knows how to spell high-energy, too, and it’s not so much the grammarian and writer in him showing his face when he checks over his work, but the creative force in him coming out in the light of day as he sounds out his ideas. He teamed with then-East principal Mike Gardner to devise a motto for East students to live by when the school first opened its doors.
E-A-S-T: Effort, Attitude, Spirit, Teamwork.
“Years from now, you know, the awards that we’ve won, they’re always going to be here,” Brost said. “And the memories that we’ve created, they’re going to last a lifetime. But it’s what you’ve got from being an athlete, what you’ve got from being a teammate that you’re going to take with you.
“And let’s face it, when you step outside into the real world, not a lot of people are going to care if you were the starting guard on the state championship football team. They’re going to want to know, ‘Are you fully prepared to do this job that we’re offering you? Are you going to be on time? Are you going to say the right thing at the right moment? Are you going to treat people with respect?’
“This is not just Lincoln-Way East—every high school and every athletic program should put those values way above the winning and losing.”
Brost played sports himself as a youngster. He was a physical education teacher and wrestling coach before becoming an athletic director for the first time in 1993. Then, he worked at Reavis. He moved to Lincoln-Way East in 1999.
He was there when the Griffins won their first varsity athletic competition—a tennis match. He will leave with the Griffins on top, too.
“If there’s a scoreboard out there, we want to have more runs or more points,” Brost said. “But, in the end, and I put this in my book, I said, ‘The next best thing to winning is losing.’
“You’ve got to learn how to lose. Sometimes losing means you’re the second-best team in the state or you’re the second-best individual in the state. Well, there will be a lot of people who wish they were in that situation, to have that opportunity.”
Brost Still Will Weild Power of the Pen
As he moves into retirement, Brost plans to keep moving forward with his writing. He said he will pen a third book and continue contributing poetry to his blog posts. He and his wife, Teri, will spend some time traveling and more time chasing after their three children (Julie, Kathie and Scott) and seven grandchildren.
Brost’s exit will coincide with that of his long-time aide, East assistant athletic director John Piazza. For 10 years, the two worked together to schedule Griffin athletic events and solve problems. They have shared in wearing the cap of Mr. Fix It.
When they are gone, Mark Vander Kooi will assemble his own team to keep the Griffins marching forward. Vander Kooi already has been named to take East’s athletic reins as the new athletic director in 2012-13.
“Dave’s pro-active in terms of getting things done,” Piazza said. “I didn’t know that about him at first. I found out that he’s really pro-active with all the sports we have here. That’s one thing. I just kind of followed along and did the best I could in terms of helping him out.”
So, the Brost story ends with a “T” just like the name of his school, E-A-S-T. And that’s a “T” for teamwork.