For 41 years until his retirement in 2018, Rodriguez was a popular golf coach, PE teacher, and mentor
By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
To the surprise of no one connected to Pioneer sports for the past few decades, The Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) has selected Steve Rodriguez, former golf coach at Pioneer High School, for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I’m honored to be inducted into a past group of coaches that includes Mike Rodriguez (his father, a ’51 graduate of Ann Arbor High), Lou Holloway, Chuck Ritter, Denny Hill, Kent Overbey, Brian Westfield, and Tom Pullen,” says Rodriguez, who retired in 2018. “These are past AAPS coaches I’ve admired for years.”
Rodriquez says his favorite memories of teaching and coaching at Pioneer involve developing long-lasting relationships with many of the student-athletes he felt privileged to work with.
“Looking back, I realize I was surrounded by some of the most talented, dedicated teachers and coaches a person could have ever hoped for,” he says.
Rodriguez was a Pioneer physical education teacher and golf coach for 41 years and was profiled in the AAPS District News in 2018 as an Exceptional Teacher & Coach.
Pioneer Athletic Director Eve Claar calls him a legend.
“It takes all of about five minutes with Steve Rodriguez to realize he is magic due to his charismatic enthusiasm, his genuine interest in the person he is speaking with and the sincerity in his words,” says Claar. “For decades, Steve has worked with hundreds of athletes who would tell you that Steve cares. He has an uncanny ability to connect with every type of student that he encounters. He possesses an appreciation for the fact that he is able to change the world through the kids that he has coached and taught. He has always been a mentor to new coaches and through those relationships has helped to establish and share the Pioneer culture. He expresses to new staff that we all `get to coach at Pioneer High School.'”
Rodriguez began his coaching career as the varsity wrestling coach from 1977 to 1984. In 1985 he took over the women’s varsity golf team and remained in that position for 33 years. During those years his teams captured 16 league championships, 14 regional championships, and two state championships, and had 28 years with Top Ten state tournament finishes.
Rodriguez was not only a mentor, role model, teacher, and leader for Pioneer students and staff for more than 40 years, he received many honors and recognitions along the way.
He was named the MIGCA Division 1 State Coach of the Year in 1989, 1993, and 2005; the MIGCA
Regional Coach of the Year in 1997 and 2005; the MHSCA Golf Coach of the Year in 1993; Michigan
Association for Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance Sports and Athletic Leader of the Year in
2003, and a National Federation of High Schools Golf Coach of the Year finalist in 2008.
He was a member of the MHSAA Golf Rules Committee, served as tournament director for multiple golf tournaments, and was the founder of the Pioneer High School Adaptive PE Program Special Olympics.
From a coaching standpoint, Rodriguez says he’s grateful for the guidance and support received from every Athletic Director he worked with.
“They’re a special lot,” he says. “They do so much for so many.”
He said he would often tell students—especially those who struggled at times—to check out the sign in the PE office on their way out.
The sign read: “Believe in Yourself Like I Believe in You.”
“Then I would wait for them to turn around so I could give them my biggest smile,” he recalls.
The induction ceremony will occur at Central Michigan University at 1 p.m. on September 25, 2022. Tickets are available on the MHSCA website.