An Irish Legend
Rick Streiff retires after 23 seasons as Cathedral football coach
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photography provided by Brian Brosmer & Ray Sup
Still, a career that includes a record 10 state football championships with Cathedral High School – including five consecutive state titles and 32 straight tournament wins between 2010 and 2014 – is one heck of a run for any one coach.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that coaching is all about relationships,” Streiff says. “When you can build relationships with your coaches and players, that player is going to give you a little bit extra because he knows you care about him off the field. My players would tell you that I can get after you with the best of them, but when we walk off the field, they know I still love them.”
While many high school athletes dream of someday competing at a professional level, Streiff knew by age 16 that a career in coaching and teaching was the right path for him. After achieving All-State honors and lettering during all four of his years as a running back at Monrovia High School, he went on to become a three-year starter at Butler and contributed to an undefeated Bulldogs season in 1983.
“The influence of my high school coach, Wayne Stahley, became one of the things that made me think that coaching is what I wanted to do,” Streiff recalls. “Mike Gillin, who recently won his 300th game of high school football as a coach, was one of the assistants. I was very fortunate to play under some guys that were kind of a who’s who of high school coaching.”
Upon graduating, Streiff began developing his coaching chops through assistant positions at Butler and Bishop Chatard High School. His first head coaching experience came during a single season at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, after which he began his celebrated tenure as head coach of the Cathedral Fighting Irish from 1989 to 2002 and from 2008 until the present, with a head coaching stint at North Central High School in between.
Cathedral Athletic Director Doug Seagrave feels Streiff’s attention to detail and willingness to devote substantial amounts of time toward game planning and analysis, has contributed to his long-term success.
“I believe his biggest strength is his ability to build a culture of success,” Seagrave says. “Kids and coaches believe in his message. Everyone around him knows the importance of representing Cathedral in a manner that brings respect to the institution.”
After compiling a 221-77 record at Cathedral, Streiff feels that building player-coach bonds is simultaneously one of the biggest challenges, and one of the most rewarding undertakings, of being a successful head coach.
“Figuring out how to motivate 100-plus kids on a daily basis, getting them on the same page and getting them to execute at a high level can be difficult,” he says. “Finding a way for every kid to have a chance to learn and improve is also a challenge. What motivates this guy might not motivate that guy.”
Several factors played into Streiff’s decision to hang up his headset, and the death of Stahley one year ago prompted some self-reflection that strengthened his resolve to spend as much time as his schedule allows with his wife Julianne and their three children – John (27), a teacher at Cathedral, Lauren (24), who works for Gannett in Indianapolis, and Tom (21), a junior at IU-Bloomington.
“I’ve done this for 34 years all together, with 28 as a head coach,” Streiff says. “I have two grandsons now, and I’m looking forward to seeing the family more. My wife and kids have given up a lot of their time to go to games and put up with me coming home ticked off because I didn’t get it right at practice that day.”
Streiff plans to continue teaching World History at Cathedral, and is excited at the prospect of traveling more frequently with Julianne and improving his golf game with increased free time during summers.
“Rick is different in that he is one of the most humble people you will meet,” Seagrave adds. “He does not have the ego of most people who have achieved a modicum of his success. He sees the big picture and understands the program and school are most important.”
Although he’s enjoyed every victory and championship trophy that added to his impressive coaching record and helped make the Fighting Irish nearly synonymous with Indiana football prowess, Streiff says he always preferred that his players acquired valuable life lessons, rather than victories, after returning to the locker room.
“There are lessons through the course of football that maybe make a difference with learning about facing challenges, sticking to a goal and things like that,” Streiff says. “If all we taught the kids was blocking and tackling, we didn’t do a good job. If we’ve coached them and done a good job, that’s going to help them become good people down the road.”