Editor's note: 'Why I Coach' is a new recurring series from Friday Night Drive that features high school football coaches from across Illinois. Know a coach that should be featured? Email email@example.com with your suggestion.
Dan McGuire's life has always been the coach's life.
These days, that's as Yorkville's head football coach, and father of two kids. McGuire in November completed his fifth season as the Foxes' varsity coach, and second straight 8-3 playoff season.
It all started for McGuire at West Aurora, where his dad, Jim, coached football, basketball and track.
"Summers were spent sitting at practice," McGuire said. "One of my favorite memories growing up, when I was real young I'd take naps in the shed where all the pads went. The kids would wake me up by throwing pads at me. That was the wake-up call, that practice was over."
McGuire got the call, and itch to coach, early.
The West Aurora coaches' office was his day care, his life growing up. He'd hang out in a full room with veteran coaches like Bob Williams, Tim Cederblad and Ira Jefferson. McGuire can recite many of the great players, role models, that came through West Aurora and East Aurora. It gave him something to shoot for. He loved his childhood, and wanted the same for himself.
In middle school, classmates teased McGuire, calling him "coach." He went home a little embarrassed, but not discouraged.
"I really enjoyed the lifestyle," McGuire said. "Looking back on it, talking to my dad, there was never any doubt that I was going to be a teacher and a coach."
His dad taught English at Washington Middle School in Aurora, and later at West Aurora, retiring in 2002 after close to 30 years. Jim McGuire, now a volunteer assistant to Dan, passed on priorities early.
When Dan sliced his shin open on the metal brackets jumping on the linemen's sled, son and dad went to urgent care for seven stitches.
And then they went back to practice.
"He told me, 'We're not going to go home and feel sorry for ourselves,'" McGuire said.
McGuire played four years of football, and tennis at West Aurora, and two years of basketball. He didn't play much for the basketball team, but his junior year, 1997, the Blackhawks took second in Class AA to Peoria Manual, leading the heavily-favored Rams into the fourth quarter.
McGuire to this day is a regular as a fan at basketball games, and not just Yorkville. He'll take his son and daughter to games. Hot dogs and popcorn in a loud gym, not fancy dinners out, are a family staple.
McGuire, though, said football was always the sport he knew he'd coach. He played football and tennis at Aurora University.
"It's something my dad and I bonded over," McGuire said. "For whatever reason I like everything involved with it, all the pressure packed into one game, that is what draws me to it. And I like that in football one minor adjustment can make a real difference in a game. In basketball sometimes those adjusments won't matter if you're going against a 7-footer."
McGuire was brought aboard at Yorkville by Williams and Joel Wyeth – coincidentally, his T-ball coach growing up – after graduating from Aurora in 2002. He started as freshman assistant, and was calling plays on defense for varsity coach Chris Ferko by his third season, at 25 years old.
"One of the most energetic coaches I've worked with," McGuire said of Ferko. "He gave me a lot of opportunities."
McGuire, varsity basketball coach from 2011-2015, took over the Foxes' football program when Karl Hoinkes retired. Under McGuire, the Foxes have posted back-to-back 8-3 seasons, after winning a total of eight games his first three years.
McGuire's had a close view of the growth of the Yorkville school, and community. His aunt and uncle lived in Yorkville, and he remembers holiday trips from Aurora to Yorkville and stops at the Bristol Tap for burgers on the ride home. He joked to his aunt that Yorkville was going big-time when the town's first Jewel grocery store opened.
"It's given me a great opportunity to get a bunch of experience," McGuire said. "I don't think I'd have that anywhere else."
McGuire comes from a family of school teachers, and his dad still helps out on the Yorkville coaching staff, "in charge of morale." Three years ago Jim McGuire got tackled on a sideline and broke his leg. That hasn't kept him away. Jim McGuire is still a regular alongside his son, sitting in a golf cart at games and practices.
"It's pretty special to be able to coach with your dad, and have the success like we've had. We've had some really good athletes come through here," McGuire said.
McGuire, in the immediate, is part-time math teacher to his two kids while they're all home from school during the coronavirus pandemic.
That is unexpected.
The rest of McGuire's life, exactly how he imagined.
"I'm lucky to have grown up in Aurora and have such great experiences and great roles," McGuire said. "I couldn't have asked for two better situations."