Ted Monken took over a St. Charles East football program that was looking to restore its tradition after slipping once St. Charles High split.
Monken then moved on to brand-new Metea Valley, which had no tradition, period.
And now? Monken is returning to the Upstate Eight Conference football coaching ranks at West Chicago, a school with a modern tradition about as bleak as they come. The Wildcats have had two winning seasons since 1978.
Monken, who said he learned he had the West Chicago job last week, framed the degree of difficulty of his latest coaching gig as a plus.
“It’s great being at those places where kids are hungry for success, where people are starving to be pointed in the right direction, and hopefully when you win those games, it means that much more,” Monken said.
Monken coached at St. Charles East from 2004 to 2008 before leaving to launch the program at Metea, where he spent just two seasons. He said he’s worked in sales since resigning at Metea after the 2011 season.
The short duration at Metea raised eyebrows considering the Monken family’s deep coaching roots – his father, Bob Monken, is in the Illinois Football Coaches Association hall of fame, and his brother, Todd, is a Division I head coach at Southern Mississippi – but Monken said he remains on good terms with former colleagues and administrators at Metea, and pursued a chance to make more money in the private sector.
“It’s a good thing to have a lot of friends but it’s also a lot of people you have to explain things to,” said Monken, who led the Mustangs to a 4-5 record in Year 2 of the program’s existence. “I’ve been doing that a lot the last couple years, but it’s just something I wanted to try.”
Monken unsurprisingly missed coaching and is set to reacquaint himself with the UEC. After West Chicago relocated to the UEC from the cutthroat DuPage Valley Conference last year, the Wildcats will move to the UEC’s River Division in 2014 as West Aurora and Glenbard East join the conference, meaning Monken’s Wildcats will compete in the same division as the Tri-Cities schools.
But West Chicago will also become division-mates with Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood, programs more comparable to West Chicago. That’s encouraging to Monken, who said “If it’s constantly David and Goliath, you can’t always sell everybody we can be David. You want a fair fight once in a while.”
Monken said it’ll be important to have a degree of early success, much like he did in his first year at East after the Saints went 1-8 the season before he took over. Monken’s first East team went 4-5 before making the playoffs each of the next four seasons.
“That is everything,” Monken said. “You can get everybody excited, you can do big, fire-up speeches and all the great things you want to do anytime you take over a program to get people believing in your philosophy and what want to do, but if you don’t win some games, it’s going to be very difficult to keep that momentum.”
Monken, who was defensive coordinator at St. Norbert College and Wheaton Warrenville South before arriving in St. Charles, said he’s hoping to make West Chicago his home for the long-haul.
“For the most part it’s all been about my family and doing what’s best for my career, so I feel even though my resume is a little long, that there’s a valid reason that each move has been made,” Monken said. “I’m getting older, I’m 45 and I’m tired of moving, so I’m really hoping to make West Chicago my last stop. I’d love to do something special there.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.