Why/How was the Wisconsin Wave Founded?
The Wave was founded when we had a 1-week long basketball camp for kids. The parents asked after the camp what we were going to do next. We hadn’t really planned ahead, but Sean Kirby had a team in IL with his brother and some of his friends that was called the Windy City Wave. We decided that we would move all of the teams under 1 umbrella and make it the Wisconsin Wave. In my first year we had one team of the best 8th graders from Kenosha. That team is one of the best teams that I have ever coached! We expanded to more teams and ages as we went on. Starting with our first 3rd grade group when my son Ryne was that age. At our height we had 12 teams of kids; boys and girls.
What are the sports and levels that you offer?
Right now the Wisconsin Wave offers 6-8th grade boys basketball. We offer the kid of Kenosha a chance to play with quality coaching and good talent-based tourneys depending on their exact level. Our 8th graders are rocking it right now with a 6-3 record beating a really good Wilmot team this weekend. Our 7th graders are playing really good basketball against high level teams and are 2-4 right now with the 3 of the losses being by 5 pts or less. So we are playing high level teams and the kids are holding their own.
The Wave did offer baseball as well. We are now Phenom Wisconsin sponsored by Nike. So we took our community based program and were able to align with Nike national programs based on all of our success with the baseball portion of the program. This is huge for Southeastern WI as well as Northern IL. We have Joe Ferro, who is the top hitting coaching in the region working with our kids. He trains many big time college and pro hitters. There is no one else that I would let my kids hit with. We have Manny Santana pitching coach and Tim Bell catching coach working in our program as well. We also have top level coaches that come in from Phenom IL as well to work with our kids. I also have a great background in baseball starting all 4 years of college in the infield, playing semi pro ball in Australia, and playing 12 years with the Kenosha Kings. Baseball has changed a lot, and I have changed with all the new coaching methods by learning from others.
For basketball, where did you get your coaching philosophy?
I started coaching for Frank Elementary School Intramurals team in 2000. We dominated the courts in the B and G Club league. I knew enough due to playing for guys like Roders, Perinie, Kris Jensen, and Bob Hoffer. I took different things away from many of the coaches that I had. When I got my first Lance coaching job I thought I knew far more than I actually did. I was lucky that John Wihelmson was the head coach at Tremper. He showed us how to run Bob Huggins offense that is 5 out with our guys all being expected to be interchangeable. That is how basketball has developed and changed, no longer having guys just stand on the post because they are taller. We do have some set pick and roll plays, which I love and are so undervalued if they are taught correctly. I would now count Titus Redmond, Sean Kearby, and Gary Weber as guys that I learned a lot from in coaching. Coach Redmond in my opinion is one of the best coaches that I have ever been around. I learned a ton of drills and how to coach defense from him. Rocky Tirabassi showed me how to run his fast break when he coached for Wave 1 year. That really changed the course of the program because our kids leaned how to run the court correctly. It is a lost art that kids don’t know anything about when they come to us.
Give a shout out to family and friends that have helped you in this undertaking.
First, my parents John and Carol Lesnik. Growing up my dad lost his job when I was younger, so I saw him work at many different places and any job to make ends meet. His drive to support his family taught me the work ethic that I have today. My mom was a teaching assistant with special needs children, and worked so hard for so little pay. They rarely miss my sons’ games and support them unconditionally. My grandparents Chet and Ann Frye were at every one of my games no matter what I was playing and this extended to college where they would drive up to watch me play all the time. They also helped pay for college, so I could chase my dreams. My wife Jeana, who allows me to spend 70 hours some weeks away from home teaching, coaching basketball, and baseball. She holds the family together and makes sure that my boys Ryne and Matthew have the best life. She is an amazing mother and wife. She should be applying for sainthood with having to deal with all of the coaching that I do and all of the crazy sports trips. I am blessed to be able coach both of my sons Ryne and Matthew and watch them grow as players and teammates. They are both different, but work hard for everything that they get. My inlaws Larry and Tammy Seaberg are very supportive as well. Larry was a gym teacher and talks to me often about how important competition and pushing kids is. He is also very competitive and pushed kids just like I do.
Some of the Wave guys that have made us successful are Eddie Schmidt, Terry Filippis, Vinnie Correa, Jason Papka, Josh Zeller, Tim Bell, Bob Witt, and Tywan Pulfus. I met all of them except for Eddie through running the Wave program. Eddie and Terry are on the Phenom Board and has been instrumental in the switch from Wave to Phenom for baseball. Terry does all of our Website stuff for Wave and still coaches basketball with me as well. There are some amazing coaches, who have helped our kids grow and develop over the years. I appreciate how they have helped me and also my sons over the years. I now count them among my best friends that I would do anything for. My best friend Jeremy Johnson, who has donated thousands of dollars through his job at Modern Woodman to support the opportunity for kids to play that maybe wouldn’t be able to. For 2 years April Andrews helped me do a ton of work with the jerseys, fundraising, and helped me keep my sanity when we had 12 baseball teams. I have learned very valuable lessons from each and every one of them. Some of them it may be x’s and o’s, but others it is just how to have fun and enjoy the ride!
Talk about opportunity and the power of sports.
I have to talk about my biggest coaching influence Bud Bolyard, who sadly passed this year, my JV Bradford and American Legion baseball coach. He was no nonsense with his players, but he built a relationship with me that I will always cherish. He connected school with sports and school for me and others. If you had an F you didn’t try out for Bradford baseball and it didn’t matter how good you were. I do that at Lance as well. I have high standards for my players and they reach them or they don’t play. If they are struggling in school, I can go to the teachers and find out how we can help them to be successful. They also know that this goes year round even after basketball is done. If there is any issue with them I am the first call made. The players know that wherever they go in life I will also be there to support and help them. It is amazing how many of my former players I still talk to and get to watch them grow into men. When I see them they still call me coach and give me a big hug. That is when you know that you have made the difference in the life of someone that goes much deeper than an athletic field or gym.
Give us one feel good story.
Wow! Just one. I had a student that came into school that had been kicked out of a previous school. He was a big guy that looked like he was a HS senior not a 7th grader. When he walked in my room the first day I of course asked if he liked basketball and as they all say yes I do and I am really good. I told him that day if you are good in school I will teach you how to play basketball. In our first day of intramurals, the first shot that he took was over the basket. I am thinking oh man this is going to be a long process. Before my class every day I shook his hand and told him to have a good day. That was our thing and still is whenever he sees me. Needless to say he showed up at every intramural session and worked his butt off for 2 years. As a 7th grader he played about a minute a game. Never complained just kept working. He played on our Wave B level team and got more experience. As an 8th grader he started at Lance and averaged about 12 a game and probably another 10 rebounds. He also made our A level Wave team, which was one of the top teams in the state. I also talked him into doing track where he won the city shot put and team city title. When he left Lance he was a larger than life presence and everyone knew him as a gentle giant. Talk about a 360 degree turn and someone that I could not be more proud of.
How can folks help?
I always find a way to make sports work for all kids that want to play and parents that want to put in effort regardless of money. We have kids that sports is a way for them to stay engaged in school. This year, money is tighter and we have many student athletes that could use a helping hand. We started a Go Fund Me account on our website www.wavebball.com and our Facebook page Wisconsin Wave Sports Club. We offer business sponsorship where they can go on the back of our shooting shirts and up on our website. We welcome any help we can get from the community.
Last question, who wins heads up, the 8th grade team you played on for St Therese or the best 8th grade team you have this season?
That St. Therese team that I played on was special. We played in all of the big CYO Tourneys for 2 years and lost only 2 games. Craig Hoffer was an absolute beast down low and started on varsity at Tremper as a freshman before that was even thought of. Shakir Chambers, Dusty Dean, Joe Hurley, Pat Dabbs, and Jeremy Kalbfell were some of the other guys on the team. We were all really good and unshakable under pressure. I would say that this year’s Wave 8th graders we would have beaten due to their lack of experience. Many of them are 1st or 2nd year travel players, but they are long and athletic for days. When it is all said and done this group could be a special high school group if they buy in and work hard for the next 4 years. Many are basketball only guys as well, so they are going to put in the time and effort.
Last years 8th grade team with my son Ryne probably would have beaten us although it would have been close. They were more experienced and their brand of basketball was beautiful to watch. I don’t know if I have ever coached a team that played more unselfish and was all in with what I was coaching. There are 5 or 6 guys on that team that could play college basketball if they continue to develop.