Former Kearney Catholic and current Gretna girls basketball coach Jerome Skrdla was recently named to the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame, but is far from done as he still remains a student to each sport he coaches.
In Skrdla’s 43 years of coaching, he has felt the thrills of state tournaments, state championships at two schools as well as in two different sports. In spite of that and the numerous other achievements, his hall of fame selection has been one of the more unique feelings of them all.
“I was very surprised and honored,” Skrdla said. “It’s kind of a different feeling than anything else. You look up to so many people who have been inducted in and sometimes you just don’t ever feel like you are ever considered at a level of being included in a group like that, so it’s a really different feeling and it’s hard to fully describe the emotion.
“I’m thrilled, I’m humbled, I’m honored and all those emotions.”
Skrdla’s coaching career began with the Kearney Catholic football team in 1977. It wasn’t until five years after coaching football when he took up coaching girls basketball at Kearney Catholic, where he coached state title teams girls in 1984 and 1985. He also coached Kearney Catholic to a state championship in boys track in 1986, and was runner-up in 1985.
He made his way to Gretna in 1994 where he won a state title as well in 2006.
At the start of his coaching career, Skrdla didn’t see himself coaching basketball, but now his career win total on the hardwood stands at 560 — sixth best in state history for girls coaches.
“I always thought the sport was too up and down and one of those emotional types of sports,” he said. “Then in about my third or fourth year of teaching, Kearney Catholic had an open assistant position and since I was always hanging around the gym anyway, they asked if I would help out. I stepped in and a couple years later the coach left and I took the head coach position.
“I never really cared about what sport I coached. I always knew that I was coaching athletes and they all have different philosophies and motivations. So, I never had any special desires.
“I also liked football for the strategy, I liked track for the individual efforts and building the team out of that aspect. In basketball it became about the excitement.
“There’s always a way you can get better, so every sport has had its pluses.”
Within all his teams and all the state titles, coaching thousands of high school athletes along the way, Skrdla has one memory that stands above the rest.
“My favorite was probably when I got to coach my daughter who was a senior on the 2006 state championships team in Gretna,” Skrdla said. “My other daughter was a manager that year, as well. That was obviously a very special year to have the whole family involved and also have that kind of success.”
Coaching girls the better part of his career has been akin to coaching an extended family.
“When I look back at it, it’s kind of like all the players are kind of like your daughters,” he said. “You know how much it means to them and so every year you get that sense to where you leave the past behind you and you look forward and take on your new challenges.”
While winning state titles and coaching young athletes has been a pleasure to Skrdla, there’s another factor why coaching continues to be a big part of his life — he is a student of the game.
“I’ve watched a lot of coaches do what they do,” Skrdla said. “I continuously learn from different coaches so it’s hard to say that I’ve learned or been inspired by a single coach. I always tend to grab a little bit from everybody and kind of be like a sponge.
“I think when I’m done with that part, I’ll be ready to be done with coaching. The best part of it has been the challenge of wanting to get better and to keep myself as a student of the game.”
Skrdla looks forward to his 44th overall year of coaching starting with the next academic year, as well as his 39th year of coaching girls basketball.