HOF-inducted coaches made small-school Kendall ‘believe in ourselves’
KENDALL – Two of the coaches took over programs that were chronic underachievers. Another coach started the girls athletic program at Kendall. It didn’t exist until Title IX.
All three amassed numerous league and Sectional titles. On Wednesday, Carol Brakenbury, Ben Gerbig and Dick Reynolds were inducted into the Kendall Athletic Hall of Fame. They make up the second class in the HOF. Basketball star Roosevelt Bouie was the first inductee a year ago.
The coaches were praised for teaching the fundamentals and insisting on hard work. The trio did more than that. They instilled confidence in the players and community. Kendall beat many bigger schools in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, with the three coaches on the sidelines.
Gary Kent played on the baseball team in 1962 that won the league title, knocking off perennial powerhouse Lyndonville. Kent introduced Reynolds at the HOF banquet, calling him a “players’ coach” who didn’t dwell on mistakes. Reynolds urged the players to take chances.
“He had the ability to make us believe in ourselves,” Gary Kent said about Reynolds. “He treated us like young men, without fear of failure.”
Reynolds was a part of the Kendall athletic program for nearly four decades. In his 20 seasons as the KCS varsity baseball coach, the team won 10 Genesee Region championships, made five Sectional finals appearances, and racked up 152 wins.
He achieved his greatest success leading the basketball team. Reynolds coached the team from 1963 to 1977 and amassed 186 wins and only 72 losses. During his tenure, Kendall won five Section V championships and set the Section V record for consecutive wins with 57.
Reynolds was a baseball star at Brockport High School, and signed a Minor League contract and played for the Batavia Clippers in 1951. He was a drill sergeant in the Marine Corps before he was hired as a physical teacher in Kendall.
He recalled the first year Kendall won Sectionals in basketball. That was 1973. The Kendall Fire Department escorted the team into town.
“That first year the community went crazy,” Reynolds said.
He was thrilled to be inducted with Gerbig and Brakenbury. The coaches all worked together and shared many of the same players.
Gerbig worked at Kendall from 1962 to 1989 as a math teacher before joining Albion as vice principal for eight years. Gerbig is still working as an adjunct math professor at Morrisville State College, where he has taught the past 12 years.
His Kendall boys soccer team won 18 Genesee Region League Championships, appeared in Sectional finals eight times, and won two sectional championships. He is Kendall’s all-time leader in boys soccer wins with 297.
He also coached JV basketball. Gerbig praised the Kendall players and their families for so much dedication to the sports program. Early in his coaching career, he led a JV team that was blown out most games, including one 62-6 loss. The team was 0-15 at one point. Gerbig told the crowd about the team’s 50-47 win over Pembroke. It remains perhaps his most memorable victory.
“That team kept its composure,” he said. “They worked hard. That group of boys is a special bunch.”
Current Kendall coach John King introduced Gerbig and praised him for setting a high level of excellence as a coach and teacher.
Gerbig said many families sent brothers, sisters and cousins to play for Kendall.
“There were many sets of brothers and sisters,” he said. “In Kendall, it was a family thing.”
Wednesday’s Hall of Fame banquet was a reunion for the three coaches, and many of their players. Kendall senior athletes also were honored at Hickory Ridge Country Club.
“The three of us coached hundreds and thousands of games,” Gerbig said. “We won lots and lots of championships. It’s a credit to the kids.”
Title IX was passed to start girls sports in 1972. Kendall fielded its first girls soccer team in the fall of 1975. Brakenbury led that group that won Sectionals. That success sparked a wave of interest from Kendall girls in sports.
Brakenbury would coach tennis, softball, volleyball and cheerleading. She was the Section V softball coach of the year in 1982.
She achieved her greatest success leading the soccer program. The team won three Sectional championships, appeared in 13 Sectional finals, and won 13 Genesee Region League Championships.
Gary Pollock, a former Kendall boys soccer coach, introduced Brakenbury at the HOF banquet and praised her for her passion for life and her coaching principles. She taught her players to put the team before themselves. Her players followed her example of a high level of commitment.
Brakenbury said those early days were difficult getting the girls on par with the boys. The girls wore the same uniform tops for soccer and softball.
“The more we won, we got real uniforms,” she said.
Brakenbury joined Kendall as a physical education teacher in 1964. Before the girls could compete in varsity sports, Brakenbury organized intramural sports for the girls.
“They wanted to get out there and be competitive,” she said.
The girls soon won over the school administration and community.
“They were putting in as much time and were just as competitive as the boys,” Brakenbury said.
One Kendall player gave her a senior photo in the 1970s. On the back, the player wrote a message.
“Dear coach, thank you for making the girls sports just as respected as the boys.”
The player? Roosevelt Bouie.