Revered coach hangs up his whistle after 36 year


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Aug 08, 2023

Revered coach hangs up his whistle after 36 year

By Jacob Spetzler | on June 07, 2023

By Jacob Spetzler | on June 07, 2023

Bill Dowis coaches. (Photo by Bobby Reyes/Times Archive)

Bill Dowis stands with his commemorative plaque. The inscription reads, "A truly great coach is hard to find, difficult to part with, and impossible to forget."

Bill Dowis reclined in his camp chair behind home plate at the Gunnison High School baseball field in late April. He watched as second baseman Justus Williams took a final practice swing before entering the batter's box. In the home dugout, assistant coach Jake Stone shouted encouragement.

Dowis watched as his former athletes continued to participation in Gunnison sports. It didn't seem that long ago when Williams and Stone were 9 years old, dribbling basketballs under his watchful eye.

Over the past 36 years, Coach Dowis has mentored hundreds of young players in the valley. Between basketball, flag football, tennis and softball, generations of Gunnison families have passed through his hands. Now, Dowis’ former athletes will take the reins and continue his legacy in local sports as Dowis ventures into his whole new ballgame: retirement.

Dowis’ coaching career began in the mid 80s when his children, Will and Shandy, were old enough to play sports. He started a flag football program in Gunnison, coaching Will throughout elementary school, before handing the team off to other dads after 13 years.

He moved on to instruct middle school basketball and coached Shandy during her time as a Cowboy. Following his children's graduation, Dowis continued leading kids between the ages of 9 and 13 on the rec basketball team.

Shandy returned and coached alongside him for 10 years, creating what was known locally as the "Dowis Duo." After 36 years and hundreds of athletes, Dowis reflected on his tough-love style of coaching.

"On the first practice I let them know that I was kind of an old-time coach," he said. "I’m a yeller and I’m a screamer, but if I’m not yelling and screaming at you then I quit caring about you. But there was always a lot of hugging, coming up to someone afterward if I had to get after them. I was really tough, but I really cared about those kids."

Dowis said his goal was to promote honesty, hard work and to never stop hustling.

"My philosophy was to always set your discipline up first, and only then can you have fun," he said. "Win or lose, we do everything to the best of our ability, and then you can always go home with a smile on your face. And that's life. That translates to school work, and to working a first job. It starts with every kid giving their all."

One of the athletes to play under the veteran coach was Jake Stone, who now coaches baseball and football within the Gunnison school system. Stone recounted how his talented sixth grade basketball team was quickly humbled by Coach Dowis.

"Word spreads fast, and we had a reputation for being a really good basketball group," Stone said. "We were cocky 13-year-olds. But then we got to middle school, and Bill didn't care. He was there to make us the best we could be. We weren't used to getting corrected and being challenged, and he did that."

Dowis decided to hang up his whistle following the conclusion of the winter basketball season. His contribution to Gunnison sports was celebrated through a surprise party, speeches from his children and former athletes, and a wooden plaque awarded by the Rec Center. Dowis humbly declined to take any credit for his achievements, and instead expressed his gratitude to recreation staff and all the parents and students for jumping in and helping out.

"I want to say that I truly feel blessed, looking back on my life and understanding why I was put in that position — it was my faith in the good Lord that kept blessing me with those kids year after year. I’m just so thankful," Dowis said.

His legacy is fulfilled through coaches like Stone, who continue to teach lessons they once received from Dowis.

"It's a very, very passionate subject for me," Stone said. "The impact he's had on my family and me, everything he's poured in. Bill was there everyday with the same passion, treating these kids just like he treats his own. He taught me that every kid deserves an opportunity to be coached. It drives someone like me to do everything I can."

(Alex McCrindle can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or [email protected].)

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