Former PHS teacher shares pearls of wisdom in new book

by Jeff Pederson
of The Review staff


SHEBOYGAN FALLS NATIVE and former PHS teacher Chuck Tank (above) has released a new book titled “Letters to Lydia – Words of Advice from a Grandfather to His Grandchildren.” The book features words of widom, advice and guidance based on his 39 years as a public school teacher, 30 years as a high school basketball coach and his youth growing up in Sheboygan Falls. — Submitted photo, graphic SHEBOYGAN FALLS NATIVE and former PHS teacher Chuck Tank (above) has released a new book titled “Letters to Lydia – Words of Advice from a Grandfather to His Grandchildren.” The book features words of widom, advice and guidance based on his 39 years as a public school teacher, 30 years as a high school basketball coach and his youth growing up in Sheboygan Falls. — Submitted photo, graphic With 39 years of experience in the classroom as a high school history teacher and 30 years roaming the sidelines as a high school basketball coach, Sheboygan Falls native Chuck Tank has accumulated more than a few pearls of wisdom to pass along to future generations.

Those voluminous nuggets of vital information coupled with a flair for the written word have prompted Tank, who was a member of the 1974 and 1975 Sheboygan Falls High School state championship boys basketball teams, to publish a new book titled “Letters to Lydia – Words of Advice from a Grandfather to His Grandchildren.”

The 208-page book, which was released by Little Creek Press of Mineral Point in early December, comes a decade after Tank’s debut book “Coaching Our Sons,” which was published by Badger Books in 2007.

The 1975 Sheboygan Falls High School graduate, who has taught high school history for the past 39 years starting at Plymouth High School and including the last 27 at Dodgeville High School, says his love for reading combined with the challenges he faced coaching his son as the head boys basketball coach at Dodgeville High School planted the seed in his mind to write his first book.

“I am a big reader,” Tank said. “I try to read at least 50 books a year and have kept a list of the books I have read for more than 35 years. Many of the books I have read are good and some not as good. I always thought I could write one, but didn’t know how to go about trying to do it.

“That changed when I started coaching my son, Wes,” he said. “Coaching is very difficult both emotionally and considering how time consuming of an endeavor it can be. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success in basketball as a player at Sheboygan Falls High School going to the state tournament twice and as a high school coach with five more state tournament appearances. However, having my son play on my team was the most difficult thing that I encountered in 30 years of coaching. That is what gave me the idea to dive in and write ‘Coaching Our Sons.’”

Despite working full-time as a history teacher and coaching the varsity boys basketball team at Dodgeville High School, Tank still managed to find time to dedicate himself to the sizable demands of the book-writing process.

“I interviewed nearly 70 coaches from throughout Wisconsin who had all been head basketball coaches in Wisconsin and at some point coached their sons on their teams as I myself did,” Tank said. “I included stories from each of the coaches I interviewed for that book. It focused on several different perspectives, including how it affected family dynamics in different ways for different fathers and sons.

“I got to interview some high-profile coaches like Dick Bennett, who coached his son, Tony, at UW-Green Bay and Bo Ryan, who coached his son at UW-Platteville,” he said. “I spent a lot of time that summer traveling around to interview different coaches. I enjoyed the process and thought one day I would write another book.”

The experience of writing and promoting “Coaching Our Sons” gave Tank a new perspective on the book publishing world.

“It really opened my eyes quite a bit to the entire process,” Tank said. “When I was doing it people would say things to me like it’s easier to get an audience with the Pope, than to get a book published. In a lot of ways that’s true. It really taught me a lot. However, I have to say it was a thrill the first time I saw my book for sale in the Madison Barnes and Noble. When I look back at the feelings I had when my first book came out, I realize I was fortunate to have had excellent and inspirational teachers at Sheboygan Falls in the 1970s, whose wisdom guides me still today.

“Based on my first time around with writing a book, I set out to go about it differently this time,” he said. “I’m not necessarily worried about sales as much as I am about giving my grandchild and future grandchildren an idea of who I am and where I am coming from in writing this book.”

After some gentle nudging from his wife, Becky, Tank set out to write his second book centered on his relationship with his 19-month-old granddaughter Lydia.

“I retired from coaching in 2009, which gave me some extra time to reflect on my life and think about what I still want to do in my life,” Tank said. “My dad, mother and my grandfather all died very young and I have two brothers that have passed away, which gave me some pause and drive to write another book on something I am passionate about.

“My dad worked at Kohler and our family always had a blue-collar background,” he said. “I remember when I left to go to college at UW-Oshkosh, he said ‘Never forget who you are and where you came from.’ Those words are kind of the driving force behind ‘Letters to Lydia.’ My goal was to convey to her in written form who I am and where I came from.”

Over the course of the past year, Tank, who served as a middle school teacher and basketball coach in the Plymouth School District from 1984 to 1989, pored over the copious notes that he took on various subjects over the years, which formed the backbone of the book’s narrative

“I’ve always had a habit of writing things down on legal pads on a variety of topics, many of which came into play in writing ‘Letter to Lydia,’” Tank said. “I grouped theses notes into three areas covering who I am, important things and relationships.

“Lydia is named after my mother, who led a very difficult life and died at age 59,” he said. “Despite encountering a great deal of challenges, she was the type of person that never complained. She just made the best of it and did what she had to do. In 39 years as a teacher, I think about the complacency and entitlement mentality that I see in students today and I cringe. I don’t want Lydia or my future grandchildren to be that way. Those are the themes that I tried to hit on the book. I wanted to get the point across of how valuable it is to have the same approach to life that my mother had.”

Tank, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011, says each chapter features a different themed letter to his granddaughter, Lydia.

“With each of the letters that comprise the chapters I touch on different topics, including education, sports and relationships,” Tank said. “I impart some advice, and wisdom based on portions of my life. I also mix in several of my own stories from being young and growing up in Sheboygan Falls, including the great experiences I had as a member of the state tournament basketball teams at Sheboygan Falls High School in the mid-1970s. Those were great times that I cherish to this day.

“Perhaps more than any other time, kids today need to have an understanding of who their parents and grandparents were,” he said. ”I missed the opportunity to know my own grandparents, and my three children also never knew theirs. ‘Letters to Lydia’ gives that insight to my grandchildren and should give some ideas to grandparents of conversations they should have with their grandchildren. My hope is that the book simulates people to have these conversations and to make these special connections that will resonate with future generations.”

“Letters to Lydia” is available for purchase at Littlecreekpress.com and Amazon.com.

In addition, signed copies can be requested by sending an email to chucktank1975@gmail.com.


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