Mary Ellen Luikens stayed busy year-round at Scotland High School.
The assistant coach who players called “mom,” helped coach the Scotland’s girls basketball, volleyball, softball and track and field teams starting in 1974.
While she retired in 2013 to take care of her husband, Dean, who later died of Leukemia, her work in the field led to her induction into the South Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Sunday at Mitchell Technical Institute.
“I said to (SDHSCA Executive Director Jim Dorman), ‘Those are all famous people and coaches in South Dakota that are on there. And now I’m going to be on it?’ ” Luikens said. “I was totally flabbergasted that my name would be up there with Howard Wood and all of the other famous coaches from all over the state.”
Tom McGough (Miller), Dan Thelen (Huron) and Jim Trett (Sioux Falls) were also inducted.
Luikens spent most of her 39-year coaching career as an assistant, though it did include a short stint as Scotland’s head volleyball coach. She enjoyed working under “mentors,” and being able to coach elementary school basketball, too, since she, “loved teaching fundamentals.”
The special education teacher was involved in Special Olympics for 19 years, as well.
“It was very rewarding,” Luikens said. “Those kids made you smile with every little effort and every little thing they did. They were genuine young people that were themselves, and we celebrated together.”
Her 39-year career was littered with fond memories. She was able to coach her daughter, Emily, and she still remembers the town’s excitement during state tournaments.
There was a sense of excitement on Sunday, too. With her family, fellow coaches and officials watching, she surprised herself by not crying during her Hall of Fame speech. She made it through dry-eyed, talking about her teaching, coaching and playing career on the Dakota State University basketball and track and field teams.
“I was overjoyed, it was wonderful, I was amazed,” Luikens said regarding when she found out about her induction in early June.
Luikens admits the game has changed -- from jump balls in basketball to different rally scoring in volleyball -- but, “kids still love their sports and that’s what's important.”
“I always coached from the heart because I accepted each individual for who they are,” she said. “I wanted to make them their best potential and reach for the stars.”