One Sports-Loving Family: The HabermansApr 05, 2021 04:51PM ● By Tara Spencer
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Some families enjoy solving puzzles, watching movies, or hiking. The Habermans are all about sports—playing, watching, and discussing them.
Justin Haberman is a physical education teacher and has been a part of Westside High School’s track, football, and wrestling coaching staffs for the last 18 years. He recently took over the head coaching position for the track team.
His wife, Amy Haberman, works for Ashfield Health Care, where she serves as a nurse educator. According to Brandi Paul, the director of communications at Westside Schools, she is also her family’s biggest cheerleader.
Their three children—Cade, 18; Cole, 17; and Chloe, 14—all play on Westside teams. As in, each child plays on more than one.
Cade is a Division I football recruit, state silver medalist wrestler, and throws shot put and discus (he is a state qualifier in discus) on the track team. Paul said he is one of Westside’s only 12-time letter winners, meaning he has been a varsity athlete in all three sports for all four years of high school.
“He says he’s a three-time state qualifier,” Justin said. “He will be a four-time state qualifier...He’s not one to toot his own horn, but Dad will.” Dad was right. Cade qualified for the fourth time and competed in the 2021 NSAA state
wrestling championships in February. He finished his high school wrestling career as a three-time medalist, winning two silvers and a bronze.
Not to be outdone, Cole is a state champion football player, a three-time qualifier for state, and is set to break Westside’s wrestling record for wins and pins next year, a record Cade currently holds. He won a silver medal at the 2021 state championship.
The youngest Warrior, Chloe, isn’t content with letting her brothers have all the fun. Paul said she is a Westside softball and basketball player who is showing promise on the field and the court.
The family’s dedication to supporting their Westside teams was evident during their interview, which took place over Zoom. The parents, oldest son Cade, and, later, younger son Cole, crowded around a screen in a coaching office of the school, as they were in the middle of watching a basketball game.
“Our whole life has revolved around sports since me and Amy first met,” Justin said. “I was playing college football [at Dana College in Blair] and she was taking photos on the sideline.”
Amy was there to photograph her brother, who also played on the team.
“I’ll never forget, I saw her out there, and I said, ‘Who’s the cute blonde?’” Justin said. “And her brother’s standing next to me and said, ‘She doesn’t like your type.’”
Despite her brother’s declaration, the two ended up together. Whether he was wrong or Amy simply decided to make an exception for this particular guy, the result of their relationship is a talented, loving family.
Cole, who was identified as the “class clown” of the family, was candid in talking about his love and admiration for his family members. He expressed how he looks up to his brother and father, mentioning that he especially likes to hear stories of his dad’s college days. As for his mom, “She does everything for me…she’s always there when I need her,” quickly adding “Same with my dad.”
Make no mistake, though. Like in all things sports, there is some rivalry.
“There’s lots of competition between these two,” Amy said. “Well, actually, in our whole house. Competition drives our household, which sometimes gets a little intense. But it’s always good.”
Despite that, they are eager to extol the virtues of the others. Cole saved perhaps his highest praise for Chloe.
“You can’t forget Chloe,” he said. “Chloe’s kind of the glue of the family. I mean, she’s me and Cade combined. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s athletic…I just see a lot of potential in Chloe.”
That closeness has likely helped the family get through this last year. While the unpredictability of the pandemic disrupted many lives, the Habermans tried to take it all in stride.
Justin said Amy was on top of getting the family on the right track from the beginning. “My wife did a tremendous job when it was all going down,” he said. “We’ve done a really good job of trying to live our [lives] as masked-up as possible. Yet we still want our kids to live a normal life and to be able to participate in sports, so we tried our best to just keep our family safe.”
Amy added that football season was especially stressful. ”We knew Westside had such a good team [in] this 2021 class,” she said, referring to the four Division I recruits from the team. “We knew they had a really good chance at winning state, and it just felt like you were holding your breath every week.”
That tension remains, affecting not only the family’s current situation, but their futures as well.
Cade plans to attend Northern Illinois University in the fall, where he is committed to playing football while studying pre-law. It was a decision that wasn’t made easily.
“Double A recruiting has been shut down since about last January, I believe, and I haven’t been able to see any campuses during my recruiting process,” Cade said.
Fortunately, his dad was able to drive him to DeKalb, Illinois, to take a look around and get a feel for the campus and the city.
“I’ll tell ya, that’s the one thing as a dad…I was just talking to [football players] Avante Dickerson and Koby Bretz [about this], and the bad part is, these 2021 kids have been cheated out of the experience of recruiting,” Justin said. “They’re committing to schools they’ve never been to, which is just absolutely crazy.” Of course, he said, you also want them safe and healthy.
Hopefully, things will be easier for the younger Habermans. Cole plans on wrestling in college, and Chloe also plans to continue playing sports at whatever college she chooses.
“As a teacher, you just want these kids to live their normal lives,” Justin said.“And I believe my wife and family, and the administration…have done tremendously well.”
This article originally appeared in the 2021 edition of Family Guide.