Since starting her 16-inch softball career in 1958, Gloria Kolbusz has played, taught, coached, managed and organized for thirty-five years. She learned the game while playing in Chicago Park District tournaments for Antoinette Maffia at Clark and Ken-Wel Playgrounds. She and her Hiawatha Park teammates played in many leagues and tournaments on the Northwest Side at Hanson, Kosciuszko, Amundsen, Mitchell, Athletic Field, and Wells Parks.
In 1965, while attending DePaul University, she got a part time job teaching at Mother Guerin High School and at Hiawatha Park. Her playing days were over, but for the next twenty-three years she taught softball skills to hundreds of girls, from Peewee level through high school. She learned softball skills and strategies from Hall of Famer Bob Lamont while working with him at Hiawatha Park. She coached and managed teams from local park district levels to teams that competed at the national level. She organized leagues in junior, intermediate and senior classification at Hiawatha. She was the Area Eight Chairperson for Girls and Women’s 16″ softball and the Cluster Two Chairperson responsible for running all 16″ softball events. In 1988 she was named the city-wide Sixteen-inch Softball Chair for Girls and Women’s Softball for the Chicago Park District.
Gloria taught her teams to always do their best and trust that their teammates would also do the same. With this philosophy in mind, The Chicagoans, her traveling eleven-inch softball team, competed in ASA and USSSA tournaments. They traveled throughout the country, playing the best teams in the nation. They won three state championships and were ranked in the top twenty of the nation in Class “A” softball for a decade. They were elected to the Illinois USSSA Hall of Honor in 2008. Six of their players were elected to the Hall of Fame and Gloria was elected as a Manager. Many of these players honed their skills on diamonds all across Chicago and are in the Sixteen-inch Softball Hall of Fame as a result.
Her love of sports and her desire to promote all women’s sports led to participating in and coordinating AAU basketball tournaments in the ’60s. She was the Tournament Director for the Chicago Women’s Volleyball Association in the ’70s and ’80s at Navy Pier and at UICC. She was appointed Metro Women’s Softball Director for USSSA and organized the first USSSA Women’s 16″ Tournament at Shabbona Park, which was sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.
Gloria always urged her athletes never to settle for being the biggest fish in a small pond. Instead, she urged them to compete against the best to be the best.