Editorial: Loss goes beyond one coach

Jun. 30, 2014 @ 11:27 PM

We lost another link to a better time with the passing of Harvey Heartley last week. He was a gentleman and a coach, and the distinction that he was both is important.

The era that produced Heartley gave us scores of others similar to him. Unfortunately, we don’t always see those same impactful coaches coming along any longer in either the high school or college ranks.

Hearing coaches today lament their struggles takes a strong will if the listener is an “old-timer.” How tough things are is always in the eye of the beholder.

But the coaches of a long time ago will tell about being in athletics for the love of sport. It drew them in, someone they saw as a youngster set an example, and they simply followed suit.

Players saw role models in coaches and emulated them.

Most notably to this change in society, we can now see professional and college athletes on a gadget that fits in our pocket or on a desktop or hanging on the wall. And the place to look for a role model is no longer on the local high school field or court.

In fact, the coaches being looked to might not even be in a school. With so many “travel” teams infiltrating, and organizations providing year-around opportunities, the high school coach has often lost significance. They are now few and far between making a difference in their communities.

Whereas many of even the smallest towns and cities in the state might have had two significant coaches — because of segregation — helping the community’s youngsters, now we’re lucky if there is even one with such stature for them and their parents.

That’s not to say the new landscape is all bad. Far from it. Opportunities are something we always cherish and support.

But as with anything in life, to make progress means to leave something behind. And the days of a solid coaching figure standing tall in the community because he lowered himself to an eye-to-eye, man-to-man relationship with our youngsters is one of the things we increasingly see missing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can have more like Coach Heartley.

Our young people certainly need more.