Through some down years and Denton’s recent run of success, coach Scott Heffley has seen the boys soccer team lose and regain its grasp on the fundamentals.
With the team enjoying its most growth since he took over in 2006, qualifying for the playoffs in two straight seasons and advancing to the sectional round for the first time in his tenure, Heffley is at the top of his game.
But the demands of being both a teacher and a coach have worn on Heffley, and with the team headed in the right direction, he has decided now is the right time to retire from coaching.
“It was something that I thought about for the past couple years, mainly because the demands of both coaching and teaching have grown to the extent that it was consuming all of my time,” Heffley said. “I was losing contact with family and friends because the job demanded so much of my time. I felt like I was investing as much time as I felt I could and I still wasn’t able to meet all the responsibilities to the extent that I wanted to.”
Lacking energy and time necessary to put together efficient, developed training sessions, Heffley said the boys deserve a coach who can provide that energy.
“Kids feed off of energy. There’s all sorts of coaching styles and I’m not over-the-top exuberant, but we expect our team to play with high energy and I think it’s important coaches exhibit that too,” Heffley said.
Heffley has plenty he’s proud of in his 17 years as a soccer coach at Denton, since joining the school in 1997, but he hangs his hat on the team’s development of basic skills from the bottom of the roster to the top.
“A lot of times, especially in soccer, people think that you manage players and that’s the extent, but I’m hoping that the top player to our 21st player got the most out of it regardless of their playing time,” Heffley said. “I always tell the kids that it’s great to work hard and have great abilities, but ultimately being able to carry out the fundamental skills 99 out of 100 times is what’s going to win games.”
While teaching biology, Heffley took many lessons from the classroom to the pitch.
“There are definitely a lot of parallels between coaching and teaching, and in the classroom a lot of the techniques I apply are the same I use out on the training field,” Heffley said. “It works in both directions. I don’t know what my future holds, but I’m going to be the biggest fan of these players and the biggest supporter that I can. I’m going to try to help out as a fan in any way I can to see this program continue to have success.”
More than the team’s recent resurgence or the thrill of a victory, Heffley said he’ll miss the intricacies of practice and the camaraderie with his players.
“I’ll remember the long hours and the hard work on the training field, the relationships we built and the way we came together when everyone was tired,” Heffley said. “After games, when we would stop to eat and we’re laughing and exchanging stories — that’s what I’ll miss.”
After finishing second in a tough district — first-place Trophy Club Nelson won the Class 4A state title — the Broncos are moving to Class 5A and District 5-5A, where six of the eight teams made the playoffs this year, including Wichita Falls Rider, which knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs last month.
Heffley says Denton is in as good a position as it ever has been, with plenty of playoff experience and a host of key returning players, which makes retiring a little bit easier.
“The immediate future looks very bright for our program, but there’s no doubt that there’s comfort knowing that as I leave I leave the team in a good position,” Heffley said. “There were some challenging times over the past few years, but I think every year our teams have worked extremely hard and came as close to their potential as they could. It makes it special going out with some success.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.