The boys basketball sidelines in Adams County will have a different look in the 2015-16 season as two local coaches have decided to hang up the whistle for the time-being, leaving openings to be filled at half of the county schools. West Union head coach Trent Harrop, who spent three years at the helm with the Dragons, and Manchester’s Aaron Lockhart, owner of three district titles with the Greyhounds, have both made the decision to step down from their respective head coaching positions.
Both coaches say that family issues are the biggest factor in their recent decisions.
“The decision to step down was a very difficult one for me and for my wife as well,” Harrop told The Defender. “We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent working with the West Union players in the summer and the winter. The decision to step down came down to a combination of time and distance issues.” Harrop and his wife are both teachers in the Western Latham School District.
“Heading up a basketball program is extremely time consuming and makes it very difficult to find hours to sleep and eat, let alone spend as much time with loved ones as you would like,” Harrop continued. “I look at the other long-term coaches in the area and tip my hat to them and their families for the sacrifices they must make to do the job they do. With my current job and living arrangement, I just can’t maintain the schedule any longer.”
For Lockhart, the reasoning is somewhat similar but also influenced by the birth to he and his wife Leslie of a son last September.
“This was one of the toughest decisions that I have ever made, to step away from my second family and a passion of mine,” said the former Greyhound head coach. “Last season was the hardest for me personally, not the coaching aspect, but the time away from my wife and son. Aveyn was born at the end of September, about a month before practices started. I tried to balance everything but a wise friend of mine once told me that that there isn’t a balance. Man, he was right.”
“After the season ended, I began to pray and talk to Leslie about our plans moving forward. I continued to work on off season basketball items but I was still undecided and unsure of the future. After a lot of prayer and reflection, I felt the best move for my family and me personally was to step down. I felt that I couldn’t give both the full attention that they deserve. High school basketball has become a 12-month sport for the programs that want to be successful and the hours for coaches have become countless.”
Both coaches experienced successes at their respective schools, with Harrop’s record with the Dragons improving each year up to 15-9 this past season and Lockhart’s teams earning three district titles and a trip to the Elite Eight where they were just seconds away from a Final Four trip to Columbus.
“I don’t know that I did anything that someone else, given the same opportunity, could not have accomplished,” says Harrop. “I hope that the players who attended the camps, practices, and other clinics during my tenure understand the game better. I hope that their desire to play the game of basketball has increased and they understand what to value about the game. I love basketball and I think that many of life’s lessons can be learned through participation in such a high intensity team sport.”
“If during my years at West Union, I was able to inspire players to join in my love affair for basketball, then I would point to that as a success. I am disappointed that we were unable to advance beyond the sectionals. I felt like the last two seasons we had teams that were prepared to compete at the district or regional levels but our tournament draws left us out early. I wish the boys could have experienced the taste of a long tournament run.”
Lockhart’s early teams, some of the most memorable in Manchester history, did experience those long tournament runs, being annual visitors to the Ohio University Convocation Center to capture three district titles and play in a regional final at the Barn in Columbus. The coach is proud of all that his players have accomplished.
“I tried to never get caught up in my personal achievements, but rather focus on my teams and players,” said Lockhart. “I’ve been blessed with great young men and while I am proud of their accomplishments on their hardwood, I have to say that after graduation, they have made me even more proud to have coached them. Several of our players have excelled in the military, which isn’t surprising to me since they were such great teammates. Others are excelling in college and there is nothing more pleasing than to see their name in the paper for making the Presidents or Deans Lists. We have had several enter the workforce who are also doing exceptionally well for themselves.”
As with anyone who leaves a successful job, there are going to be times when both coaches will find themselves missing what was so much a part of their lives for so long.
“I already miss so much about coaching,” said Harrop. “Summer camps, summer shoot outs, and summer leagues are always a lot of fun as you are attempting to figure out new players at the varsity and other levels. In season, I will miss practices the most. The atmosphere surrounding the games in Adams County is phenomenal and always a lot of fun. However, practice is where you get to make a difference and positively bond with your players.”
I will miss the relationships with players and colleagues,” says Lockhart. “I enjoyed the daily grind of practices, from players personally developing into a team that grows and works as a unit. The other rewarding aspect of coaching was being able to assist in the maturation of the young men in the program. We have had several kids come a long way in four years that we got to work with them and I will miss that kind of blessing.”
Whenever a coach in any sport leaves the sidelines for a period of time, the itch to get back in the action is always there. Both Harrop and Lockhart are not quite ready to think that far ahead yet, but the door seems likely to remain open.
“Even as I resigned I missed coaching,” said Harrop. “Basketball has been a way of life for my family and I am sure that when the time and situation is right I will seek a job working again with that orange ball. As for now, I will satisfy my cravings helping other area coaches when they allow.”
“I hope to find ways to still be around the game and help with player development, just on a part-time basis,” says Lockhart. “I don’t think I will ever fully stay away from the game. My son is eight months old, so we have a few years before he starts playing. I will probably join the coaching ranks in the stands this upcoming season.”