Mr. Hardy’s legacy remembered

Today we honor the life and memory of Jackie Hardy who was a coach, teacher, and friend to so many in our community. I am taking this opportunity to print the speech I gave to induct him into the Tunstall High School Sports Hall of Fame class of 2013-14 recreated from my notes from that night.  I loved this man and selfishly mourn that we did not have more time on earth with him.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the second 2013 Hall of Fame inductee tonight, Jackie Hardy.  Mr. Hardy was my coach and teacher; he is also my friend.  Although I can’t bear to call him by his first name, he will always be Mr. Hardy to me.  Some habits are hard to break.

Mr. Hardy is not one to boast or ever try to raise himself up.  Because of this humility, I know Mr. Hardy would not tell you that in his 28 years of coaching volleyball at Tunstall that he totaled 386 career wins, 11 District Championships, and 7 Coach of the Year awards.

Mr. Hardy also taught math and science classes (and even Driver’s Ed before my time) for 40 years at Tunstall.  In the classroom, he was a wonderfully engaging science teacher who helped make lessons come alive with demonstrations and experiments.

Mr. Hardy always stressed the student part of being a student-athlete and had 24 of his players go on to play at the college level.

The lasting legacy of Mr. Hardy can be shown even more clearly after several years of being retired.  When Mr. Hardy was sick and taking treatments about two years, I contacted as many of his alumni as I could to have them write him old volleyball memories and notes of encouragement to lift his spirits.  The benefit of coordinating this project was that I also got to read these memories and reflections.

One thing became very clear, after some years had passed and scores of games and wins and loses had faded what was left was Mr. Hardy’s lasting legacy.  It sums up as this: Mr. Hardy is the kind of person that makes you want to be a better person.

His players spoke of his commitment to his faith, first and foremost, and to his family. Gale Sayers wrote a great book called I am Third where he spoke of his priorities: God first, family second, and yourself third.  Mr. Hardy has his own take on this structure and began each season with a parent and players’ meeting where he shared his own priorities of faith, family, and volleyball–in that order, of course.

Now, to close here is a list of the top ten things I love about you, Mr. Hardy:

10. Your coaching shorts/pants.–There is a reason why Mrs. Hardy would begin some of her first days of school introducing herself, which included explaining that you were her husband, and that she did not pick out your clothes. The patterns and colors were an impressive array.

9. Your laugh.–There is a distinctive build to your laugh that settles into a very satisfied chuckle.  Everyone who knows you knows what I am talking about.

8. Your sweet tooth.–We would often stop at a convenience store on the way to a game for snacks and drinks.  Despite his need to watch his sugar intake, he would stroll back to the bus with a doughnut or bear claw, a smile, and an instruction to me, “Don’t tell Margaret.”

7. The pride you took in our t-shirts, uniforms, and warm-ups always making sure we were the best dressed team.–When I look back now I question some of our hairstyles (yours has been the same for a while), but our uniforms were the best in the district.

6. Your pre-season motivational speeches.–These speeches were different for each year. Two of my favorites were the year you gave us all a small link of a chain to put on the bottom lace of our shoes. You explained that as a team we would only be as strong as our weakest link. Another favorite was the year that you printed the words “No Regrets” upside-down on the bottom on our shirts turned so that we could read the words ourselves. You also explained the importance of these words through how you lived your life.

5. The programs that you designed and printed for each home game.–No other school that we went to had programs that featured players and pictures…not to mention the bulletin board that you put up in the gym for us for each season.  This attention to detail made us even more keenly aware that we should take pride in ourselves.

4. The nicknames you gave all of us.–Some of the nicknames were funny, some intimidating to the opponent, but mine was pretty simple. You and my dad are the only two people to call me “A”. I still love hearing, “Well, hey A.”

3. We all loved it when we were short one and you scrimmaged with us.–I’m not sure how much the girls from the later seasons got to experience this, but you had a pretty wicked top-spin serve back in my day.

2. Our great conversations on long bus trips when I was your assistant coach.–We spent a lot of time on that bus with me leaned forward in my seat to hear you over the hum of the bus. Like any coach, you can really tell a good game story from the years gone by, but we mostly talked about other things: church, school, and family.

1. The difference you made in my life and in the life of so many of your former players.–Thank you for keeping me on the last spot of the roster my 8th grade year. And also thank you for not telling me you almost cut me until two years later. Thank you for seeing something in me that I didn’t even know was there. Beyond the volleyball court, you made such a difference in the lives of the hundreds of young women that played for you. Thank you for your dedication to the sport and to us. We love you. Congratulations!

Please leave your favorite Mr. Hardy memories in the comments below. What would be at the top of your top ten list? And take this opportunity to tell someone who has shaped you into the person you are today, thank you!

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