By RYAN VANDERSLOOT
Anyone who has recently coached a high school basketball team can tell you it’s not an easy job.
The days of only worrying about coaching during the season and preseason are long gone. If you want to do the job right, it has basically become a full-time job.
And when that coach isn’t also a teacher, the job becomes even tougher.
Such was the case for Dover girls’ basketball coach Troy Lokhaiser. After taking over the program from Mike Sanders three years ago, Lokhaiser took the program to new heights.
Two York-Adams League Division II titles, a York-Adams League Tournament title and two lengthy runs into the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs were all uncharted territory for what was a downtrodden program for many years.
But balancing everything that goes into coaching, along with his job as a director for the Pennsylvania State Police, as well as finding enough time for his family — his wife, Denise, and two daughters (Megan and Jenna) — proved to be too tall a task. As a result Lokhaiser, who compiled a 71-15 record as head coach, recently stepped down at Dover.
We caught up with Lokhaiser to talk about his decision for this edition of Sports Q&A.
Q: When did you start thinking about the decision to step down?
A: “I think I first started giving this some thought at the beginning of this season. It certainly took some thought on my part and I had to discuss it with my family. But it was at the beginning of the season.”
Q: What factors ultimately went into your decision?
A: “It was certainly a combination of things. I think most coaches would tell you that the amount of time that it takes to be a varsity coach these days is a large, large commitment. It’s not just a season job anymore, it’s a year-round position if you want to do it correctly. My work schedule and my family schedule and some other things just ultimately led me to think that now is the right time to step down.”
Q: How difficult of a decision was it for you?
A: “Extremely. Like in any job when you’re working with young adults, you get attached to them. And this year I had eight seniors and I’ve been attached to them pretty closely. … So it was tough. It really was tough for me.”
Q: Was it any easier to do so knowing that most of the team would be graduating this year?
A: “Yeah. It just seemed like the right time with this group. The success that we’ve had over the past two years was special and this group of seniors was kind of my group of girls for a long time. … Now just seemed like the best time.”
Q: Did the fact that your daughter, Megan, was one of those graduating seniors have any impact on your decision?
A: “That actually didn’t have too much to weigh into it. I’m sure that everybody thought that when Megan was done that would maybe be it for me. But it was more of the other outside things that I want to do. With Megan about to start college, and I have another daughter that’s in college, the other things that I haven’t been able to do with them was important. So it was more than just Megan being a senior.
Q: A lot of coaches (for example your assistant coach Jay Rexroth, who coached the Dallastown boys’ team for more than 20 years) step down but eventually get right back into it a few years later. Could you be one of them, even if not as a head coach?
A: “Well I don’t want to say never because it’s certainly a great job if you love to work with kids and see them grow and improve, then coaching is what you should be doing. I’m not going to say never, but I don’t foresee it right now. But … who knows?”
Q: How important were your assistant coaches — especially Coach Rexroth — to you over these past two years?
A: “I told them the other night at our team banquet, and I’m sure most coaches would say this, I certainly felt as if I had the best staff in the county and all over. But I’m sure most coaches would say the same thing about their staff. Jay Rexroth coming up to help us the past three years and to bring in a guy like Jay, who coached at Dallastown for 20 years, and the knowledge and experience that he brought to our staff was just unbelievable. And then Bill Fox and Bill Garrison have been with me during my whole time up there and they’ve done a great job. They may not have been as vocal as either Jay or I, but they certainly did stuff for us that maybe a lot of people don’t see.”
Q: You took over the program from Coach Sanders a few years ago. When that happened did you imagine you’d have as much success as you did?
A: “Well I’m not sure that any coach could tell you that they envisioned the type of success that we had these past three years. You always hope you have something like that and you hope that you can do some of the things like we’ve done, but I don’t think we envisioned it. I think we envisioned at the time we took over that we’re turning the corner at that point. Coach Sanders had brought in a new style of play to us and we kind of took that and molded it into our own thing these past couple of years. And it just seemed to work right. Those girls … the 10 that are, so to speak, my varsity girls this year and last year, just got it and they clicked together. They listened to what we tried to have them do and they did it on most nights.”
Q: It really seemed like you and your staff were able to get more out of the girls — aside from Alayah Hall — than maybe anyone would have predicted based solely on their individual talents. How do you think you were able to do that?
A: “We as a coaching staff look at our team and we kind of knew what we had on most nights. And we knew what the other team had on most nights. So when you step on the floor against a team like Cumberland Valley, Wilson, Mt. St. Joe’s, and even some of the strong York County teams that had two or three or four players that were going to be college basketball players … we weren’t sure we had them on most nights. Now we had Alayah Hall, who was certainly that X-factor for us, but we had what I would say is a bunch of girls that knew their role and went out every single night and did their role and competed. And that’s what made it so special. When you’re playing teams that you maybe shouldn’t match up well against and you still go out there and give the effort that our girls did, it made it more special. When you’re beating teams that most people don’t expect you to beat, it is certainly a good feeling.”
Q: Do have any idea who might be interested in taking over for you?
A: “I don’t know about my assistants. I know we had a team meeting and I told them of my decision, but I don’t know if any of them would be interested. So I’m not really sure.”
Q: What will be the memories of your time in coaching at Dover?
A: “Well the run that we’ve made the past two years for the program and for the school. The county championship will be special forever. The district finals game this year and the state games … competing against teams that we really felt that we might not be able to compete against, but this team certainly did night-in and night-out. The memories will be forever and I told the girls at the banquet to make sure that they stop in and look at the banners hanging in the gym because they earned them.”
Q: Finally, what do are your plans for your time away from coaching?
A: “First and foremost, to spend some more time with my family. Like I said, this is a year-round job and it’s especially crazy from November to March, if you’re fortunate enough to play into March. From those four or five months of the year, you see your family to maybe have a quick bite at a local restaurant for something to eat because you really don’t have the time to make anything at home. So certainly to spend more time with them. Now I used to be hunter and a fisherman and I played a lot of golf, so I’m hoping to get back into some of those things.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.