Tim Haak's 29-year career as Harvard's wrestling coach came to a close Saturday at the IHSA state team championships in Bloomington. Haak, who also coached the Hornets' football team for 27 years, announced last year that he will retire at the end of the school year. Since then, Haak has maintained a normal day-to-day routine, choosing to wait until the future to refelect on his nearly three decades at Harvard.
People have a hard time believing this, but I've never talked to my players about my retirement. We never talked about it in practice. We never talked about it in team meetings or even privately. Did they talk about it on their own? I'm sure they did and I'm sure they were aware of it, but we never talked about it. I never wanted this to be about me. This is supposed to be about them. Part of my job is to help my players create memories and so I wanted to make sure we did that. So this year was always about them. Not about me.
It hasn't really sunk in (that the state championships) would be the last one. You get so focused on the daily preparation. So we really treated it like any other practice day. I've had some people ask me (when it will sink in) and it will probably be in the spring when I'm not preparing for the summer or for football and wrestling camps. I've just focused on the daily routine and on the competitiveness. With football and wrestling, you just keep trying to figure out ways to get your kids better and to improve daily. So if you focus on the daily routine, it just keeps you in that moment and in that kind of a mindset.
I hope the work ethic our teams played with is one of the things people remember me for. No matter the talent level, it's important to give that great effort and prepare hard for something. That was the way I was raised by my grandparents and that's how I was raised in the athletic arena at Woodstock with those same foundations.
Harvard has meant a lot to my family. Having the opportunity for my wife Chris and I to raise our kids here has been special. It's been a privilege for me to have been in the right place at the right time to coach a Harvard athlete. They certainly have given a great deal to my family and I hope that we've given as much to them as they've given to us.
I don't know there was one particular day when (I knew this year would be the last). I put my letter into the district to retire 3 1/2 years ago and Chris and I talked about it a year before that. I think it came down to, at one point, it was going to happen. But I got to coach our son Shane in football and wrestling and now our daughter Mallory is going to graduate this year. When she was a freshman, we decided when she graduated, I would graduate with her. I think that will be a special time when we both get to graduate together – to be able to see her walk through graduation as she gets ready to go on to her next journey in college and we'll go onto our next journey as well.
I don't think I will ever think that I won't coach again. I think that coaching is such an enjoyable aspect of my life and so I don't think I would ever say I will never coach again. Whether it be as an assistant somewhere, if the right opportunity came along, we would always entertain it. That's for sure.
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