Todd Goodling wasn't looking to become a high school boys' volleyball head coach.
And this probably isn’t a story that he ever really wanted to be written.
Becoming a high school boys’ head volleyball coach wasn’t really his dream. If it was, he would have probably achieved that goal many years ago.
But when circumstances changed the dynamics of Central York's storied program recently, Goodling wanted to make sure its rich history, including six state championships, would not crumble quickly.
After 30-plus years as an assistant, many of them under former head coach Brad Livingston, Goodling was left with a decision to make after Livingston was unexpectedly removed from the head coaching positions for both football and boys’ volleyball at Central in a controversial move by the school board in December.
Would Goodling be willing to step up to take over the reins of a program that he has grown to love?
While the answer wasn’t overly emphatic, it was nevertheless expected — yes.
“My concern was with the program,” said Goodling, who was officially appointed as the new head coach last month. “I wanted to make sure that what had been available to Central volleyball players for the past 30 years would still continue to be available and that they would get the same opportunities as all the classes did prior to them.”
It's about the kids: Never one to seek out the spotlight, Goodling also didn't want to see all the work that he has put into helping build the Panthers into a perennial powerhouse go to waste. Throughout the whole process, Goodling wanted to make sure one thing was clear — this isn't about him.
“If you ask if I had a lifelong goal of becoming a high school boys’ volleyball (head) coach, I’d just say that I could have done that a long time ago,” he said.
It took a series of unexpected circumstances for Goodling to get to this point. However, the way the program was built over more than 40 years (first under Bruce and Barb Koller and then under Livingston) and the support system already in place made it an easy decision for him to finally make.
“I think this program is very different than most programs,” he said. “It’s not built around (coaches). And I sometimes have concerns when I read articles or see videos about high school athletics and they seem to have a coach-driven focus, like somehow the coach is involved. And this is a really strong belief of mine that the high school coach needs to be invisible. It needs to be about the kids.”
It was with those kids in mind that Goodling accepted his new role. Although Goodling doesn't see his role as changing all that much.
“Quite honestly, the only thing different about taking over is that I have so much mindless paperwork to do,” he said. “That is the only addition to what I’ve been doing really for the last 30 years.”
Familiar faces still in place: Even though his good friend Livingston is no longer there, Goodling will work hard to make sure the program continues in a very similar manner. In fact, many of the same faces that have long participated in practices and tryouts remain the same — except for Livingston.
Dwayne Warehime, a former head coach at Spring Grove who has been helping with the program for nearly five years now, remains in his role as assistant. And three former Panther standouts — John Almquist, Jesse Landis and John Feldman — are all helping Goodling get his players ready for the season.
“This is not a hierarchical program and it is not one that is coach-centric,” he added. “We strive to have our kids prepared and as focused as we can so that when we send those kids onto the court they can just play the game.”
In a game such as volleyball, there is little a coach can do when the action is happening. That is a big reason that Goodling was drawn to the sport many years ago.
“It happens too fast to be a coach-driven team,” he said. “And that’s the fun thing about the game. You don’t have time to catch it and figure out what you’re doing or have 45 seconds between plays or 15 timeouts to do it. You really better be prepared to do it whenever you step on the court. There really aren’t a lot of fundamental changes that can be made in the course of a game.”
Fortunately for Central, with Goodling in place, there will not have to be a lot of fundamental changes for the Panthers this year.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.