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HEISER: Player-coach bond at Central York is example of true value of high school sports

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
Central York setter Brock Anderson.
  • Central York's Brock Anderson is a two-time all-state setter in boys' volleyball.
  • Todd Goodling is Anderson's head coach at Central, which is a traditional state power.
  • Anderson recently posted a tweet expressing his gratitude to Goodling.
  • The Central volleyball season was canceled because of coronavirus pandemic.

Occasionally, you’ll hear some folks question the value of high school athletics.

They’ll argue that school should be for education, not games.

Those folks couldn’t be more wrong.

If you want to see living proof about the benefits of scholastic sports, just visit Brock Anderson’s Twitter site (XbrocklyX).

There, in an eloquent five-paragraph tweet, the Central York High School senior setter wrote powerfully about the importance of the Panthers’ volleyball program to his young life.

The two-time all-state performer posted the tweet after the PIAA recently canceled the spring sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Anderson understood that the cancellation was necessary, but that didn’t help soothe the extreme disappointment he felt in losing his senior season with one of the best boys’ volleyball programs in the state.

Instead of dwelling on his loss, however, Anderson took the opportunity to give thanks for everything that the Central program has given him over the past four years.  

High praise for coach: He was especially grateful to his head coach at Central, Todd Goodling.

“He is the best coach that PA has ever seen, no matter the sport,” Anderson wrote of Goodling. “I wish every athlete could have a chance to be coached by Todd because he’s changed my life for the better.”

Such a tribute would make most coaches swell with pride. Goodling, however, is not most coaches. He’s well known for hating to talk about himself, despite the serious success he’s enjoyed at Central. It is his nature to always deflect the attention away from himself and onto to his players.

Coach shifts focus to player: His reaction to Anderson’s message was typical. He shifted the focus to his senior standout, who is hoping to play at the NCAA Division I level next season.

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Central York boys' volleyball coach Todd Goodling.

“Brock completely encapsulates what we hope Central York volleyball players will be,” Goodling said. “It's commitment to whatever the cause is. It's being all in. It's not being distracted, not letting the noise bother you, not focusing on anything other than what you've identified as being the most important thing.” 

Coach-setter partnership: The Goodling-Anderson partnership is obviously very close. That's not unusual between a coach and his setter. The volleyball setter is critical to a program's success. A team's offense runs through the setter, and no team can truly excel without a strong setter.

It many ways, it's like a coach-quarterback relationship in football or a coach-point guard relationship in basketball.

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"There is so much pressure that goes with being the setter in the Central York program," Goodling said. "There is also literally twice as much practice time that attaches to the position. So, for three-plus years, Brock has managed that pressure." 

Relationships with other players: Both Anderson and Goodling also made sure to reflect on their extraordinary bonds with the other members of the Panthers program.

“You guys will forever be my brothers, I love all of you,” Anderson wrote in his tweet. “You pushed me to be the best player that I can be, and I wouldn’t have wanted any other group of guys to go to battle with every week.”

Goodling, meanwhile, talked about the heartbreaking discussions he’s experienced with his seniors, including Anderson.

“I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to console a senior class who will not get to wear the Central York volleyball jersey for one final season,” Goodling said. “There is, of course, nothing that I can say to them that makes the situation any better. They are devastated, our coaching staff is devastated. It has been the saddest moment in my coaching life.”

Gratitude in face of disappointment: While Anderson and Goodling both expressed understandable disappointment, there was another, more lasting emotion that emerged from both the coach and the player.

“In his letter about the Central program, Brock mentions ‘gratitude’ — we talk a lot about that with the team,” Goodling said. “It is the foundation for the program’s success and the one thing the coaching staff hopes the players will carry with them when they leave the program. … You ask what defines Brock — that is it.”

Relationships are the key: The relationship between Goodling and his players is definitely quite close, but it’s certainly not unheard of. Obviously, not all coach-player bonds are as tight, but if you talk to other players and other coaches on other spring sports teams, you’ll likely run into similar examples of kinship.

Those relationships are the foundation of high school sports, and they can often last for a lifetime.

Those relationships are the reason that sports will always be a vital part of the high school experience.

Yes, a virus can ruin a single season, but it can’t ruin the positive impact that athletics can have on the lives of both the players and the coaches.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Disptch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.