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Track Coach of the Year: Moffett has 'most rewarding' year

POSTED: June 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The ability to overcome obstacles is part of the make up of a coach.

Whether it be thwarting the negativity of pushy parents, keeping a team positive and motivated, coming up with a game plan that ensures victory over an undefeated and dominant opponent or, in the case of Banks County track coach Rob Moffett, coaching a died in the wool athlete who has lost the use of his legs to two wheelchair state track championships coaches have to have the ability to overcome obstacles.

"From day one when I went to see (Jay Harn) in the hospital after (his) accident he has had a smile on his face," Moffett said. "He looked right at me in the hospital and said, ‘Don’t worry coach, I’m coming back.’"

Come back he did with the help of a determined coach.

In only his second year as at the helm of a track program, Moffett not only taught himself how to teach others to run with purpose, but taught a 16-year-old boy to race in a wheelchair and it culminated with Harn winning co-state titles in the 200 and 800-meters and bringing home the overall state championship trophy in the wheelchair division.

For his efforts Moffett, the guidance counselor at Banks County Middle School, has been named The Times Track Coach of the Year.

"This is the first time I’ve done track," Moffett, who is in his 31st year as an educator and coach, said.

"It was a new experience for me which made it a little more exciting, the fact that I was learning something new.

"I’ve been a (Physical Education) teacher and taught track classes and done a lot of different things related to running, but I had to go through and do a little studying on different techniques and skills."

The techniques and skills Moffett learned in an effort to teach his runners how to reach their potential were nothing compared to the time he spent teaching himself to manuever a racing wheelchair in an effort to teach Harn.

"It was all trial and error," Moffett said.

"Coach (Jay) Reid and I spent time learning how to steer the chair and the proper way to push the chair and then taught Jay (Harn)."

The first time Harn used the wheelchair was six weeks out from what would be his first competition, the 2007 state championships.

Under the guidance of Moffett, Harn won the shot put state title and came in second in the 200 and 800-meters that first year.

The men were not satisfied with that outcome, however, and worked tirelessly over the course of the next year to ensure that Harn would ride away with three state titles in his senior year.

"We did more pushing (practicing in the chair itself) this year than we did last year," Moffett said.

"Last year we tried to split up the practice time between the pushing and the throwing and this year we just pushed harder.

"Plus, (Harn) worked a little harder in the weight room."

During the regular track season, Harn didn’t have any region wheelchair competition yet he went to each meet and raced against the clock, trying to better himself and his times in preparation for the state meet in April.

That preparation clearly paid and even though Harn came in second in the shot put, he won the two events that he lost the previous year and bested all of his previous times while doing so.

"When he ended up second in the shot, a competition in which he still threw the best he ever had, you could see it in his eyes that he was not happy, not smiling," Moffett said.

"I looked right at him and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to win the next two.’"

For Harn, who had two years earlier told his coach not to worry either, that he would be back, the motivation he felt when hearing those words was palpable and carried him to two dominating performances and two state titles.

"It was a special experience," Harn said. "We had a good time, a lot of laughs but I wanted to win. All I can say is that it was a special experience and he’s a great coach, I couldn’t ask for any better."

"One thing about Jay (Harn)," Moffett said, "you know, we all have obstacles in our life and how we respond to them says a lot about who we are and Jay (Harn) responded to this so well, better than I could imagine myself doing.

"I think by far that this is my most rewarding moment," Moffett said.

"I’ve had the good fortune earlier in my career of coaching an oustanding softball team to third place in state and had the good fortune of coaching an undefeated basketball team but, by far, this tops all of those. There’s nothing better."



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