I had no way of knowing that when I shook Herb Lauffer’s hand in the summer of 1976 that I had forged an altered path for my life.
The fact that I played Wide Receiver on my high school football team and had almost never kicked a soccer ball, somehow qualified me to barge into Herb’s office to ask if I could try-out for the team. Herb’s invitation was instantaneous, and for the next two years, I played backup to Behrend HOF GK, Bill Stara.
There were many aspects to Herb’s approach that I would later recall, but one characteristic was obvious. He treated his players as equal adults. Don’t misinterpret, Herb was in charge and knew what he wanted, but he appeared to have a deep respect for his players. This respect gave his athletes the confidence and freedom to improve. As a result, when Herb got angry, we felt like we had let him down. It was a motivational style that was completely alien to me at the time.
When I left Behrend for the UP campus at the end of my sophomore year, I left soccer (a sport that I had grown to love) behind me and my absence probably had something to do with the subsequent success of the 1978 team.
Fifteen years later everything changed. I volunteered to help as an assistant coach on my son Jake’s youth soccer team. Two things were immediately obvious; I still didn’t know anything about soccer and I liked coaching.
For the next twenty years, I coached virtually year round occasionally picking up some knowledge here and there about the game. For my last twelve years I served as head soccer coach at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage, PA. I had adopted Herb’s respect-oriented coaching style not because of the way in which it grew the win column (although it did); but because of the way in which it grew the student athletes.
Tom Trimble, Jake Dodd, Bill Dodd
The story doesn’t stop there. My son Jake now runs his own goal keeping academy based in Erie, called Ignite GK. After attending a camp of his as a guest one day, I realized that he was using traits that I had picked up from Herb.
I suppose that I can imagine Herb still walking the sidelines of a soccer pitch somewhere, but to see him in my son… who never met the man… I believe the term is legacy.