Harvey leaves her mark on Hayfield

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Former Hayfield head volleyball coach Deb Harvey won more than 500 matches in her coaching career. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

HAYFIELD — As Deb Harvey walks away from the game she has coached for the last 35 seasons, she can’t say she has any regrets — especially since her last match was a win.

Harvey, who coached Hayfield for 24 years and LeRoy for 11 seasons before that, resigned as Vikings head coach this past summer. But Harvey ended up coaching Hayfield’s first 11 matches this season as she filled in for new head coach Kim Severson, who had just given birth right before the season.

Harvey, who has a career record of 554-289-2 overall, led the Vikings off to a solid 8-3 start this Fall and the team won her final match as head coach with a four-game win over La Crescent Sept. 13.

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“I’m okay with it,” Harvey said of her retirement. “I’m handing it off to a strong group of coaches and our new head coach comes with a wealth of experience. The program will be in good hands.”

Harvey may have led the Vikings to plenty of wins, but she also left a lasting impression her players. Molly Streightiff, who was a four-year varsity starter for the Vikings and is now a sophomore volleyball player at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, said Harvey was as open as you could ask a coach to be.

“She was kind of like a second mom to me and she always cared so much about our entire team,” Streightiff said. “I knew I could go to her for anything. She wanted me to reach my potential and she’s such a good motivator.”

According to the Minnesota volleyball coaches association, Harvey is one of just 24 coaches in MSHSL history to reach the 500-win mark in his or her career. That’s even a more impressive number when you find out that Harvey never had a chance to play high school sports growing up.

Harvey learned all she needed to about competition while growing up on a Dairy Farm.

“We were farmers,” Harvey said. “We showed dairy cattle and we all learned the value of work, but we were also competitive in the show arena and the 4H competitions.”

While her parents never coached, it kind of became a family tradition for Harvey’s siblings. Her brother, Gary Sloan, is the head football coach at Grand Meadow, her sister Cindy Owen, is the new head softball coach at Austin, her son is an assistant boys basketball coach in Stewartville and her niece is an assistant volleyball coach in Grand Meadow.

Harvey never got to coach in a state tournament in her career, but she took the Vikings to the section finals twice, where they lost to Bell Plaine both times and she took LeRoy to the section title game once.

Harvey said southeastern Minnesota is filled with quality volleyball teams.

“Section one and section two have always been extremely strong,” she said. “There’s always quality teams down the stretch.”

While coaching at Hayfield, Harvey has been the physical education teacher and adapted physical education teacher at Brownsdale Elementary for the past 24 years as well. She said it was always fun when she spotted the kids who would end up being her future volleyball players on the high school team.

“It’s awesome to see them come up as young kids and you see that interest and ability,” she said. “It’s pretty fun to see the kids that really want to work and get better.”

Even after Harvey’s players graduated, she still heard from quite a few of them. She now gets Christmas cards from some former players who are in the 40s and have a family of their own.

“They’ll always be kids to me, even though some of them are over forty,” Harvey said.

As for her retirement plans, Harvey doesn’t plan on leaving the area and she said she’ll still be watching to see how the Vikings do on the volleyball court.

“We’ll stay around and I’ll follow them,” she said. “They know I’ll be there with them or I’ll be following any way I can. I’ll be around.”