PARISHVILLE — You have to be pretty slick to get something past a high school coach with more than 50 years of experience. It happened in Parishville Saturday.
Evan S. Harper Jr., the girls varsity soccer coach at Parishville-Hopkinton, had no idea what was in store for him when he was escorted to the soccer field Saturday afternoon.
Nearly 200 players, former players, moms, dads, colleagues and friends were waiting to surprise the long-serving coach with the dedication of a plaque beneath the scoreboard and a reception in his honor.
“As we look back on our memories with coach, perhaps some of the greatest lessons that Coach has modeled for all of us are, to be thankful for what we have, to share our talents and to give back whenever we can, help others, go out and see the world, work hard, move mountains, be as successful as you can,” Lori White, one of the self-proclaimed “Alums and Mums” who helped plan the event, said. “And then if it is at all possible, return to the community that nurtured and supported you.”
Other members of the Alums and Mums included Jenna Converse, Becky Smith, Cindy Converse, Jennifer Hernandez and Lori Knowles.
“Miles and years from Parishville soccer, Coach’s impact lives on in the lives of those he has coached,” Ms. White said. “When we reunited to plan this event, we created a Facebook page and we were overwhelmed, but certainly not surprised at the response. Hundreds of people from all over the country, many of whom were unable to be here today, where thrilled to hear that such an inspirational leader was finally being recognized.”
Mr. Harpers’s son, Michael Harper, was quick to point out that Connie Harper, the coach’s wife, plays a big role in any success due to his father.
“My mother has been there for the whole 53 years and then some,” Michael Harper said. “She works endlessly to support him. I told her the other day that dad’s the pilot and you’re co-pilot. The co-pilot does the check list. She has been there through thick and thin.”
He spoke of how life could be frantic during summer soccer.
“Dad would be running just wild, just going, going, going,” he said. “Mom’s got the checklist, ‘you got your balls? You got your cones? You got your pinnies?’”
When Mr. Harper spoke to acknowledge the honor, he spoke first about his wife as well, telling the story of how he spotted a pretty cheerleader from an opposing team when he was home visiting from college his freshman year. He didn’t have the wherewithal to approach her so he wrote a note, that he then had delivered to the cheerleading adviser.
“Luckily, she gave it to the right girl,” he said.
Mr. Harper has always been a part of the school
“I really am happy that I grew up in Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District. Every year that I came to school here was a joy to me. I was very disappointed when I missed four days in one grade because I had the measles,” he said.
Mr. Harper said that he and his wife agree that their athletes become like family.
“Every season that we have had, whether it was coaching men and boys in high school or the girls we have had 20 to 25 or 30 daughters or sons for that period of time,” Mr. Harper said. “It has really been a joy and I really appreciate the whole community and everything you have done for Connie and myself.
A plaque that was unveiled at the ceremony sits beneath the scoreboard and includes a quote from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden — “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”