Liberty without Bob Henard? It just won't be the same place

CARROLL SPORTS

February 16, 1994|By BILL FREE

There is a feeling of emptiness around Carroll County these days.

Bob Henard, Mr. Liberty High School, is gone from the sports scene.

One of the truly good guys has been forced to the sidelines. Damage to Henard's lower spinal cord has made it too dangerous for him to continue as athletic director and physical education instruction at Liberty, the Carroll County school board said.

Someone else will take over his position, but there is no replacing Bob Henard.

He was a rare breed in a field where increased pressures from parents, a growing number of students and a growing number of sports have made it a thankless job with long hours and low pay.

Most people don't love their jobs as Henard, 62, did.

And very few athletic directors make a visitor feel at home the way Henard did at Liberty. He was wrapped up in the school, and it showed.

On "off" days, he often would attend a college sporting event to watch a former Liberty student play. He loved to keep in touch with Liberty graduates and follow their progress.

If a person needed extra time after a game at Liberty to finish his job, Henard would wait patiently at 10 p.m., even though his day started around 7:30 a.m.

Henard's watch at Liberty never stopped running. He was willing to put in the extra hours in the best interests of the students.

The man with the ever-present smile and kindness loved to see his athletes get recognition for their achievements. He welcomed the media as an important part of the process of getting a high school education and possibly helping a student receive a college scholarship.

Not all high school coaches and athletic directors see things the way Henard did. They seem to resent every extra minute they spend at the school and view the media as an enemy. The losers in that scenario are the athletes.

Henard was in touch with reality in modern-day high school sports. He understood there had to be some negative stories along with hundreds of positive stories.

This is a man who gave rides to visitors whose cars were parked far away from the Liberty football field at night after a game.

A man who always had a warm greeting for a visitor.

Hats off to Bob Henard.

He deserved a better fate after dedicating 38 years of his life to high school sports.

All he hoped for was to finish out a sixth season at Liberty after 32 years of being a high school football and baseball coach and athletic director in Illinois.

He didn't make it because of a spinal cord injury that occurred when he was being a nice guy.

As Henard walked under the bleachers, instead of in front of the fans, to fix the scoreboard at a Liberty-Westminster basketball game nearly three years ago, people started jumping. Henard was hit by a piece of angle iron and knocked unconscious.

It was later determined that he had suffered damage to his spine, prompting an operation in the summer of 1991 to fuse the third, fourth and fifth vertebrae.

The injury has persisted and Henard faces more surgery the next couple of months. He knew additional surgery was coming, but he didn't anticipate a sudden end to his career.

Asked what he would do now that he is retired on a medical disability, Henard said quietly: "I don't know."

He could always come back as a visitor and watch games. But right now he just can't bring himself to return to the school where there are so many warm memories.

In time, Henard will return, but it will never be the same.

His heart will ache a little and he'll yearn to be in the middle of everything at Liberty once again.

Being a bit of an outsider at the school he loved just won't cut it for this man.

Snow, snow, go away

The county's boys and girls basketball teams were having enough trouble getting into the flow of the season before the snow and ice hit.

Now after several days of missed practice sessions, some of the makeup games might not be too pretty.

But the show must go on, and the South Carroll girls and boys are expected to come away as county champions.

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