Steamboat Springs Gary Heide thinks he is the lucky one.
He is appreciative of the five years he has been a teacher in the South Routt School District and the combined eight years he has coached Soroco's football and track teams.
And he is especially appreciative of the student athletes. After all, they are the ones who sacrifice the most, he said.
"I do it for the kids," he said Thurs--day as he reflected on the close of his career here. "I love to see them accomplish things. I think I was blessed in coming here when I did. I really feel like there have been so many good athletes. I've really been impressed with how the community, school and athletes embraced athletics during (my) time."
Heide has accepted a teaching and coaching position in Hayfield, Minn., an opportunity that will allow him to return to his home state. His wife, Candy, also is from Minnesota.
The search for Heide's replacement as physical education teacher for grades seven through 12 is under way, with job candidates in the screening process, Principal James Chamberlin said.
Heide's coaching jobs remain open, which is fine with him. He isn't ready to give up his reign with the Rams.
"Internally, it's very emotional for me and certainly will be the last three weeks," he said. "I have an extreme emotional attachment with these athletes. I'm happy it didn't diminish because I knew I was going. The way the kids have responded, they always have had great attitudes here and always have wanted to do well."
The Gary Heide era
In 2003, Heide led Soroco back to the Class 1A football playoffs after a 17-year absence. Under Heide's guidance, the Rams have won nine state track championships --nd counting -- in relay and individual events.
"He's an amazing coach," Soroco senior Kieran Corrigan said. "The stuff he knows -- he has a wide expanse of knowledge. Being from larger schools and dealing with more athletes, he knows how to adjust to each individual depending on their skill level. He's also very supportive."
Instead of forcing Corrigan to run the open 400 meters last year, Heide pulled the 800 and 1,600 runner aside and suggested Corrigan give the 400 a try to see whether he would be a good fit for a relay.
"I had never run a 400, open or otherwise," Corrigan said, as he sat on the Steamboat Springs High School football field Thursday. The Rams frequently practice in Steamboat to use its all-weather track.
"He turned me into a pretty good 400 runner. He is pushing you every minute of every day."
It isn't uncommon for Heide to pass athletes in the hallway and shout out a time he wants them to beat or a place he wants them to aim for. He's always teaching and coaching.
"In today's day and age, there are good coaches out there that I don't think could do it," Soroco Athletics Director Andy Johnson said. "His enthusiasm is incredible. He throws himself into it."
Heide does everything with emotion. His students tout his motivational abilities on the track, and he is the graduation speaker for Soroco's Class of 2006.
Whether it is practice or a game or a track meet, Heide is screaming, his face is red, and he always is ready to go.
"He actually has the best speeches," senior Kyla Schmidt said. "They are different, but they mean so much. I run for myself, and I run for my relays, but I run for Coach a lot, too."
Corrigan, Schmidt and senior Nick Rangel could not pinpoint a Heide saying or speech that stood out from the rest during the past three or four years. They remember everything in one blurry outburst.
"He just expects so much out of everybody," said Rangel, who also played football. "If you saw his practices, he is so dedicated. He writes out everything. Football is his life."
Actually, coaching and teaching are just a part of who Heide is. He also has a family, and the decision to leave was in their best interest, he said. Being in Minnesota, Gary and Candy Heide will have a chance to be closer to their families and raise their four children closer to relatives.
Gary and Candy have two daughters, Genessa, a freshman, and Destry, an eighth-grader, and twin sons Dawson and Carl, first-graders.
On Thursday, Dawson and Carl ran around the Steamboat Springs track and climbed dirt piles while waiting for their mother to come pick them up. The boys go to football practice, too.
An eperience Heide rarely talks about, but holds dear, is coaching Genessa in her first year of varsity track.
A gifted athlete, Genessa already has qualified for state in the 200 meters. She also has tied the school record in the high jump, clearing 5 feet.
She is just one in a talented group of underclassmen who Heide thinks will continue to make Soroco proud.
"I do see some great athletes coming up," he said. "I have said to myself, 'Look what I'm going to miss,' but someone else will have an opportunity to enjoy that."