Two historic Penns Valley coaches stepping down, look back on coaching careers
After more than 20 years as head coach of their respective programs, Penns Valley girls’ basketball coach Karen McCaffrey and boys’ soccer coach Scott Case have decided to step down.
Over the course of her 21 years at the helm of the Lady Rams basketball team, McCaffrey has won 341 games – the most in any Penns Valley sport. Her teams took home seven league titles including this most recent season and took her last two teams to the PIAA Sweet Sixteen while capturing her second district title in 2018.
McCaffrey explained her thought process for leaving didn’t include any one main reason, but a group of smaller ones.
“I knew everybody was going to ask me ‘why?’ and I’m not sure I can pinpoint one reason,” said McCaffrey. “I just felt very strongly that this was the time and I kind of feel that God is leading me in another direction and I’m not sure what is going to fill that void, but I think that there’s another adventure out there waiting for me.”
A couple of the reasons she listed included the time commitment and that her family is spread out across the United States.
“I’ve just sacrificed a lot of time and I just thought now was the time I could probably give it up,” said McCaffrey. “Although, I can tell you it was a very hard decision.
“It’s kind of been my identity for a lot of years.”
McCaffrey told the Gazette some of her favorite memories from her time as head coach.
“There would be many,” she said. “Having the chance to coach my daughter was probably the highest and the lowest point. That gave us a bond that will never be broken, the memories of being a player and a mom and coach.”
Of all the moments she could look back on, the trophies were not what stood out.
“You would think that the best memories would be the district championships, but all my memories of all the players I’ve ever coached are probably my favorites,” said McCaffrey. “I think the best thing about coaching at Penns Valley is not just the players but their families.
“Our families just let you coach their children and nobody understands how wonderful that is. I have had very few parent problems over the years, been supported by our school board and that’s invaluable whenever people trust that you’re going to do the best you can and support you in that way.”
The biggest thing that Coach McCaffrey learned during her tenure was that she couldn’t do it alone and she thanks all the assistant coaches she has worked with over the years.
“I have tried over the years to understand that I am just another piece of the puzzle,” she said. “I try to put more time in than anybody and I hope that through my passion and my work ethic that spreads to my staff and the girls.”
The hardest part of stepping down for McCaffrey is saying goodbye to the players she has seen grow up.
“I’m going to miss terribly the girls I’ve had over the past four years, my five seniors leaving and I have a pretty strong bond with my four juniors who will be seniors next year,” said McCaffrey. “So that made it really hard.
“(The part I’m going to miss most) is just being able to hang out with the team. Seeing the highs, being there during the lows, because coaching basketball is a rollercoaster ride. They’re going to have some huge victories but you have to be there to motivate them when you’re going through your struggles also. Without question, I will miss the bonds that were always made with the players and their families.”
Case helped start the Penns Valley boys soccer program in 1997 and has since been the only head coach. His teams have won four league championships and a district title. When asked, however, Coach Case explained that the trophies he and his teams earned aren’t how he defined success. What his players went on to do with their lives is more important to him.
“I got this kid that’s a janitor. I’ve got this kid who’s a butcher. I’ve got these kids that are architects. I’ve got these guys that are making space ships,” said Case. “That is kind of the thrust of the cool things about my career were rather than getting (trophies), that wasn’t quite as important.
“(My biggest accolades) were what (my players) turned into, what these guys became … what they are becoming. That’s the coolest thing about coaching is seeing that maybe I had this small hand in seeing these kids turn into really cool citizens doing really neat things with their lives and careers.”
Case’s reasons for why he has decided to step down as coach include sailing more often and trying to build a school in Uganda.
“I’ve got some cool things I want to do,” said Case. “We spent some time in Uganda with some friends this winter and we’re trying to figure out how to build a school over there and that’s going to take some time trying to see if that’s possible.
“I want to do some more sailing. We have a farm and we have our first commercial saffron crop, which is due this fall, which is right in soccer season. So there’s just different things. Twenty years was a good run.”
Case’s favorite part of coaching was seeing his players return and tell him what they were up to.
“Some of the coolest things are three years after a kid graduates he shows up at the farm and he’s introducing me to his girlfriend or he’s telling me how college went or he’s showing me his new car. Those types of things are the really cool things about it.
“It’s seeing little freshmen and watching them grow over four years and seeing them become very skilled and confident and becoming good team players. Those are the things that stick out.”
If there is one thing Coach Case could tell his replacement it would be to set a good example for the players in interactions with referees.
He explained that he always tried his best not to complain to an official because he felt that in some ways it was dishonorable.
“I’d say be stoic. Some calls are going to go your way, some aren’t. Set a good example for your boys,” he said.
As for what he will miss most, it was the little conversations he’d have.
“As a match ends or as a practice ends every once in a while there’ll be a kid lingering and usually something is wrong or they want advice or they want to chat about something either in the game or something in their life,” said Case. “I’ll miss being part of their lives and maybe in that tiny, tiny way of helping to shape them.”