Friday, February 19, 2010

Coach’s message is beyond words

Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune
Howie Hawver continues to pursue his duties as soccer coach at Patrick Henry High despite being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2008.
Howie Hawver has not lost his sense of humor.
After his Patrick Henry High girls soccer team won its ninth straight Eastern League title yesterday, beating visiting Morse 8-0, the longtime coach was asked how special No. 9 is.
The 48-year-old Hawver smiled, then replied: “It’s my favourite number.”
Hawver is unable to speak yet his words were delivered with a perfect British accent. He also spelled it the UK way — with the “u” — with the assistance of his high-tech DynaVox Max voice aide computer, controlled by small movements he makes with the side of his right knee. The monitor is mounted on his motorized wheelchair, which was donated by Shay Realty of Del Mar.
Hawver, who has helped hundreds of girls earn college scholarships as a coach — from the youth ranks to a 15-year-stint at Grossmont College, where he amassed more than 200 victories — was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2008. It’s an incurable neurodegenerative disease more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The one-time Helix High soccer standout — whose memory is sharp, whose knowledge of the technical side of soccer is widely respected and whose wit is intact — has been in a wheelchair since last fall.
“I love that chair,” said Hawver’s father, Howard, who estimated its worth at $40,000. “He starts at 10 in the morning putting in the computer what he wants to say to the team later that day. At the last game against (league foe) Mira Mesa, he (wrote), ‘As athletes, this is the kind of game you live for.’ I love that the chair gives him a voice.”
The elder Hawver noted his son’s place of birth — Germany — then added, laughing, “I just don’t like that British accent.”
Laughter doesn’t come as often as it once did to Howard Hawver or to Howie’s younger sister, Michelle, who said she was close to Howie when they were kids before the two drifted apart for many years.
Now Michelle regularly makes the trek from Menifee in Riverside County, staying with Howie and his wife, Lianne, in their San Carlos home three days a week.
Howard, Michelle and Lianne work together as caregivers, chauffeurs and chefs to make sure Howie gets where he needs to go and has what he needs.
The Patriots were able to bring home what their coach needed against the overmatched Tigers. Amanda Howard led the charge with four goals for Patrick Henry (11-2-4, 9-1-2). Ciera Robillard notched the shutout.
“The (title) is a great tribute to Howie,” said first-year assistant coach Jason Aldous. “He’s so inspiring to us, full of spirit and desire. He doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. It’s all about the girls, and they know that.”
After the game, the team headed to nearby Mountain Mike’s Pizza for a fundraiser for Hawver as he continues his fight against ALS.
The victory was a fitting way to end the regular season, Hawver’s final year as the team’s head coach.
“Since it’s his last year coaching us, we all said, ‘Let’s do it for Howie,’ ” said defender Sydney Blackman, a four-year varsity member and team captain. “He keeps us going and we keep him going. He keeps us playing to our fullest and best. We dedicated this season to Howie. We’re trying to go all the way.”


  1. I've known Howie for a long time. He knows what I have been through recently with the death of my husband John who was the President of Crusaders Soccer for many years. Just wanted to let him know I am praying for him, as he did for me when John died. I've always liked him. My son Jeffrey and him defintely know what the word "perservance" means. My son is 17 and has been recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in the auto accident that killed my husband...May god be with you Howie.

  2. Sounds like you also know the meaning of "perseverance". If I may... Though it feels like it at times, Jehovah (God) has not left you and will one day make things right.


  3. Howie, you have many people telling you that you're an amazing person and amazing coach, I stand by that. It's been a few years since you've seen or heard from me but I will never forget the words you often said to me," you can take the girl out of Mira Mesa, but you can't take the Marauder out of the girl" I carry that saying with me from all the places I've moved to and played soccer in. I have a real chance at going big and I will take it. With all the inspiration you've given me even while moving forward with my life, you helped imprint soccer in my soul. It was a hard decision this year wether to pick up the skate shoes, or the cleats but I will take my soccer and passion as far as I can humanly go. Thank you Howie, for being one of the best coaches I ever have had.


    Lizzie Williams

  4. For all of us who have had the honor of knowing Howie, we are better people for it. There are thousands of stories out there from people, whether it be players, coaches or friends that all have a common theme. Howie was a leader, an inspiration to all those who knew him. Dedicated and hard-working doesn't even come close to describing who Howie really was.

    "Was"....I hear myself saying that word and I can't believe it. Why is it that that good ones leave us before their time?

    For years, Howie and I were great friends. He hired me when I first showed up in San Diego to coach two of his girls teams. He went that extra mile and hired me to be his assistant coach at Grossmont College and soon thereafter asked me to come to Patrick Henry H.S. When he left CSC to coach at another club he didn't have to ask me to come with him. He was a good friend and I followed him. The time spent at his home, whether it was playing his drums or sitting in his backyard is time I will never forget.

    Over that last few years I found my life drifting into new territories and was unable to stay in contact with Howie the way I would have liked. But the endless conversations we had, at the time I did not know it, but they were lessons of life. Or better yet, a way to live ones life.

    Howie, I'm going to miss you. Thank you for all you did for me.