Legacy football coach Wayne Voorhees is in perhaps the most unique coaching situation of his career this season. The veteran coach, now in his 14th season, is helping to guide the Lightning in the wake of a bus crash his team was involved in while returning home from an out-of-state game. The crash killed the driver, and left Voorhees and two of his assistants in the hospital. Voorhees himself fractured his skull, and suffered other facial injuries. Legacy played its homecoming game that next week under interim coach Matt Craddock, and won. It was a healing moment for the community. Now, the Lightning are 4-1 following a 27-15 win over Overland in Week 5, and Voorhees, who returned to the sideline in that game, is ready to turn his attention to football.
Years as head coach: 14 (77-54 overall; 4-1 in 2016)
Years at Legacy: 17
Previous stops: Legacy defensive coordinator (2000-02); Horizon assistant (1993-1999).
Q: Why do you coach?
I think the biggest thing is seeing kids develop over their four years of high school. It's great to be a part of that. As kids mature and get bigger, stronger, and mentally stronger, it's neat to see how they deal with things over the course of their four-year career.
Q: Why do you coach in the way that you do?
I kind of think I'm somewhat of a player's coach, but still has discipline, if that makes sense. I definitely want to hear what kids have to say and get their buy-in as far as what we're doing, and why. Really, that's the biggest thing: the why part. I don't think enough of us over the years do a good enough job communicating the why. That's one thing I definitely try to do, which doesn't always happen, but I think it helps kids buy in a little bit more to, "Why are we doing what we're doing?" It's not just because I said so, it's, "This is the reason that we're doing it."
Q: How would you define success in coaching?
Obviously wins and losses are important, but as you look at your team: are you developing week by week as you get further into the season? We've had some years that we didn't have a great record, and that might have been some of our best coaching years, where we've developed kids and we kept getting better but we didn't necessarily show it as far as wins and losses.
Q: What would you say it's like to be coached by you?
I hope that our kids would say that I definitely listen to them and keep their opinions at heart, even if that doesn't necessarily mean that that's what we're going to do. We're going to move in a good direction. I hope that they would say that we're positive and they understand why we're doing what we're doing. You know, staying positive and trying to bring out the best in all of our kids.
Q: What is your most meaningful experience that you've had with your team, or maybe an individual player?
This is probably back maybe seven or eight years ago. As coaches, we are constantly wanting to be — we want everything to be a certain way. We want to keep getting better. We had a win over Greeley West — this is years ago — and they were a really good team and we were a really good team, and we won 6-0. I got upset after the game because I didn't think we were playing as well as we were capable of playing, and we were in the locker room after the game, and I was trying to get everybody cleared out and get on the bus and get going and get home. One of our guys says, "You know coach, you do remember we won, right?" And that really stuck with me because all of the things that we try to get geared into kids' heads, that we want to be perfect and we want to have a great game, but when it came down to it, we did have team success. I actually told that story to a kid — we didn't play very well against Overland and it was a kid who didn't play well himself — and I told him the same story. I said, "You know what? We won. We're going to get better next week."
Q: With what you guys have gone through, it's become pretty apparent the amount of resilience this group has. That's been pretty incredible, at least from an outsider's perspective. What's that been like from within the program?
*We've had great weeks of preparation, and we've done a good job of talking about — with coach Craddock a couple of weeks ago — just talking about what's going on, letting them vent if they needed to. We really haven't had a whole lot of dialogue necessarily. The kids haven't brought a lot of things up. We knew we were going to have some emotional highs and lows, and we played pretty well the past couple of weeks. Last week, we didn't play particularly well, and I don't know if it was a let-down from all the stuff that's been going on over the past couple of weeks, or looking at some of the scores.
We beat Horizon pretty convincingly a couple of weeks ago, and they beat Overland. I don't know if that was part of it, just thinking that we were going to be able to show up and have success. And that didn't happen, because they're coached well and they play hard, and it was their homecoming.*
Q: The outpouring of support that you guys have received from communities across the state, communities in California has been great.
It's really been amazing. Obviously, the state of Colorado and the Broomfield area has been amazing. Just even outreach from guys you've met over the years, athletic directors and district athletic directors. The football community is really pretty tight, even though they're your opponents, and you don't talk actively all the time. The amount of guys that I've had reach out to me has been unbelievable.
Q: And how is your recovery coming personally?
I'm doing pretty good. I was kind of telling our coaches this morning in game-planning, and this kind of sounds callous, but I'm kind of over it. I'd like to move on. I'm not 100 percent by any means, and I appreciate everything, but I mean I walk down the hall at school and I've got to hug 43 people as I go to the conference room (laughs). You know what? I'm trying to coach the football team, I'm trying to get us going. I appreciate all that other stuff, I really do, and it's good to see everybody, but it's time to start moving on and moving through the season.
Q: Now you guys are 4-1, playing really well heading into conference play. How are you feeling about the start of that schedule?
We've got Regis this week and they're a good football team, and we're excited about the opportunity. We've seen some of their game film, and they do a lot of things real well. We know, as a first league game, this is a big one for us. They're the 1 seed, if you will, in the waterfall, we're the 2 seed, and we know our league championship goes through them.
Q: What do you like most about your football team going forward?
I actually told them this at the beginning of last week. The thing I really like about this group — we had a great trip to California, this whole accident has probably brought us a little closer together, but they play hard on every play. We got down to Chino Hills, we were down 13-0. And before I knew it, we were up 14-13. There have been some teams over the years that the clock could've been running at halftime because we would've been mentally down and all those other things. Our kids live to play the next play, and they play hard. That's the one thing I really like about our guys. It doesn't necessarily matter what just happened, the score, if we turn the ball over — whatever it may be. We live to play another play.