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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sports > General

Legendary coach Fred Ahart passes away at 73

Jul 27, 2020

By Joseph Abraham - co-editor

By: Democrat file photo by Alex Rau
Beloved Roscoe Coach and Athletic Director Fred Ahart was about the kids and ensuring their athletic experience was a positive one.
ROSCOE -- The term coach is thrown around a lot in sports. Athletes often have many of them. But for the students he taught and coached for over 50 years at the Roscoe Central School District, there was only one “Coach,” and his name was Fred Ahart.
The legendary coach passed away late last week at the age of 73.
Ahart's resume speaks for itself, from the number of division titles and Section 9 championships in boys basketball and football his teams have won to the countless honors across the state and section for his contribution to interscholastic athletics. This includes having been the Section 9 Boys Basketball Chairman for the past 25 years, as well as being an inductee of the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (BCANY) Hall of Fame.

While some would bask in the glory of their own success, that wasn't Fred. In any postgame interview or casual conversation, he'd make sure to credit others. This included the support of his family, the hard work of his assistant coaches, his opponents and every single one of his athletes.
Ahart's number one philosophy has remained the same over the years. As he told the Democrat after being named 2019 Co-Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, it's all about the kids and them having the opportunity to participate in athletics and have an enjoyable experience.
When asked in that same interview which team in his over 50 years of coaching was his favorite, his response was, “All of them.”
“I love coaching and working with the teams,” he said. “It's always been a part of my life. I plan to continue to do this as long as I can. I love all the people I come in contact with and the players who work together for a common goal.”
Ahart has taught each athlete who walked through his door to play one game at a time. The most important game was always the next one.
He also lived by the mantra, “Respect all. Fear none.”
Ahart has continued to coach, even when challenges mounted. He has battled Prostate Cancer since 2012.
He once told the Democrat a story of when he was riding home from a doctor's appointment, and like many individuals who battle cancer, he wondered if he had bad luck and felt the common, “Why me?”
His wife Becky, also a coaching legend, said, “Being able to coach and have the professional life and friends you've had, and the wonderful family you have, you're the luckiest person I know.”
And that stuck with him.
“It's true,” Ahart said. “I've had a very fortunate life. She's right. That's shaped my thoughts as I continue to go through this. Putting that into perspective shows her support.”
A memorial service will be held on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Roscoe Central School Athletic Field. Face masks are required, chairs will be limited for handicap and elderly only - and attendees will be asked to stand and social distance.

Shared Superintendent of Schools for the Roscoe, Manor and Downsville CSDs, John Evans: “While the entire RCS community is mourning the loss of our beloved Coach, I can only hope that it brings some peace and warmth to the hearts of Fred's family to know that Fred's love for them and his endless commitment to doing what he loved, has meant so very much to generations of students at RCS.
“Coach Ahart has been so many things to so many people that I can honestly say that the lives of a great many people are better because of Coach Ahart.
“On a personal note, I am deeply saddened and my heart is breaking for the Ahart family. However, I am also humbled and honored to have had the opportunity to get to know Fred over my lifetime as my teacher, my coach, my mentor, a professional colleague, but most of all, as my friend. We love you Coach and we will forever cherish the memories you have helped so many make.”

Tri-Valley Athletic Director Jason Closs (played varsity basketball and football for Ahart in the early 90s): In a speech at the dedication of the Roscoe gym to Coach Ahart in 2014, Closs talked about how small school coaches had to be able to develop teams in multiple scenarios and coach everyone since they don't have the ability to hold tryouts given their size. Closs praised Ahart for his consistency. “This is an area which I think Coach excels the most. He gives every team he coaches a solid coaching effort, whether they can win a championship or not. He consistently works to get the most out of each team, every season. To me, success is the ability to get your team to reach their potential, not necessarily winning championships every year. Coach has consistently done that here at Roscoe and through those efforts, has coached some very good teams.”
Closs complimented Ahart as a “class act” saying, “That is one of the reasons why he is so well respected by his former athletes and everyone in the coaching profession. I have never met a coach that had a bad thing to say about Coach Ahart and believe me that is rare and he is on a very short list. Most coaches always manage to offend someone along the way. However looking back, he always had a way of keeping you hungry to play. It may have been a comment to challenge you, or substituting for you in practice, but I always remember it being respectful. I can't remember a time that I heard ‘Coach' swear and I can't remember a time when Coach called a player out in front of the team. Although he held you accountable, he did it in a way that was not embarrassing, just constructive. You always knew what you were getting with Coach, no peaks, no valleys, no manipulation, just even keel and consistent coaching. This is an important lesson that I apply everyday as a coach.”

Livingston Manor Director of Athletics Adam Larson: “Fred was a special man. As a high school senior I began to realize that he was much more than just a rival school's coach. That year two of his young athletes who were friends of myself and many others who I was close with, died in a horrible car accident that rocked all of the neighboring communities. We had just played Roscoe in a football game, heated as always. In the days that followed many of us were still very shaken by what had occurred. I remember it like it was yesterday. Fred came to our practice to check on how we were doing. This spoke to me and left an impression that has stuck with me to this day. We call him coach but everyone who's ever been in contact with Fred knows that he's so much more than that. He had a way about him that always made you feel like you were important. I also was fortunate enough to work with Fred as a professional for the past 8 years as an AD. We've been in touch almost daily over that time period. Fred was a consummate professional and was a terrific mentor. We recently gave him the LMCS Athletic Directors Service Award for his dedication to our athletes. Given the struggles of small school athletics and regardless of the fact that we came from ‘rival school districts' Fred was always all about the kids...when we struggled with numbers he never hesitated to open up the doors for our young men and women to ensure that they had a place to play. The impression he's had on my life and the lives of countless others I'm sure will last forever...he'll be sorely missed.”

The Hill Family (Mike, Amy, Nick and ‘B' Hill): “It is impossible to put into words the sorrow we felt after hearing of the passing of Coach Fred Ahart. Coach was more than a coach, teacher and athletic director. He was a mentor and friend as well.
“Coach's work ethic, energy, positive attitude and class was unmatched. How many times did we drive by school and see Coach's truck parked there. Before school, late at night and weekends, no matter what month of the year it was. We'd look at each other and shake our heads. He would email or text Mike at all hours, many times after midnight. Fortunately, he did have the good sense not to call that late.
“Coach was an outstanding (one of his favorite words) role model to the RCS community, his peers all over the nation and especially to the countless student athletes he's worked with over the years. He did not hesitate to talk to anyone about his teams and was quick to give credit where and when it was due. Always a gentleman.
“Everyone who knew Coach has at least one story to tell. Honor Coach by getting together and share these stories. (He might have been known for sharing one or two himself). If you listen carefully, you will hear how Coach touched so many people in so many different ways.
“As for us, we consider our family to be so very fortunate and blessed to have Coach Ahart be a part of our lives. Thank you Becky, Maryanne, Ralph, Michelle, Katie and Kelly for sharing him with so many grateful people like us. We will miss him dearly.”
Mike and Amy Hill have been assistant coaches on Ahart's football and boys basketball teams. And their children Nick and ‘B' recently played for Ahart.

Monticello Boys Basketball Coach Chris Russo: “Fred Ahart is a remarkable person worthy of all the praise and admiration we could say or write. Fred embodied the qualities of humility, kindness, and sportsmanship. He has never taken credit for any accomplishment and always shared the moment with his family, friends, and players. All he ever wanted for the kids in the community was the opportunity to play sports and worked tirelessly for 51 years to make that happen. That level of loyalty and dedication are achieved by very few. His involvement in athletics locally and across the state allowed him to impact so many lives and develop lifelong relationships. The unselfish sacrifice he made, daily, for the people of his school, community, Section 9, and the athletic community of NY State are immeasurable - a debt we can never repay. He refused to allow his struggle with cancer impact the sports he loved and the players he coached. Thanks to Becky and his family, he battled courageously and until last December, when he was hospitalized, he never missed a game or practice. Fred was always there for those who needed him.
“I am grateful to have had Fred in my life for the last 25 years. He gave me my first basketball coaching job - serving as the JV girls coach in Roscoe and assistant coach to Becky. I learned so much in those three years and have carried those lessons with me as I continued to coach and teach. He is truly one of a kind - humble, gracious, competitive, loyal, dedicated, loving, kind, and wise. That combination in one person is very rare and Coach had it all. Thank you to Becky and the Ahart family who graciously shared Fred with all of us. Outside of my own Father, Fred is the man who has had the greatest impact on my life. We will miss him dearly but will always carry his memory, spirit, and legacy in our hearts.”

Sullivan West Director of Athletics Dave Eggleton (played for Ahart in early 2000s and was a colleague): “My family has strong ties to the Roscoe community and the Ahart family. Mr. Ahart arrived in Roscoe when my parents were still in high school, at Roscoe Central School District. From an early age, 5-6 years old, my sister Alexis and I participated in youth summer activities offered by the Roscoe Central School District. Mr. Ahart ran a program called summer recreation that tied in with the swimming/arts programs offered by the district. We played golf, tennis, dodge ball, kick ball, etc. Our family home is 50 steps from the Roscoe Central School District playground. We were there all the time and loved it.
“I became a Physical Education teacher because of the great experiences that I had in Physical Education classes and athletics at Roscoe. Mr. Ahart was always a role model to me (and all students) and I enjoyed seeing his caring relationship with student-athletes. From our time together in grade school, through him supporting me in college, to later working with Mr. Ahart professionally, I always knew that he was one of the kindest educators I had ever been around. Coach would go above and beyond to make students, athletes, coaches, educators, and people successful. I continued my football career into college because of the love that he created for me with the game.
“My wife Megan, also knew the Aharts from high school athletics and playing sports (soccer, basketball) for Delaware Valley/Sullivan West. Coach always made sure to ask about her and our daughters. He understood the importance of family and making sure that everyone felt his love. Coach would always go the extra mile.”
Eggleton played basketball and football for Ahart in High School and later worked with him in the following capacities: In 2002 as a senior at Roscoe, he completed a school to work class with Ahart to learn some of the daily tasks of a Physical Education teacher;In 2006-2007, completed education hours for SUNY Cortland with Ahart in training to become a Physical Education Teacher; From 2011-2014 as a Co-Athletic Director for Livingston Manor Central School District, he worked closely with Ahart; and from 2009-2014, Coached, merged baseball and football programs at Livingston Manor/Roscoe with Ahart where they worked together as colleagues, coach to AD, coach to mentor.

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