Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SPORTS >> In the light of Halcyon Days


The hardships of three deployments have given way to happier times for longtime Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway

You have to travel through the valleys to stand on the mountain tops. It’s an old adage, but it well describes veteran coach and teacher Harold Treadway. Now in his 14th year as head volleyball coach at Sylvan Hills. It was a fairly average career for the first several years, but the most eventful, successful and tumultuous part of his journey was in the last half of his now 30-year career.

Major life changes began when he stepped into a ready-made family in 1995, marrying wife Debbie, who had two children, Rachael and Randy.

The tumult began when he was sent overseas for the first time to serve in the war in Afghanistan. It was only one of three deployments that took the friendly and talkative family man a long way from his comfort zone.

Treadway started teaching by chance when the drivers’ education teacher at Vilonia quit mid-year in 1981. A friend asked him if he knew anyone certified. It just so happened that Treadway, a 1980 graduate of Henderson State University, was certified, and unemployed, and got the job.

After another full year at Vilonia, Treadway began working in the Pulaski County Special School District, where he’s been at various schools within the district for the last 29 years. He has coached various sports at various schools before giving it up in 1995 when he married Debbie, and gained a whole family.

“She had two kids when we married, and coaching takes a lot of your time, so I gave it up,” Treadway said.

He was then coaching boys basketball at Jacksonville Junior High. The first year away from sports was easy.

The first year I didn’t miss it,” Treadway said. “I don’t think I even went to a game. But the second year I started to miss it.”

Treadway’s hankering to get back into coaching coincided with an opening at Sylvan Hills. I got a call telling me there was an opening for the high-school head volleyball position. I went to talk to them about it, and 10 minutes into it they said I had the job.”

Treadway had coached junior high volleyball, but was no expert on the sport. And there was little time for preparation.

“I told them the next morning after the interview, it was on a Friday, that I’d take the job,” Treadway said. “They said, ‘good, practice starts Monday.’”

Treadway brought his junior high practice plan with him to the first practice, and quickly realized that high school was not the same.

“About halfway through the first practice, I pulled my junior-high schedule out of my pocket and threw it away. I knew I had to get a little more advanced.”

Treadway’s first season was made easier by a quality team that worked very well together and was easy to coach.

“I had a really good team, but particularly a really good group of sophomores that year, and they were very patient with me and we had a pretty good first year together,” Treadway said.

Pretty good, though, wasn’t good enough. The team failed to make the state playoffs by one game, and Treadway vowed to make sure that never happened again.

“We’ve almost done it too,” Treadway said. “After coming so close that first season, I said that would never happen again. And 12 of the 14 years since then we’ve made the state tournament.”

That same year, Treadway was asked to step in as assistant boys basketball coach, which he accepted. The next year, he also took on the head girls track position.

The best volleyball run came in the early 2000s when the Lady Bears won four of five conference championships.

“We won two, and then there was a break, and then we won two more,” Treadway said.

It was around this time that things got a little tougher for Treadway, his family and the Lady Bears.

A longtime member of the Air National Guard, in 2004, Treadway was sent overseas for the first of three deployments for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He served a year in Afghanistan from January 2004 to January 2005. Just over a year later, he was called up again, this time to Qatar. Then in 2009, he was sent to Iraq for his third deployment.

Treadway’s job duties didn’t put him in direct lines of fire, but there was always danger.

“It was a little stressful at times,” Treadway said. “When you have to carry your weapon to the shower, or to sit down and eat, there’s a real reason for stuff like that and you have to be prepared.”

Treadway, though, feels the brunt of the stress from his deployment fell to his wife.

“Both my parents were senior citizens and not in the best health,” Treadway said. “She was taking care of all of that, and everything else that you’re just used to having help with. She had a lot on her plate and I couldn’t say enough about how much she’s done for me and sacrificed over the years.”

Back in the full swing of coaching in 2010, the Lady Bears suffered one of those non-state tournament seasons last year. So Treadway made another commitment. He began coaching junior Olympic volleyball.

“I had asked the girls to do that during the summer,” Treadway said. “I started thinking about it, and I just thought if I was going to ask them to make that commitment, then maybe I should make that commitment too.”

Treadway called UALR coach Van Compton, who runs the J.O. program, and said he wanted to coach a team. It was a very productive summer for Treadway.

“I learned a lot from this summer,” Treadway said.

“I really learned a lot about how to help develop the players and help make the ones that want to and have the ability to be prepared for the next level.”

The new conference realignment has the Lady Bears in a very tough league, but Treadway believes he has the team to start another run of state tournament appearances.

The recent struggles of multiple deployments, far away lands, sick parents and an overburdened wife are over, and things are now going really well for Treadway.

He and his wife moved from Cabot to Sherwood, so he’s closer to work when at home and closer to home when at work. There’s no more threat of deployment. He teaches in the same school he coaches for the first time, and he’s now a proud granddad of four-year old Braylon and four-month old Kobe.

Treadway again credits the family for accompanying and supporting him in everything from stints in war-torn lands to the smoothness of the present Halcyon Days.

“When you coach, you put a lot of time into it,” Treadway said. “When you deploy, you’re gone altogether. I’ve missed a lot of family time. My wife and my two children have been really supportive, and I know sometimes it’s been tough. But they’ve done a lot for me and I appreciate them and the time they’ve given me to work with young people. Things are going really well for me now and it’s mostly because of them.”