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Sports: WHS softball coach retires after 20 years in dugout
By Roger Greene
Heart and soul.
Scott Streiffert put exactly that into the Waccamaw High softball program for each of the last 20 years. The accomplishments leap from the page: 410 wins, a winning percentage above 70 percent, a state championship in 2010, state runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2013, seven region championships, eight district titles and 16 All-State selections.
But there was always a personal cost. Time away from family and friends, work weeks well beyond a typical 40 hours, and most paramount for Streiffert, compromises where his health was concerned.
After suffering a torn rotator cuff toward the end of last season, Streiffert began contemplating a timeline for stepping down as Waccamaw’s coach. That rapidly accelerated in March when Streiffert suffered a mini-stroke during a scrimmage game against Myrtle Beach.
Last week, he made things official, resigning his position.
“It’s time,” Streiffert said. “With the concerns I have about my health and the risk factors that remain in front of me, I’m more comfortable stepping back.
“This was obviously not an easy decision. There were a lot of conversations between myself, my family and the doctors. It’s hard to step away. I love our program and our players.
“ It’s not something I wanted to do. It’s something I feel like I have to do.”
Surprise and disappointment from Waccamaw fans, fellow teachers, current and former players and school administrators were common themes regarding Streiffert’s decision. However, there was also an understanding of his rationale.
Former All-State selections Nikki Legg and Emily Heimberger relayed the thoughts of many in the WHS community.
“Coach Streiffert was always dedicated to his players,” said Legg, who enjoyed a four-year career at Furman and is currently coaching at Western Carolina. “He was always willing to hit you one more fly ball, or throw you an extra bucket of pitches after practice. He dedicated countless hours of his own time to help me be successful.”
“Coach Streiffert loves the game just as much as we do, if not more,” said Heimberger, who just completed her freshman year playing at Mississippi State. “He pours so much emotion and so much heart into everything he does. That really stands out, you can tell how much he cares.”
Streiffert is only the second softball coach in the 25-year history of Waccamaw High. He started as an assistant to Cara Cook in 1996. He took over as head coach the next year when the program was riding high. They beat county rivals Pleasant Hill in a two-game district championship and advanced to the Lower State final, losing to the eventual Class A state champion, Pelion.
The Warriors moved to Class AA his first year. Streiffert was optimistic nevertheless.
Leading the softball program involved much more than on-field activities. Details involving field maintenance, scheduling, travel, fundraising, concessions, and organizing Waccamaw’s tournament and youth camps were all among tasks Streiffert was responsible for.
“I’m at a place in my life where I have to monitor my health,” Streiffert said. “My blood pressure, cholesterol, stress level and diet are all things that have to be kept in check. All of that can easily get away from you when you’re running a program.
“It’s not that I didn’t have help, because I did and I’m grateful for it. But I was at the top and it was my responsibility to make sure things ran the way they should,” he said.
While he will no longer be running the softball program, Streiffert will continue his duties as one of Tyronne Davis’ assistants with the football team. That decision boiled down to the differences between being one of several assistants versus being the sole head coach.
“Football is different. Coach Davis is in charge, and I’m one of several assistants. The responsibilities can be shared. Football is year-round, but a lot of what we do, such as our strength and conditioning program, can be done during the school day,” he said.
After turning over nearly its entire roster from 2014, Waccamaw placed an uncharacteristic fourth in the Region VIII-AA standings. The Warriors did rally in the playoffs though, winning a couple of postseason contests and earning a berth in the District VII title game.
“In a way, the run we had in the playoffs allows me to go out on my own terms,” Streiffert said. “We got better as the year went on.
“Heading into , we’re in a lot better position than we were a year ago. We could have as many as seven starters, and 14 players with varsity experience, returning. I feel good about where we are.”
Streiffert’s mini-stroke occurred on March 2. After collapsing on the field, Streiffert spent the night in the hospital. Though determined to finish the season, he also began to realize the 2016 campaign would be his last.
“Many different things went through my mind that night,” said Streiffert, a father of two. “As I was lying on the field, I remember thinking that this is not the way I want things to end. The doctors said I was very fortunate, and what happened should serve as a wake-up call for me to make changes. I came to that same conclusion.
“What would have happened had I not collapsed during a game, where there were plenty of people around to help me. What if I had been alone at night working on the field, which I had done many times. My phone would have been in the dugout. There may not have even been a way for me to make a call. How long would it have taken for somebody to find me?
“My family is my top priority. I need to make sure I’m there for them for as long as I can be.”
Streiffert was also coaching the junior varsity team at the time of his mini-stroke and says the increased workload played a part in bringing his health issues to the forefront.
“That was my decision” to coach JV, Streiffert said. “I take responsibility for that. Even for as long as I’ve coached, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities that came with each program was a bit overwhelming.
“I’m 52 years old, not 25. A 60-hour work week is just not a schedule I can keep up with anymore.”
Streiffert coached at West Columbus, N.C., High for two seasons before coming to Waccamaw. In his 22-career, his teams posted an overall mark of 440-174.
“Coach Streiffert is very humble and selfless,” Heimberger said. “He believes in us and never doubts our abilities. He knows what you are capable of, and pushed you to reach that potential.
“His unwavering faith in me has helped me become the player and person I am today.”
Though he does not look the part of someone dealing with health issues, Streiffert is aware of his limitations.
“To look at me, I think most people would be surprised to find out that I’m in a high-risk category,” Streiffert said. “There are lifestyle changes I need to make.
“Most of the pressure I felt while coaching came from within. I demanded a lot from myself, and I had very high expectations of the effort I would need to give to keep our program at the level we reached.
“I was active and involved, and coached with a lot of energy. And I don’t feel going forward that I can contribute in the ways that I need to, or that I expect from myself.
“It’s frustrating for me. But it’s the right time to step aside.”