HANFORD — After four seasons at the helm and a total of seven years with the team, Russ Heffley resigned his position as head coach of the Hanford West softball team about a month ago.
In his four years as head coach, Heffley compiled a 77-33-1 record for a .698 winning percentage, according to MaxPreps. He won three West Yosemite League titles in a row and finished in a tie for second place in the Central Sequoia League this past season.
The Huskies also won a first-round playoff game in three of his four seasons with the exception coming in 2017 when the team earned a first-round bye. Hanford West advanced to the CIF Central Section Division I quarterfinals every year under Heffley.
With consistent success and a team he loves, it was tough for Heffley to make the ultimate decision to walk away.
“I was still kind of a little bit torn whether I wanted to continue to do it, but I think at the beginning of the year I kind of had my mind that this was probably going to be the last year because I wanted to be able to go watch Allison play,” Heffley said.
Allison Heffley, Russ’ daughter and the 2018 West Yosemite League MVP, will be playing softball at Harvard University next season.
Prior to becoming head coach, Heffley was an assistant coach for three years (2013-2015) under former head coach Jeff Harger. Heffley helped the team capture back-to-back Division II championships in 2013 and 2014.
“Taking over when Jeff left, I felt like I had to continue to win, I had to continue to do well, I had to continue to take care of the field, I had to continue that winning tradition,” Heffley said. “I feel like I can walk away from it knowing that I left it as good or better than what it was.”
Heffley also added that he had nothing but positives when it came to his time at Hanford West. He pointed out Athletic Directors Angelo Macias and Lance Dowd for making his job easy, and said he’ll, of course, miss the girls.
“Seeing and coaching girls and watching them come back later on … those are all the positives and all the friendships that you make with other coaches and your assistant coaches,” Heffley said. “Those are things that’ll never go away, they’ll last forever.”
But whether he wants to be back in the dugout next season is a question he hasn’t answered himself yet.
The 50-year-old coach has a couple of options for his next move. He’s retiring from his current job in October and is looking forward to “a little bit of everything.” Aside from watching Allison play, Heffley said he wants to spend time with his wife, see his grandson in Japan and travel.
But he’s also a coach and, as he put it, “it’s in your blood, coaching, so it’s something I want to continue to do.”
Heffley might continue to coach travel ball or be an assistant coach at the University of Central Florida with head coach Cindy Ball. He’s going to Florida at the end of October to discuss and run a couple of softball camps with her.
“If it works out and I decide I want to do it then that’s where we’re going to go,” Heffley said. “And if I don’t like it then I’ll come back and do the travel ball thing.”
Nothing is certain yet and Heffley is taking things day-by-day as he evaluates his options over the next coming months. One thing is sure and it’s that the transition is already making itself present on Heffley.
“At Hanford West we’ve always taken care of our own field,” Heffley said. “That was kind of like my way out whenever I had a lot of stuff on my mind. I would go hang out at Hanford West and get on the lawn mower and mow the lawn for a couple hours. … So for me already not going out there and doing that is kind of weird.”
Frank Hernandez was hired and approved by the Hanford Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees on June 25 as the new head coach. Hernandez coached the junior varsity team last season and Heffley believes Hernandez is going to do a good job with the program. His advice to him was, “Surround yourself with good coaches and people that you can trust and the rest will take care of itself.”