His team had just won the most highly-anticipated match of the year, but Todd Goodling wasn’t taking any credit.
“Talk to the players, guys,” Goodling said when Reporters approached him after Central York’s five-set win over Rival Northeastern in the 2019 state semifinals. “It’s about them.”
That was typical of Goodling. They would answer questions after losses, but rarely after wins. He wanted the spotlight on his players and not himself.
That Mindset wasn’t surprising to anyone who knew Goodling. After all, he said he hoped fans would “notice me as little as possible” when he was named Central York boys’ volleyball head Coach in 2016.
“If you tried to give him a compliment, he was gracious, but it was always about the kids,” former Central York Assistant Dwayne Warehime said. “He knew that helping the players was why you get into coaching. He taught in a way that put the responsibility on them. ‘This is your program. You have to interact with each other. It’s about what you do.’ And they got to reap the benefits of that.
“It was never about Todd. He was genuine about that.”
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Goodling died this week after a long battle with an undisclosed illness. He was 63 years old.
In a statement sent Wednesday, his sister, Jenni, said: “It is with Incredible heartbreaking sadness that I report Coach Todd lost his battle this morning. Todd loved each and every one of the Central volleyball kids as if they were his own. They were truly the reason they pushed to get out of bed everyday.
“He cared not only about the athlete but also the big picture of how these kids make the world a better place and the examples they set will truly inspire those around them. Todd will always be one of a kind and as the saying goes a good A coach can change a game but a great coach can change a life.”
Goodling spent the past seven years as the head coach at Central York and led the Panthers to two District 3 titles and two appearances in the state final. The Panthers won the state title over North Allegheny in his second season in 2017.
But his time with the Central York program dates back to 1984. He served as an Assistant under legendary coaches Bruce and Barb Koller and Brad Livingston. Overall, they helped Coach four state Championship and 12 District 3 Championship teams.
The son of longtime US congressman Bill Goodling, Todd graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 1977 and then attended Wake Forest. He worked as an architect but also spent time as an Assistant Coach with the Duke Women’s program and played for USA Volleyball club teams.
“We lost a great one,” legendary former Northeastern Coach Matt Wilson said Wednesday. “When I think of the best coaches in the state he’s in the first breath of names. I never ran into a Central team that wasn’t disciplined, skilled and prepared for the big moment. There is no doubt he loved this sport.”
Those who coached with and against Goodling raved about his volleyball knowledge and teaching ability. Wilson said he had “sleepless nights” trying to prepare for Central York and praised Goodling for adjusting his strategy each year based on his players’ skillsets.
Warehime said Goodling was just as eager to coach a first-time player as he was an all-state superstar.
Livingston was already Central York’s longtime football coach when he took over the volleyball program in 2002. He said he had an excellent rapport with Goodling. As a teacher at the school, Livingston would recruit student-athletes to come out for the team. Goodling would then teach them how to play the sport.
“As a coach, he had no equals,” Livingston said Wednesday. “I would do what I could, knowing that as soon as the kids got in the gym they’d fall in love with Todd and catch the volleyball fever. He was fantastic at teaching skills and helping kids improve and get better.”
Still, Livingston said he thought of Goodling as a friend first and a colleague second. Warehime said there are “very few better men” that he has met in his life. Both coaches said Goodling was consistent, honest and never cut corners when approaching a task.
And he cared about his players more than anything else.
When the 2020 spring season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Central York senior setter Brock Anderson took to Twitter to explain how the volleyball program shaped him as a person. He called Goodling a “second father figure” and said he wished every athlete could be coached by someone like him “because he changed my life for the better.”
Carter Luckenbaugh, who was the setter for Panthers 2017 state title team, now travels for work with a consulting firm but would still visit Central York open gyms whenever he was in York County. They said a number of former Panthers volleyball players did the same thing.
“That speaks volumes to Todd as a person because with a lot of high school programs, you’re done with it once you stop playing,” Luckenbaugh said. “That was the culture he built. I played four sports and college soccer and he was one of the most detail-oriented coaches I had for both sports and life. He taught me how to have a winning mentality, be selfless and committed.”
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Those who worked with Goodling said those life lessons were always the coach’s main goal.
While Goodling didn’t give interviews often, there was one line he would usually mention when he did. He thought “trying to win a state championship was more important than actually winning one.”
In other words, the journey was just as meaningful as the destination.
“He would say to me: ‘We want to play volleyball at a high level, but the success of the program will be judged by how well they do when they leave the program,'” Livingston said. “He was always more worried about that. He was going to develop them into the best players he could, but when they graduated they went into the world as better people. And part of that was because they came in contact with Todd.”
A Celebration of life for Goodling will be held Sunday, Feb. 5 from 4 pm to 7 pm in the Central York gymnasium.
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, [email protected] or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.