The man responsible for more than three decades of hard-fought victories, tough defeats, blood, sweat and tears and the development of hundreds of young athletes at Payson High School, is finally stepping down.
Chuck Hardt, who has led the football, track and field, cross country and boys basketball teams at PHS during his 31-year coaching tenure, announced his retirement from coaching, effective at the end of this school year.
From a young age, Hardt was destined to coach. His father, longtime coach Richard "Jiggs" Hardt, is a member of the Arizona High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hardt's presence near a basketball court is second-nature to him, since he spent much of his youth as his father's right-hand man -- running errands, filling the role of ball-boy and otherwise hanging around on the sidelines.
"I grew up knowing that I wanted to coach," he said.
It isn't surprising that Hardt took the coaching reins at PHS. He exudes Longhorn pride, because he knows what it's like on the other end of the sporting spectrum. He played football, basketball, baseball and ran track in his years as a student at PHS.
So, after graduating from Northern Arizona University, he returned home to student-teach at PHS and began coaching JV boys basketball, shortly thereafter.
It wasn't long before Hardt's dedication and leadership took shape on the football field and around the track. He was the defensive coordinator for the football squad for many years and is currently completing his last coaching role as the head coach of the track team.
Although he has "retired" from his various coaching positions throughout his career, Hardt said that one of his favorite moments stemmed from his return to the court last year.
"Being able to coach in the state championship game this year at the Jobing.com Arena with my son was a special moment," he said.
His performance as the returning varsity basketball coach the last two seasons received some notice. Hardt will coach the North vs. South 1A-3A high school all-star game on May 19.
"Getting to coach the boys all-star basketball game this year, like my father did, means a lot to me. I remember going to those games as a kid," he said.
Even as one of the most successful and longest-tenured coaches in PHS history and a resume that includes 14-region Coach of the Year awards, Hardt admitted that the going hasn't always been easy.
"Building relationships with all the kids and getting to a level where you know what's going on, is tough," he said.
"I get upset once in awhile. I demand a lot. Any coach or teacher must demand a lot from these kids."
Hardt said his favorite aspect of coaching is the connection he makes with his young athletes.
"I'm proud to have had a little bit, a very small part, to do with their development," he said.
As for advice he'd supply to new coaches, the knowledgeable Hardt suggested perseverance and leading by example.
"Coaching is getting kids to do what they don't want to do, so they can become the athletes they want to become," he said. "Sometimes it's tough.
"Luckily, I've had lots of great support and have surrounded myself with great coaches."
Hardt said he plans to spend his previously lacking free time with his wife of 28 years, Shirley.
"I'm going to enjoy time with my wife," he said. "I'll still be able to come back and visit every once in awhile. I'll be around."