Coach Toby Croke started with a kind smile (you can tell he was used to smiling from the crinkles indented by his eyes) and a soft, yet caring demeanor. Even after we finished the interview, Coach Croke proceeded to talk to me and offer words of encouragement for my journey as a senior. To Coach Croke, Heritage is home and everyone here is family.
Coach Croke first entered campus as an elementary school student. After moving to a different state in middle school he became involved in tennis. He attended Laney University to play college tennis. After working with Coach Brian Schleifer there, Coach Schleifer recommended Mr. Croke apply for the new tennis coach position at Croke’s old elementary school. The rest is history.
“I still get to see my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Rutherford,” Coach Croke said. “I always remember her and, you know, whenever I see her I would give her a hug.”
As part of Heritage’s faculty, Mr. Croke’s three children attended Heritage and of course, met Ms. Rutherford in their time here.
“It’s a level of comfort,” Coach Croke said. “Ms. Rutherford is always like ‘Oh, they’re just like you.’”
Athletics Director Karen Stearns describes this comfort and pride for the school that coaches who used to attend Heritage have as impactful.
“I know that all of our staff has pride in being a part of our school, but I think that former students who come back to work here may have a stronger sense of pride right from the start. They remember what it was like to represent our school as a student and want to share that with everyone else,” Stearns said. “The fact that they attended school years before and then wanted to return here to teach our students and student-athletes sends a strong message about their feelings on being a part of the Heritage family.”
Besides his children and siblings attending Heritage, Coach Croke also has ties to Heritage’s physical creation.
“My dad actually carpeted these buildings,” Croke added.
With our unprecedented year, challenges faced with coaching during COVID-19, Coach Croke decides to center himself on looking forward.
“I’m so used to being here now in the present that the past is kind of like, it’s like I don’t even recognize it anymore,” Coach Croke said.