Legendary SK Girls Track Coach Joyce Harvey Retires After 37 Year Career

                      By  BOB  LEDDY
                          Falk Fund/R.I. Track & Field Foundation Correspondent
     When Joyce Harvey started the girls' track program at South Kingstown High School, not just that sport, but girls' athletics in general, was in its infancy stage in the R.I. Interscholastic League. It was 1974, and pioneers such as Alice Sullivan and Ann Morris were convincing a male-dominated system that girls sports belonged. It was a Sisyphean undertaking at first, but gradually sports for high school females gained acceptance and has become a taken-for-granted reality.
     So it's been, over the decades, for the teenagers who signed up as members of Rebel track and field. Over the years Harvey guided teams to success; a philosophy predicated on hard work and respect amongst teammates. But due to family commitments that include the upcoming birth of a grandchild (her daughter, Heather, a former East Greenwich High track All-Stater) Joyce Harvey has relinquished the head coaching post she held for the past 37 years. It was, she acknowledged, “a very difficult decision. It was really hard for me. That first week [after her decision] was really hard.''
     No wonder. For more than three decades Joyce Harvey – and Interscholastic League Hall of Famer who is being inducted into the R.I. Track Coaches Hall of Fame – would spend this time of the year readying her girls for competition. Aside from being a good role model, Harvey accumulated an impressive resume. Her Rebel teams won seven state team championships (the last being two years ago), as well as 32 Division and Class titles.
     “She's the ideal coach,'' said Jane Headley, the girls' indoor track chief and former Cumberland coach. “She gave everything to the team, and put so much time and energy into it; it showed in what she got out of it.
     “She was the consummate coach,'' added Headley, who is also being inducted in te RITCA Hall of Fame. “She was one we all looked up to.''
     Harvey, a URI physical education graduate, recalled her debut as a coach at SKHS. “[Since] I was the physical education teacher, I pulled kids from my classes and asked them to go out foe track. We had no track then. We'd train in the [school] parking lot. In fact, most of our [dual] meets were at Narragansett High on a cinder track. We built it from there.
     “I've been blessed with dedicated athletes,'' she said. “Kids who bought into commitment. I'd tell them, ‘You'll remember the friendships and camaraderie more than the trophies.' We  were a bonded group,'' Harvey said of her teams over the years. “It's like a family. I feel I've been a second mother to a lot of people.''
     Harvey's recipe for success has been knowledge of the sport and an unflagging ability to work with teenagers. “It's all about being fair,'' she said. “It's about team rules; they're important: respect for the program, the coaches, and each other. We'd do everything together – runners, throwers – and all those things motivated the kids. Everyone on the team was important. I tried hard to make kids understand that. We were a track family. I've been blessed to have been involved with this sport.''
     This season's Rebel team is being co-coached by Pat Egan and Terry Lynch. “We've all worked together for years,'' said Harvey.