Haney enjoying retirement from Clawson football, even as he misses it

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published September 4, 2015

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CLAWSON — He’s stepping aside, but hardly stepping away.

He’s officially retired from the gridiron, though it’s a departure with an asterisk.

Since 1971, Ralph Haney had dedicated his life to coaching the game of football.

Whether it was with youth teams or at Clawson High, Haney spent 44 years on the sidelines coaching offenses, defenses, special teams and everything in between.

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” Haney, now 67, said with a laugh last week. “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, medically and physically, but I think I needed some time to step away from the game. … I’ll still help (at Clawson) when they need me, or need some extra hands on deck, But it’s not a case of me being there every day any more.”

Haney began his coaching career in 1971 with the Royal Oak Football Association.

He still serves as the chairman of the Oakland-Macomb Youth Football Association.

In 1989, he shifted his duties to Clawson High, where he served as a junior varsity assistant until he took over the head job with the JV team in 1994.

He held that job until the early 2000s, when he accepted an assistant position on the varsity under rookie head coach Jim Sparks.

“I owe him so much when it comes to my coaching career,” Sparks, the Trojans’ head man said. “He got me into it. I wouldn’t be a head coach, or at Clawson, today without him.”

Asked about that introduction to the coaching business, Spark’s laughed.

“Ralph’s son, Steve, was dating my sister a long time ago, and they were at our house one day when he said he didn’t want to leave right then to help his dad coach,” Sparks said. “I asked him what his dad did, told him how I’d love to help some way, and he told me Ralph would let me coach whenever I wanted.”

“I went out to meet him, and he made me his defensive coordinator with the JV Mavericks, even though I didn’t know what I was doing,” Sparks continued with a laugh. “A year later, he moved on and I was the head coach of the team. As a guy who never played high school football, without him making me that offer, I’d never be where I am now.”

Haney said he coached just about everything in his 44 years, from offensive and defensive line to running backs, to linebackers to special teams.

He also spent the past 14 years coaching with his son, Steve, who joined Sparks’ staff when he accepted the head Clawson job.

“Who gets to coach with their own son for that long?” Haney proudly boasted.

He called that one of his career highlights, along with coaching youth Super Bowls and being part of the Clawson staff that battled to qualify for the playoffs seven times.

Still, he added, it’s a career that’s not done yet.

“I was in the press box for the first varsity game, and I did stats for the JV,” Haney said. “I still get excited when they need some help.”

Sparks said there’s no schedule for when Haney shows up, saying “we welcome him with open arms when he comes to help.”

But Haney admits, despite the fact retirement was his own choice, how much he misses being away.

“I miss everything, to be honest,” he said. He remains the school’s varsity baseball coach. “Being with the kids and spending time with the staff I worked with for so long. Everything about going to the park, I miss, but I’m happy with my decision. I’ve had some other offers, especially with youth teams, but I’m very content.”

“I’m staying busy. Any day I need some football, or they need me, I’m going to be there. And the days they don’t need me, if it’s been too many days, maybe my car happens to cruise by to check in on the team,” Haney added. “After 44 years, it’s not easy to just walk away.”

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