Even With Lou Gehrig's Disease, He's on the Sideline

"He's one of of a kind. Nobody will ever replace Howie."

For 15 years, Howard Hawver has patrolled the sidelines for the Grossmont College women's soccer team. He's won more than 200 games at the small San Diego-area college. He was twice named Coach of the Year, and he's the only soccer coach the school has ever had.

So when he was diagnosed with ALS, the incurable, terminal disease more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, he knew he had no choice: He had to continue coaching.

Saturday, Hawver finished his first season as coach while suffering from the disease. He may be back next year. He may not. It depends on how long he lives.

"I don't think I'd want another coach besides him," Grossmont soccer player Anna Roberts said. "It's been so hard for me. I think he's a lot stronger than me. He may be gone. Who knows when."

Since he was first diagnosed with the disease one year ago, it has ravaged Hawver's once-athletic body. The disease causes his motor neurons to degenerate, so he cannot control his muscles. Eventually, it will take over every muscle in his body.

Hawver, 48, coaches in green-and-black Adidas warm-ups from a mechanical wheelchair. His words come out in grunts and slurs -- usually his pep talks come through a computerized box attached to his wheelchair, but sometimes his wife interprets for him.

"I don't think there was really any choice (to keep coaching)," said his wife, Lianne Hawver. "He just knew what he wanted to do and continued with it. If God allows it, sure, he wants to be back."

The Griffins played its last game of the season Saturday -- what could be Hawver's last game. Naturally, they dedicated it to Coach.

"He's one of of a kind," Roberts said. "Nobody will ever replace Howie."

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