By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
The Highland Park football community rallied around assistant coach Blake Spivey last season after the coach lost his 2-year-old daughter to a pool accident. For Spivey, football served as therapy in his time of mourning.
Highland Park (Texas) head coach Randy Allen was the first familiar face Spivey saw in the hospital as he sat in the waiting room following a pool accident last August that left his daughter, Hannah, on life support.
Spivey, a running backs coach under Allen, needed support in that moment and several more after, particularly when he received word that his daughter was being care-flighted to Baylor University Hospital
“The only thing we could do was pray and be there for Blake,” Allen said. “We met him when they were transferring Hannah, and he was all alone. The mother (Emily) was with Hannah, and Blake was with us. We stayed with him.”
Hannah died a few days later. Allen continued to provide support for his assistant coach, wife and two daughters (Molly and Claire). He also realized he needed to deliver a message to his team.
“The message was we’re family,” Allen said. “When adversity strikes one member, it affects all of us. When somebody is hurting, we come to their defense. We expressed our love and appreciation for Blake and his family. Our whole community supported us.”
The entire Highland Park football team attended the funeral for Hannah Spivey. Three bus-loads of players – 120 players and 18 assistants – made the trip to St. Pius X Church in East Dallas.
“Coach Allen brought all the guys over, and it meant so much to me,” Spivey said. “It was the Saturday before the first game, so being there showed support. One of my position players gave me good advice because he’d dealt with tragedy in his life.
“The thing I learned is that men and women grieve differently,” Spivey said. “It hit my wife all at once. Coach Allen gave me books to read on how to deal with loss, and they said that men have the tendency to push it off and try to be the stable person in the family. That happened throughout the football season. I didn’t want to disappoint the players, coaches and community. Part of my therapy was getting back to work.”
An Outpouring of Support
The Highland Park community showed its support for the Spivey family in a number of ways.
While Hannah was in the hospital, a friend of the family created a GoFundMe account to help with the expenses. In four days, more than $60,000 was donated.
During the first game of the season, the Highland Park fans took part in a balloon release in honor of Hannah. The Highland Park players wore the initials, “HS”, as a decal on their helmets, as did one of Highland’s Park’s opponents, Richardson Pearce. After the season, the city of Highland Park honored Hannah in a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. Blake spoke about Hannah to the crowd. Emily, Molly and Claire turned on the Christmas tree lights, and the football team joined the choir in a rendition of “Silent Night.”
“I had an emotional letdown at the end of the football season,” Spivey said. “I tried to be strong through the football season. From the beginning to the end, the community showed so much support for me and my family. We didn’t have any financial worries as far as the funeral expenses. It wasn’t just Coach Allen, but he was particularly supportive.”