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Eastern field hockey coach Danyle Heilig on the brink of 500 wins

The 20-year Vikings coach is 499-14-10 and has led the team to 19 consecutive state titles.

Eastern coach Danyle Heilig talks to her team in 2010.
Eastern coach Danyle Heilig talks to her team in 2010.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The numbers beggar belief.

Eastern field hockey coach Danyle Heilig enters Thursday's South Jersey Group 4 championship game against Kingsway with 499 career victories. She also has 14 losses.

This is Heilig's 20th season as the Vikings coach. In her first 19, the team won the Group 4 state title. With a 22-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in the country by, Eastern is the smart-money favorite to win another state title this season.

That would make Heilig 20-for-20 in state titles in her time at Eastern. She is 485-12-6 in her career with the Vikings. She also went 14-2-4 (and won a conference title, of course) in one season at Haddon Heights in 1998.

After Eastern's 4-0 victory over Shawnee on Tuesday, Heilig talked about some aspects of her remarkable career.

Does the approach of your 500th win make you reflect back?

I had this conversation with the kids a while back. "How do you want to be remembered?' And I can really remember every year and what set them apart, what made them a little bit different and special. That's what you reflect on. You reflect on the leadership you've had, year in and year out, the journeys you had with the kids year in and year out, and the things they've done and the relationships you had with them.

Did you ever imagine 500?

I never envisioned 500.

Have you changed much over the last 20 years?

I think I'm a lot of the same as I was early on. I think having kids changes you a little bit. I think you look at kids a little bit differently when you have kids. But I'd like to believe that I'm still the hard-nosed coach who is seeking perfection and paying attention to small details that I think makes us better.

Do you approach anything differently than in the past?

I will say that I try to look at the postseason a little differently, and I try to really enjoy the journey a little bit more than I think I used to.

Are there things that you do as a coach that have always been the same?

I think there always has to be a little bit of change to stay ahead. Some of the things that we do in the locker room or the pregame stuff we do, the cheer has always been the same, the way we circle up the starters after the cheer has always been the same for the 20 years that I've been here. So some things have been the same, but I think you have to change things up a little bit.

Many coaches today talk about the challenges of dealing with parents. How has that situation been for you?

You always have parent issues here and there, but I think for the most part we've been able to be successful because of great parents. They want to be a part of this program. They want to see their kids succeed.  They give a lot of time to the sport, to their daughter in the sport. I don't think there's a coach who doesn't have parent issues, but I feel like we've been blessed. What happens here is a reflection of what they are hearing at home, and to me we've had great things happening here. So I feel like there's great things happening at home, great support, great trust that we have the program at the root of all of our decisions.

Every team of yours has been a little different. What do you like about this team?

I like that we're a little bit of a combination. We have some individually talented kids, really talented kids who can take over a game. But, at the same time, I think they have a very nice blend of ball movement as a unit. I think watching that blend together makes them very special.