Amy Donaldson: Coach chooses to focus on family after wife's battle with cancer

Published: Sunday, March 23 2014 4:40 p.m. MDT

Coach Steve Galley of Riverton High shouts instructions during their 5A boys basketball first round game against Viewmont High at the Maverick Center in West Valley City Tuesday, February 28, 2012.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News Archives

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RIVERTON — Steve Galley never felt like he let his love of high school sports rule his life.

He never felt like he was out of balance or out of control.

“I’ve never been a win at all costs guy,” said Galley, who resigned as the head coach of the Riverton High boys program last week, after nearly 24 years on the sideline of prep games, including 15 at Riverton. “I’m a fierce competitor. But I felt like I kept things in perspective.”

It wasn’t until his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer that the father of four realized he wanted to reconsider his childhood dream of spending his life coaching high school basketball players.

“I always thought I’d be a lifer. … Over the past two and a half years, I’ve gone through a lot of changes,” said Galley, who will continue to run the school’s driver’s education department. “And I think those changes are for the better. … It’s amazing how, when you go through something challenging like that, it really brings clarity, even more so, about what is most important.”

Stephanie Galley was diagnosed with breast cancer on Sept. 13, 2011.

“It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget,” Galley said of learning his wife had cancer. “She’d come from a mammogram, which she started getting even before she was 40. She was proactive in getting them early, and I’m so thankful. I was over doing a workout, and she was picking me up. That’s when she told me.”

They sat in the parking lot of the gym talking and crying.

“Before we left the parking lot, we said this was not going to define who we are,” he said. “We knew it was going to change us. We knew we were going to fight. And we knew we were going to be positive and go to battle.”

The Galleys expected to lean on each other. What they didn’t expect was the way the massive outpouring of love and support from family, friends and even strangers would uplift, sustain and bless them.

One morning Davis head coach and athletic director Jay Welk showed up at the Galleys’ home with an assistant coach and two of the Darts’ team captains.

“They drove down from Kaysville on a Saturday morning and knocked on our door,” he said. “They’d done a fundraiser. … They gave the money they raised to us. We have pretty good insurance, but when something like this happens, there are costs. It was an incredible blessing.” Galley rattles off the many moving moments brought to his family by other coaches and school communities.

“Keith West and Highland High had an entire recognition night for Stephanie when we played them,” Galley said. “And Dan Del Porto at Judge put together a collection for us. Those are just the kind of things I’ll never forget.”

It’s the friendships he’s made through coaching that he will miss most.

“I love the coaching profession,” he said. “I respect it. I revere it. The most influential people in my life besides my parents were my coaches. … When I hear the world ‘coach,’ it is a special title.”

But the time it takes to be a head coach was massive — and often unknown to those he worked with every day.

“Being a head coach actually takes you away from my pure love, which is teaching and working with a player.”

He said only those who’ve dedicated their lives to coaching can understand the guilt they struggle with as they try to give their best to their players and their families.

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