Ryan Matlack/The Student
You might have seen him cruising around town in his Pontiac Bonneville, blasting The Beastie Boys out of his speakers. Or maybe you’ve seen him working on his three-point shot at Harriet Tubman Park. You may have driven by “The Hot Spot”, his off-campus residence, which he named himself. It’s possible that you’ve seen him running some miles on sidewalks all over the city—or maybe you’ve only seen him on campus, his icy blue eyes contrast with his waves of fiery red hair.
Springfield College student Matthew Hegarty is a jack of all trades. Hegarty’s list of miscellaneous talents include freestyle rapping, disc jockeying on-campus parties, being a self-taught basketball player, and being nearly unbeatable at the videogame Mario Kart. He is the self-proclaimed No. 1 fan of the Springfield Armor basketball team. He goes by a variety of nicknames, including, but not limited to, MC Hegs, DJ Hegs and just plain Hegs. By some locals who have played pick-up basketball with him, he is a legend by the name of “Scalabrondo”, named for his Brian Scalabrine-like physical traits and his ball-playing mentality that resembles Rajon Rondo. At the peak of his procrastination as a student, Hegarty was tied for the fifth ranking worldwide in intermediate level Minesweeper.
Without a doubt he is a fun person to be around. Ultimately, Hegarty is the essence of what it means to be cool.
“He’s not typical. He’s one of a kind, and definitely in a league of his own. I think he’s more carefree and easy going than most people could ever be,” said Bob Sullivan, a Springfield College student and, like Hegarty, is a Cathedral High School alum.
Hegarty attributes some of his nonchalant ways to his hometown.
“Living in Springfield means I get to be a part of the coolest city in the world, in my opinion,” he boasts.
Hegarty is set to finish his time at Springfield College this year. Hegarty originally spent three semesters at nearby American International College before finally being accepted into SC for the second half of his sophomore year. While being laid back has sometimes hurt him academically, Hegarty does not entirely let it get in the way.
“He’s not what most people would consider a serious student. But I think he works hard, and he understands that academics are not the only aspect of school. He excels in the social aspects of school; he’s become a very well-rounded person,” Sullivan said.
Hegarty proved his well-roundedness this fall, taking on a major responsibility. As part of his coursework, he needed to fulfill a coaching practicum. Hegarty’s immediate idea was to be an assistant coach for the Springfield College men’s cross country team, a team he was a part of in the past three years. The position was already taken, but this ended up being a blessing for Hegarty. He instead took an assistant coaching job at Elms College with their cross country team.
Hegarty’s job description was much different than what most assistant coaches expect to be part of their daily routine. His focus was to coach former high school teammate John Southworth one-on-one. Southworth, very different than most college students, especially athletes, is overcoming his personal obstacles as someone born with Down Syndrome.
“John is a great person and he definitely was a great teammate in high school. He has Down Syndrome, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of running. He works to achieve the goals he sets for himself,” said Sullivan.
Hegarty helps Southworth achieve the goals he sets, keeps him focused and determined during practice and when he runs his modified race before the other athletes race. Keeping Southworth focused isn’t always an easy task. Southworth always wants to get out there and run every day, but getting him to run fast during workouts and races takes a lot of prodding. Southworth runs under his own will, but Hegarty is his source of motivation when his mind drifts. Often to get him going, Hegarty will have him do short sprints in the middle of his runs. To get him excited for practice, they’ll often play basketball for a little bit before going on a run.
“It’s tough,” Hegarty said. “I have to keep him entertained. I have to keep him motivated. He loves to run, but I have to be very flexible with what we do depending on where his fitness is at and how he feels that day.”
Hegarty’s laidback persona is key to his ability to coach Southworth effectively.
Working hard with Southworth is very rewarding for Hegarty. The two had a close bond as teammates, and that has only grown within this coach-athlete relationship. The two even sometimes get together on days that the team does not have practice, to shoot hoops at Harriet Tubman and have some good laughs.
“He also likes wrestling a lot,” Hegarty reamrked behind a grin. “Sometimes our basketball games turn into wrestling matches.”
This fall is seemingly only the tip of the iceberg for Hegarty’s coaching career. He has really enjoyed the transition from being an athlete to being a coach; he runs when he wants to, but there is no pressure to perform physically. Coaching has come naturally to him, and is something he hopes will be a lifelong experience.
“There’s no way of knowing for sure, but that’s the plan,” Hegarty affirmed.
Springfield’s own cool kid has proven that after all, he’s not a just another student on campus. He’s not just a jokester looking for a good time. He is a mature man, making a monumental difference in someone’s life.
“Matt is a good role model and leader. He’s really supportive to everyone he knows,” said Sullivan.
Those are exactly the qualities of a successful coach and well-rounded person.
Look for Hegarty to continue his success being a difference maker in the future, both on and off the cross country trails. Hegarty is proud to call Springfield his home, and Springfield is certainly proud of him.