When we talk about the true impact that sports can have upon our lives, we almost never talk about the big moments, the superstars, the professionals. Don’t get me wrong: people in this region have been lucky to witness legends like Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Tom Brady, and no one will ever forget that 2004 ALCS with the Yankees.

But when we talk about sports, what they really mean, and the moments that actually matter, what we remember are coaches.

Our coaches.

Coaches like Donald Herman, who is stepping down from the football program at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School after 28 seasons. During his tenure, the Vineyarders have accumulated a lot of impressive numbers — 216 wins, five Super Bowl titles — and a lot of nice-looking trophies.

But I bet when the players and parents who were part of all those football teams think back on their time at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, they don’t think about the wins, the titles or the hardware. They think about their teammates, of course, all that youthful energy and camaraderie, and what it was like to have so much future in front of you.

And then — I guarantee it — they think about their coach. I grew up as the son of a coach, and I know from experience what a role the right coach can play in players’ lives. If you think the job is limited to locker rooms and sidelines, dream on. The great coaches are teachers, mentors, sometimes even surrogate parents. Doesn’t matter what sport it is. The job never stops.

I bet there are players who played for Don Herman who still think about him all the time. I bet they have their favorite Coach Herman sayings and phrases and when they get together, they can probably all do fantastic imitations of that Georgia drawl, which Coach thankfully never surrendered.

And I bet a lot of them haven’t had a coach — or a mentor — like him since.

I started covering Vineyard football as a Gazette reporter in 1992. That probably feels a million years ago to Coach Herman. It definitely feels a million years ago to me. There are parts of it that seem quaint now: there was no internet, no email, no cell phones, no texts, none of that modern craziness. When I had a question about the team, I just called Coach Herman on the phone at home. On a landline. And wrote notes into a note pad. I feel like I’m talking about traveling to Woods Hole on a steamboat.

Coach Herman was patient with me: a cub reporter, clueless about offensive schematics or special teams play, trying to stay on top of what would prove to be a championship team. Back then, Cape and Islands football was ruled by Coach Vito Capizzo on that other, less interesting rock, and every time I talked to Coach Vito, I could just tell how much he admired the new guy on the Vineyard, whom he lovingly called the “Snake,” because he couldn’t quite figure out how they’d gotten so slippery and good, so fast.

I’ve been lucky since then: I’ve been able to keep writing about sports, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to cover fun stuff like the Olympics and the World Series and real-life Super Bowls. But none of that can compare to that scene in 1992 on Nantucket, when, on a cold, muddy afternoon, the Vineyard shocked the Whalers in an Island Cup stunner that truly signaled a change in power. I think about that game all the time — the players covered in muck, hugging their parents, fire trucks greeting the fan ferry upon its return to Vineyard Haven. It doesn’t get any better. It really doesn’t.

But mostly I remember the coach. I know I’m not alone.

Former Gazette reporter Jason Gay is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.