Track & Field Coaches on Coaching
By Marcy Dawley
The dictionary defines COACH as:
A person who instructs.
A person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes.
The dictionary defines ATHLETE as:
A person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.
What would one be without the other?
Coaches have dramatic impact on their athletes, not only on the track and field, but also in forming them into successful adults. They devote endless hours to coaching as well as planning, traveling, and organizing. They dip into their own pockets to pay for equipment that may not be in their program's budget. Many times coaches are parents who get "recruited" in to coaching because there are just not enough coaches to go around.
At the end of another very fast and hectic track & field season, I polled some of my favorite coaches of all levels, from elementary school to college athletes. Here are some of their insights on coaching. I am sure it will ring a familiar bell with most of you.
In response to my question:
"Can you tell me briefly why you became a coach, why you love to coach and what you get out of it?"
From Brad Hackett
Head Track & Field Coach of Muhlenburg College, PA
This is almost an impossible question. I got in to it in the first place in order to get some practical experience to apply to grad school in athletic administration and then fell in love with it.
Many pro athletes talk about missing the camaraderie of the locker room when they retire - I think that coaching allows you to never lose that connection with athletics.
More importantly, it is seeing the excitement of the kids when they improve, and knowing that you are helping them to mature as people. A coach really is an educator first and foremost and I think that is what I love the most – teaching, both on the track and about life.
From Gary Aldrich
Associate Track & Field Head Coach of Carnegie Mellon University, PA
I became a coach because I knew from a young age that there would be no better job than to be playing and being in a sport everyday. To be able to share and help athletes learn, appreciate, and enjoy what they are trying to do is a great opportunity. In other words I am a teacher. That is the greatest profession of all.
I love to coach because I can see the happiness in an athlete when they succeed, be it a school record or a personnel best. I love the challenge of putting together a plan to aid in the growth and development of an athlete. It gives me great pleasure to watch as athletes strive for goals, obtain, or reevaluate goals. The daily interaction, the watching as an athlete matures physically, emotionally, and mentally is a great gift to be involved with. Coaching is not a job. I never go to work. I go to school. It is a passion. It is what and who I am. I AM A COACH!
From Bruce "Buzz" Van Horne
Javelin Coach of Blackhawk High School, PA
This is an easy one for me. I become a coach for the love of the sport. I felt I should give something back to the sport that had given so much to me. What I get out of it is seeing young people succeed and learn to work hard for that success; they also learn to overcome failure and to except failure as part of life.
From Geoff Hennessy
Head Track & Field Coach of North Quincy High School & Quincy Track Club, MA
When I was a junior in HS a buddy and I got this crazy idea that we would start a track club. Rumor had it that one of the proposed sites for the Boston Schoolboy Indoor track (now the Reggie Lewis Center) would be over the North Quincy MBTA stop, which was directly across the street from our school! Our coach and several parents said "nice try but kids wouldn't stick with track". … They were wrong in our case! When news of the Quincy Track Club's founder Frank Kelly dying reached me I returned to the area and helped his widow run the club for a year before taking over at the age of 20.
Why do I coach? Basically I have always had a need to organize things, from neighborhood army games or sporting events I was picking the teams and putting people in places to succeed from a very early age. I liken coaching an athlete to painting a picture. Everyone paints what they see. Every portrait is different. These athletes are my creation. The field and the track are my easel. There's nothing better than seeing a plan come together and an athlete doing their best in competition. It's a rush that has no comparison. I've met the greatest people, and have traveled to places I would not have otherwise. Through coaching, officiating and competing I've lived a full life and touched the lives of thousands. I can't think of a time that I've regretted it.
From Dave Krahling
Pole Vault & Javelin Coach of Milton Hershey School, PA
Back in 1999 I was on my way home from work when I noticed a track meet at a local high school. Having been a high school and college track athlete I stopped to check it out. I found my way out to the javelin throwers and noticed the boys from Milton Hershey School (PA) didn't have their coach with them. Having thrown the javelin, I offered my knowledge. The young man I helped increased his throw from 92 feet to well in the 120's. He asked me if I could come to practice and coach him. I went home that night feeling very proud. I talked to my father-in-law who at the time worked for MHS. He gave me the e-mail of Legendary MHS Head Coach Leroy Galloway. After explaining everything to Coach Galloway, he invited me to practice, saying "anything to help the kids."
Why do I do it? Simply, I love track and field. I appreciate everything it taught me about life - being part of a team yet still able to have individual success. Going to practice each day and watching these kids grow and learn about track and life keeps me feeling young. To sum it all up all I just think of what Coach Galloway says..."We are here for the kids..."
From Jim Caron
Jumps Coach of Ponaganset High School, RI
I had a coach in high school that changed my life - Mrs. Beverley Bryant. She helped me realize that I could do anything. I realized that if I could do a fraction of what she did for me as a student, then I could "Make a Difference" in kids lives. I feel like I am living out a dream – teaching and coaching at the same high school that I attended, doing what I love most. I am a very blessed person!
From Fred Barends
Head Track & Field Coach of Capital University, OH
Track began in my high school days. I had a fantastic coach in Bob Kirk and a lot of what I learned from him about running a team and motivation comes from him. He still coaches today at Columbus Academy.
Next I attended Kenyon College and ran track. The tennis coach at Smith College, my next door neighbor growing up and 6 years older than me, said that since I was such a great organizer, loved sports, was excellent with statistics and had a real passion for working with individuals – he thought I should go to sport management grad school. So, having no clue what I was doing, I applied to UMASS-Amherst for their MA in Sport Management program in 1983 and was accepted. I thought I was going to become an AD pretty quick, but knew I had to coach for a bit before this happened.
For my internship, I went out to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in CA as the Assistant AD and Women's Track Coach. I really enjoyed working with the men's coach, Pat Mulcahy. Besides being an excellent coach, Pat was also the President of the D3 Coaches Association. So, I learned about coaching and about being involved with track & field and how to give back to the sport. My women finished 9th in the nation that year.
I wanted more management, so I went to work for Bank of America in LA, but kept on as an assistant coach with Mulcahy. I slowly realized that, while I loved putting together loans and making more money in the "real world" I missed working with the student-athletes. I ended up coaching high school back in New Jersey, while being the AD and Assistant Headmaster at a private school on Brigantine Island.
Eventually, I moved back to Ohio and ended up working at Ohio Wesleyan with one of the great old coaches, Marv Frye. Meet management was Marv's forte, as well as being involved with a variety of aspects of track & field.
From the 3 coaches I mentioned, and also having had some success as a participant in the sport, I have been coaching for over 20 years. I love it because the student-athletes are so much fun to work with. Every year is a new experience and I can give so much to them and they, without realizing it, give so much to me. Also, by being involved with Ohio collegiate D3 track & field, as well as with the USTFCCCA on a 4 year term as its first treasurer and being able to watch the passion that Sam Seemes has for the sport, I have met so many great coaches, had coaches help me and feel that I have so much to give back to the sport that has provided so many excellent opportunities for me.
I still love to win and watch my athletes have the opportunity to be a part of the NCAA meet or do well at the conference meet. I also enjoy sharing my ideas, organizing events, giving the student-athletes the best possible opportunities to have success and to learn, and watching athletes grow in all aspects of their lives - on and off the track. I also continue to grow and make changes in my life as the sport changes, as do the athletes.
As a coach, I am sure you see and feel the common thread that runs between all of "my coaches" here:
Coaches are teachers who not only love the sport – they also love to teach. It adds value to their lives, and they can pay back that value they have received growing up in track & field by sharing it with others. Let's hope it continues to be passed along as the years go by.
Keep up the good work coaches! You are appreciated everywhere!