Throughout the month of August, Brooks will be highlighting each of the 25 coaches who were selected as finalists for the 2012 Inspiring Coach of the Year. These coaches were selected after reviewing more than 1,300 nominations for high school track and/or cross country coaches who inspire their athletes every day.
Tell us who your favorite coach is by voting at www.facebook.com/brooksrunning. On September 2, 2012, Brooks will select the 2012 Inspiring Coach of the Year.
Coach Jerry Loveall
Velma-Alma High School
Did you run track/XC in High School? If so, what events? Where? I ran track in high school at Velma-Alma High School, Velma, Oklahoma, where I now teach/coach. I ran the 440 yard and the 880 yard and was a leg on the mile and two mile relays in 1979 – 1981.
My school did not have cross country until I started the program in 1993.
What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? My favorite coaching moments are when you have a student excel beyond what you and they think they are capable of, stepping up and out performing their expectations at the big meets.
Finishing first with a photo finish at the state track meet in the 400 meter relay in which we thought we had lost. This helped us win the state champsionship in track in 1998.
Winning our first state championship in girls cross country in 1995 with the original girls we started the program with. Everything was almost perfect. We scored 18 points with 5 girls in the top 10 and 7 in the top 15.
What is your favorite race to either watch or run? Individually, the 800 meter run because it is a combination of speed and endurance.
Coach John O’Malley
Carl Sandburg High School
Orland Park, IL
What is your favorite race to either watch or run? I love how the 4 x 800 relay combines individual responsibility and a unified purpose. Each leg of the relay has a distinct personality and is quite strategic. I also love a good mile with gutsy racers, but my favorite is a competitive cross country race. A spectator feels more involved in a cross country competition than any sport, I feel.
Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? My coaches in high school got me excited about the sport, and they demonstrated to me the power of a good coach and inspired me to attempt to fulfill that role myself. Coach Pete Struck and Kevin Carey were my cross country and track coaches. Pete Struck still coaches me in many ways. He’s continually providing me with the right perspectives in life and running. While not technically coaches at the time, my older siblings, Kim and Jim, were on the team and may as well have been the most demanding coaches I’ve ever had. It was them that convinced me to join the team in the first place by answering my question, “Why should I do cross country, it’s painful and tough?” by telling me that the pain and challenge were the exact reasons to do it. That truth has only become more clearly truthful in all aspects of life.
What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? I read this question and thought about it for a half hour and was amazed that I couldn’t come up with an answer, so I went for a run—the place I find most of my answers. I realized I sincerely don’t have a favorite coaching moment. Results are not the moments I care most about. We’ve had plenty of all-state medals, state champions, even a national champion, school records, and so on. We’ve also had moments when an athlete returns from a death of parent or a friend or a family member and finds that he is indeed very powerful and will discover the strength to keep going. We’ve also had a runner who weighed 300 pounds finish over 15 minutes behind our national champion—I was more proud of the heavy guy who struggled endlessly to simply reach the starting line that day. These boys turn miracle into routine. So, my proudest moment is every day. My “moment” is the process of becoming who we set out to become. There is no greater moment than stepping into that process every day. We call it “practice” but it’s the place of self-discovery. It’s the place of inner strength. It’s the place of struggle and triumph. It’s the place of friendship and decency. It’s the greatest place I know.
Coach Joseph Prince
Sahuarita High School
Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? My high school coach, Tommie Smith was a running legend and he took me, a 15 year old kid with Asperger’s Syndrome, under his wing.
What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? This year, my Girl’s 4 x 400 relay team won the Meet of Champions, setting the tenth fastest time in Arizona High School history. No one expected them to win and they came from out of nowhere.
What is your favorite race to either watch or run? The 200m, because of Coach Tommie Smith.
Coach Julie Fink
Runnels High School
Baton Rouge, LA
Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? I did not have a coach in high school that inspired me, but I did have a coach in elementary school. His name was Mr. Rembert and he was the girls basketball/softball coach. My mom had me doing dance and I was dying to do sports! As I reflect back to that time, I did not have much athletic talent but he sure made me feel important and a contributor to the teams. He was always encouraging, gave us his unlimited time/ attention, laughed with us and as far as I was concerned at the ages of 11- 12 made me think that I was a gifted athlete!
What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)?
- Celebrating the Junior High Boys 2nd place finish in the 2011 All Metro Meet (their season championship). Area coaches had no idea how strong these boys had become – the boys surprised the competition and themselves. It was pure joy!!!
- Calling Matt Rice and telling him he was the Gatorade 2010 State Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
- Seeing the posted results of the 2009 LHSAA XC Championship and the High School Boys 3rd place finish. (We had a predicted 5th place finish).
- Helping Matt Rice and Sarah Pressley achieve state medals and athletic scholarships to Division 1 colleges.
- Watching my athletes get stronger, more confident, faster and set new PRs!
- Starting a charity run at our school that every team member helps to promote and raises money for the Fighting Blindness Foundation.
What is your favorite race to either watch or run? I love to watch XC races at Highland Rd. Park in Baton Rouge, LA. I chase the runners and cheer them on throughout the course and catch them at the ½ mile mark, 1 mile, 2 mile and meet them at the finish.
Coach Kay Nekota
Vacaville High School
How many athletes are on your track/XC team? I currently have about 90 runners on my cross country team. I am one of many truly amazing coaches on the track team, and the team usually consists of about 150 to 200 athletes (I have about 50 distance runners on the track team).
Did you have a coach that inspired you in high school? Both of my high school coaches had a huge impact on me as a competitive runner and as a coach. George Varvas of Woodbridge High School and Bill Duley of Agoura High School helped me to learn hard work, dedication, commitment, perseverance, and character. I truly am indebted to both coaches for teaching me how to be a coach of character, and I have used much of what I learned from them in my own coaching of my athletes.
What is your favorite coaching moment (or moments)? Wow! I don’t think that I can pinpoint a particular favorite coaching moment. All of my kids have done some incredible and amazing things throughout their running careers. For me, seeing kids grow as individuals of character is the most rewarding part of my job. My hope is that all of my athletes realize some sort of success in running. It could be as simple as breaking five or six minutes in the mile or something as difficult as qualifying for the state meet. It is important to me that all of my athletes feel self-worth and validated as runners and as individuals.
Read all the finalists’ stories on Brooks’ Facebook page and vote on your favorite. The community’s votes will be one of the factors we use to choose our 2012 Most Inspiring Coach. The winner will be announced this fall, so stay tuned!