Cori Drouhard, Special to the Circuit
Track and Field aims to enter the 2016 season faster, fresher and with a new and improved mindset. With a new coaching staff and undeniable recent success, the program is doing just that.
Here’s what Head Coach Henry Brun had to say about its goals.
The Circuit: How would you describe the track program when you first got here?
Brun: For a lack of a better word, it was basically in shambles, from the outside looking in, anyway.
I looked on the website in May and saw that they had taken around 13 athletes to Outdoor Nationals and had a handful of All Americans. So you would think from the outside looking in that they had a great track program.
But arriving here, I realized a number of things, the first being, there wasn’t even a concrete roster of the team. Which to me, as a coach, makes it difficult to achieve success as a team or even just as individuals, if you don’t even know who you’re working with.
Next problem, there weren’t any coaches outside the cross-country coach. Another red flag, because track and field has 25 different events, and one coach can’t coach them all.
There also hadn’t been inventory done in a while, so we didn’t know what we had as far as equipment goes. Uniforms weren’t even all the same. Athletes were wearing two or three different uniforms to meets.
It was really just a lot of little things adding up. Even my office hadn’t been cleaned out. So that’s what I walked in to the first week in August, a week before everyone else got here.
What were the steps you took to turn the program around in such a short time?
I spent the first two months doing a number of things. The first step was a team meeting, here in Haverty. I put up posters telling people to come. They basically said if you want to be on the track team, come to the meeting, put your name down, and you’re in.
At that meeting, I had everyone go around and introduce themselves—name, where they’re from, what events they do, just so everyone got a feel for who their teammates were. The main goal was to build a team culture unlike anything that had been here in the past, because the other stuff will come.
Hiring coaches was next. Coming here in the fall, I brought a graduate assistant with me who I coached in Michigan. She’s helped so much because she knows the big picture goal of what I want the program to become.
Not only did she get hired, but also a pole vault coach, a throws coach, a yoga instructor, and in the fall (2016) I’ll be bringing in another graduate assistant for jumps. Hiring coaches was important to make sure these athletes have the coaching staff they need to be successful in their events.
For example, there hasn’t been a pole vault coach here in seven years. So we had pole-vaulters who were practicing, watching each other and hoping to get better. That doesn’t fly with me. That doesn’t fly with any program. You can’t recruit athletes for a specific event and not have guidance for them.
So again, finding those coaches was vital.
I also spent a lot of time with recruitment, since based on numbers, it hasn’t been a strong suit for the program in the past. For example, we have about 65 athletes on the team this year, 22 of them being seniors. I put up a recruitment board, and names have come, names have gone, but I’ve been focusing on filling the event areas that we don’t have.
Another thing was individual meetings with all the athletes. They came, wrote their name, grade, what events they wanted to do, level of experience with events, how they want to be coached, injuries, goals (for indoor and outdoor), family life, majors and even more. I wanted to really get to know these kids so I could coach them to the best of my ability.
The last piece of the puzzle was putting together workouts, because if the team doesn’t get along and doesn’t know what it’s working for, then none of them are going to train very hard.
You did very well at indoor conference. How are you preparing for the outdoor season, and what are your expectations?
Right now, we’re resetting, really. Reset the training so we can go into this season faster, fresher and with the right mindset for outdoor season as the events differ from indoor.
After indoor conference, I sat down the women’s team and I said, “It’s going to be a lot harder to win the outdoor championship, since there are many events we don’t have.”
So what I told them to do was, if they really wanted to contend for the title, at least for this year, go out in the student body and find some people who can help us out. They did exactly that and four or five people joined the team within the next week.
Those were the pieces we really needed to strive for the conference title; and at the end of the day, it’s great that we’re able to compete for the title. But that’s not our only goal.
These athletes are running, jumping and throwing for the honor and glory of God, so to see them out there doing that is great. To see them out there at least doing that and enjoying it is enough for me.
As long as we can continue doing that this year, and in the years to come, the sky is the limit on what we can achieve.