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Sunday, December 29, 2013

First Year Coach

John Hanlon was captain of my first cross
country team in 1974. He was a ref at the
Mattoon Tourney this winter. 
My first coaching job at GHS was coaching boys cross country in the fall of 1974.

My understanding they had asked the last coach to leave over some conflicts. I was told one of three reasons was that he had chosen to purchase blue and gold sweats for the team, and blue and gold uniforms for the team. He was told if he wanted blue stuff to go coach at Quincy, Galesburg school colors were silver and gold with black.

You have to realize this was a different era, an era of great school pride, and of great dislike of Quincy. This was a time when we had pep rallies in the gym where the entire student body of 2200 kids jumped to their feet and started clapping when the band played Hi Yo Silver.

I was introduced to the returning runners one evening in late summer by the AD. It was nice of him to come and do this, but his intro was not what I had hoped for. He told the boys, "He has never run cross country, he doesn't know about it but he will work to learn." It was accurate but I wish it was not how I was introduced.

I was told if I needed help that I was not to talk to the former coach, but rather to Gene Denisar who had coached years before. When I went to Gene, he cracked, "I had two kids who went on to run DI, I didn't know what I was doing." I was a basketball guy and Gene was a wrestling guy. Gene's advice was to just establish discipline and a work ethic.

My other instruction came down from the school administration. Evidently the rumor was that two girls wanted to run cross country. Realize girls sports at GHS started only two years before, and there was no girls cross country. I was told if the two girls came out not to say anything and have them do the first workout. Then I was to let the administration know, and they would cancel cross country. I don't know as they would have, but that is what I was told.

My first cross country meet was one I was hosting. I made up a bad course at Lake Storey. It was filled with a bunch of turns out of site which made for lots of cutting the course by runners. I was used to basketball so I filled out the scorebook and handed it to the opposing coach. He gently let me know that we just wait until it is over to do that.

The great part of the experience was the runners I had. We had a small group but they never gave me looks or comments to indicate they didn't respect me as a coach. They worked hard. They were not really good, and I was definitely not good. But we all worked hard. They gave me good feedback and good advice and we all had a good experience- anyhow I did.

1974 was one of my favorite coaching experiences and one of my favorite teams!

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