Who's been the most influential coach in your life? And why?
Following our blog post from last week, we put together a couple more stories from the Chaski coaches reflecting on the impact their own coaches had and continue to have in their lives, both inside and outside of running!
Josh - I would have to go with Nicole Mehlman, my college coach. A mentor and a coach, she has always been there to help her athletes both on and off the track, always providing an ear to listen, and helping in any way she can. She is always willing to give those with the drive and passion to succeed a chance. While I have never been a mega talented runner, she saw potential in me that not many others did, and she gave me the tools and the belief to push the boundaries of my self imposed limits. Since my recent time on the team she has continued that support, remaining my coach while I take on new challenges, both in running and coaching.
Chaski Coach Josh Behuniak
Calvin - My high school coach, Chris Harder, laid the foundation for my running career. His balance of knowledge and emotional intelligence as a leader enabled him to get the most out of everyone on the team. As a former Division I runner for the University of Minnesota, Harder understands first hand what it takes to train and compete at a high level, but his emotional intelligence is what makes him a great coach. He pushed and encouraged everyone equally, regardless of innate ability. This especially resonated with me as a new, insecure ninth grader. I still remember struggling through my first interval workout. He persistently chimed in words of encouragement each rep to help me stay positive. I latched onto the value of a consistent work ethic he preached and committed to my path as a distance runner.
Another special component of Coach Harder’s leadership was his focus on the little things. He made sure to discuss the importance of consistent hydration, balanced diet, sleep, and staying on top of our studies. Harder also taught me how to compete. His pre-race pep talks always included strategy, such as even pacing and letting other runners do the work up front as much as possible. I learned to run races to win rather than worrying about splits or other distractors. He has a charisma factor to him that challenges his runners to pursue their potential while he supports them throughout the process. Every day was an opportunity to learn from him.
Lastly, he built a fun, inclusive team culture that made every day more than just another run. For example, he coined nicknames for nearly everyone and got excited about the worst weather conditions. I was lucky to continue learning from Coach Harder as a volunteer assistant coach for two falls after I finished my undergraduate degree. I’m looking forward to continuing to “get after it” like he always says in my own coaching career.
Trevor - The coach that had the greatest impact, would be my high school coach, Chris Harder. His passion and enthusiasm for the sport rubbed off during practice, meets, and when engaging with him, whether you were a top runner in the state or finishing near the back of JV races. He provided a rich history of the cross country and track program making a booklet each season for the athletes. The booklet contained results from season to season and lists of the top times broken down by grade and the course for cross country. It was intriguing to see where my teammates and I would end up on lists over the years and aided in setting goals for the year to come. With the help of wonderful assistant coaches, a great foundation was established for athletes of all abilities to enjoy the sport for a lifetime. I was able to better understand basic concepts behind the training, the details that aid in development, and the importance of consistency. This prepared me well for college running where I learned a ton under Rod DeHaven at South Dakota State University.
Chaski Coach Trevor Capra
Dani - I have been fortunate enough to have had a few great coaches, but I want to focus on my current coach Terry Howell. No coach has shaped me to be more confident in my running ability than Terry. When I first met him, I was reluctant to get a coach, primarily because I wasn't ready to commit to the sport entirely. I had found interest in other activities that I am sure would freak out many coaches (think snowboarding, jumping out of airplanes, riding motorcycles in foreign countries - you get the picture). However, despite this, he was still excited to work with me. It was his understanding of where I was in my life and willingness to work with me that allowed me to fall in love with the sport again at my own pace.We both knew I had lost fitness during my break post-collegiately, but instead of rushing or pushing me back to where I once was, we worked at a steady pace and slowly began to build a healthier and more resilient foundation. I think the most straightforward way I could put it is Terry helped me rediscover myself, and never made me feel bad when I misstepped. And it's because of that, along with his humility, constant thirst for knowledge, and electrifying love for the sport that I now believe in myself more than I ever have.