Friday, September 21, 2007

Catching up with Petaluma coach Jim Lynch

As the season progresses, I will be posting questions and answers with coaches and athletes from some of the top cross country programs in Northern California.

Thank you very much to Petaluma coach Jim Lynch (boys are top ranked team in No. California) for getting this project rolling with his in depth and informative answers to the following dozen questions.

1) How long have you been coaching at Petaluma High School?

This is my fourth cross country season at Petaluma High. I also took over last track season as Head Track Coach after three years as distance coach.

2) What were your own running and coaching experiences prior to Petaluma HS?
My own running experience developed over many years. I began recreationally after high school in the late 70's. From there I began to get more competitive in the early 90's. I really became a student of the sport from both the athlete standpoint to the physical components of training. I studied and learned through my own training and research. Through trial and error I developed a philosophy (based on the great teachers of the sport) of proper training. Being a Paramedic and having a good working knowledge of physiology I used those tools also to apply to training. I chose to begin coaching high school when my oldest daughter went to high school at St Vincent's in Petaluma in the late 90's. I assisted one year with cross country then started up the track program there in 2000. In 2003 our girls won the NCS Class A Championship. One year later in January 2004 I wanted a cross country program and Petaluma became available and the rest is history.

3) How was your first experience coaching with Petaluma HS? What was the transition like for you from the previous coach?
Very challenging. The program had done well with the girls and they had won some Sonoma County League Championships. However, I did not sense a real belief that this school and kids could compete at a higher level. I came with the attitude that we were going to achieve greatness and that meant deep commitment, effort, and belief in the system. One difficulty was the thought amongst kids and parents that we did not have the area to train. We had schools like Mario Carrillo, Montgomery and Santa Rosa that had the trail systems available and we had a regional park with 4 miles or so of hilly trails. My attitude back to them was how did Jim Ryun become what he did living in Kansas??? The other issues were the older kids and their thoughts on training and working hard, which included summer training and track participation. Basically become year round runners. I had kids who were afraid of that and some parents tried to run me out of town saying I demanded too much and made them work hard. (It would not be that far out of town because I live 1/4 mile from the school). Fortunately a wonderful Principal and Athletic Director who had belief in me and the transition they saw, gave me the support I needed to adjust the new attitude. I had asked for 3-5 years to get this thing off the ground my way. They supported that. I would not compromise my integrity and belief in what needed to happen. I would quit coaching before that.

4) Can you identify a runner or runners that raised the level of Petaluma Cross Country?
Without question after year one a young man stepped up and bought the package I was selling. Jason Grubb. He brought leadership and attitude from mental preparation, to training and racing that raised the bar. We also had the amazing group of young freshman Sterling Lockert, Brandon Felipe and Benjamin Stern along with second year runner Cole Yungert that became students and believers in what we were doing. They listened and trained and brought the attitude I was looking for to our program.

5) In terms of all the accomplishments from last year, did you feel like the team reached all of your goals? Their own goals?
Without question we accomplished our goals as a team and more. Our pre-season goals were to win the League crown, win the NCS meet and place top 10 at State. We had been 13 the year before. The boys said to me they wanted top 5. I did not discourage that but thought it lofty. They sure proved me wrong. Regarding their own goals I think they were young and really thought more team oriented. I think they really believed they could break the Spring Lake course record. With no competition at our league finals we fell short. However, yesterday we did it!

6) How are you dealing with all the expectations for this year's team?
How are the runners handling it?
Honestly, I do feel some pressure. I really believe that these kids could do something memorable this year. I also realize how long the season is and how important it is to train and peak well. I believe the system is in place for that to happen. We want to be our best come November. The rankings and hoopla this time of year to me means nothing. It is nice but we have seen the fall of many come November.

When I think of how proud I am of these young men nothing moves me more then their growth as young adults. This year I have been stunned that these young boys are now young men. They have matured beyond their years. They are confident, relaxed, and training well. They are excited at the prospect of the year to come. Our first race of the year we ran okay. Some boys were a little flat from training. What amazed me was the confidence they had in being aware of that fact and the attitude that they know we will be our best at the right time.

7) Does the team go to a summer camp? How often did they get to train together over the summer?
Yes we go to the Tahoe Donner area each year. Almost everyday they train together. The boys are close and they met together most week nights and weekends. It is made very clear to our athletes that the returning members to our team are expected to be at a certain level. They are given summer training programs. Practice schedule and workouts for the season are out in early July. They know what’s coming from Varsity to JV. They know they better be ready.

8) Do you consider your program to be low, medium or high mileage program?
This is one of those secrets. What I will say is I do not believe high mileage at high school level is the end all. I believe in progressive training over their years with us. Our Varsity boys for the first time ran a good amount this summer but their bodies were ready. To some it may seem high to others low. Each year our training goes up for each runner. I would say all in all were probably upper middle of the road but very consistent. Mileage is important, so is quality but most important is a healthy, confident high school kid not run into the ground.

9) Describe your training routes around your school? Do you stay mostly on the roads? Trails? Do you do track workouts during cross country season?
Shorter runs are done around residential areas. These are road runs. We are 10 minutes from our park trail system. I would say at least half our runs are on trails. It amazes me that the 4 miles of trails we have cover what we need to accomplish all our types of training. Yes we repeat some of our longer runs and workouts over the same soil but that develops toughness. We have a time trial course around the school. The only "track workouts" we do is some tail end of the season speed training. Otherwise workouts are around campus and on trails.

10) Have you seen the size of your team increase following the success of your past teams?
No doubt. Petaluma has historically drawn only 18-20 kids. This year we are at 36 kids. 26 of these are boys. This is the biggest team by far in school history. The one area that is hurting is in our girls ranks. I have worked hard to recruit girls. It is my one let down. We won two championships my first two years with only 7-8 girls. This year numbers are up and we are at 10. I think we are making good in roads in the school and I sense the girls program will be on the rise over the next couple of years. I also think we have girls now who want to compete and are eager to recruit. I think the next couple of years could be exciting for our girls. My daughter arrives in two years and she is already recruiting.

11) Describe last year's NCS race. Eureka gave your team quite a battle. Was that expected? Going into the race, who did you feel was your team's closest competitor?
I believe we ran a very good race. If you would have told me in advance of the times we would run that day and said would you take it, I would say yes!! I also would have thought a very convincing win. However, Eureka had a stellar day. They absolutely ran incredible. I did not expect it in the scouting I had done. I knew two could break our first five but did not see the next three guys. I felt De La Salle would be competitive. I also had attended the NBL Finals the week before and Montgomery had run unbelievable against Mario Carrillo in their finals. We ran the NCS meet at the hottest point of the day and I think both us and Eureka had two of the fastest team times of the day. So it ended fairly close.

12) If there is anything else you would like to add.
I began coaching because I believed I could make a difference in young people’s lives. The influence of my high school coaches left such an impact in my life I always felt a day would come I could return the gift. Kids respond to discipline, knowing their loved and the knowledge that someone believes in them and is going to make them work to their potential. I think more than miles and workouts the most overlooked aspect is the emotional and mental aspect of training kids. I truly believe this has been the heart of some success I have had. My heart is the place I come from and kids respond to that. I drill into the kids I coach that being the best you can be is what this is all about. Failure only happens at a personal level and relates to not being the best you can be. My emotional moments in this sport( I am very emotional!!) come from seeing kids achieve their potential no matter how small or great it is and watching the athletes I have had become productive and confident adults. High school athletics is the ultimate life experience. What a gift to be a part of that and have an impact in young people’s lives!!!

Thank you again Jim.

1 comment:

dbartz of mv said...

It is great to see all of these coaches getting the credit that they deserve, and their time in the spot light. i must say although, coach davis of monte vista has definatly left an impact on coaching this year, being his first year as head coach. The other coaches that are interviewed on here are all very deserving, and maybe mike davis could get some acknowledgement as well?