Friday, November 18, 2022

Catching up with Moreau Catholic coach Phil Wilder...

This interview was posted on November 18, 2008. For those of you that have attended the Phil Wilder Invitational, here is an interview with the man who the invitational is named after. 
Today we chat with Moreau Catholic coach Phil Wilder who has one of the better Division IV teams in the North Coast Section. Phil's teams are usually quite large and especially impressive considering he coaches in the 2nd smallest division. He also hosts one of the more popular invitationals in the East Bay which includes a motivational speaker the night before. Last year, the speaker was none other than the only American Olympic gold medalist in the 10000m., Billy Mills. 

1) How did you get involved in the sports of cross country and track and field? I first got involved in track and field at Louis Pasteur Junior High School in Los Angeles. Track and field was very popular in the late 1960s! I went to Hamilton High School (grades 10-12) and first played football and then ran track. I gave up on the football and started running cross country my second year. I came up to UC Berkeley in 1972 and started running in road races. I did my student teaching at Richmond High School and helped with cross country and track and field. I also worked with the Richmond Recreation Department and coached the Richmond Roadrunners, and helped put on all comer meets, road races, and clinics. 

2) How long have you been coaching at Moreau Catholic? I started teaching at Moreau back in the fall of 1981. I had been teaching and coaching at Salesian High School since the fall of 1978 and had coached cross country at El Cerrito and Pinole Valley High Schools. What do you teach at the school? I am currently teaching A.P. American History and American Government. 

3) Who were your coaching mentors when you were starting in the sport? There have been so many! I was fortunate to learn from Bruce Jones (El Cerrito), Vern Hall (DeAnza), Marcel Hetu and Bob Maguire (Cal State Hayward), Ron Staszkow was the coach of Rich Kimball at DeLa Salle and his kids came to Moreau and ran cross country. He shared a great deal on training and taught us the meaning of "imua" which we still use as a pre-reace cheer. I have know Helen-Lehman Winters for a long time and learned a lot form her when she was at El Cerrito and then Carondelet. I was fortunate enough to work with Runner's Workshop and ha the opportunity to learn a lot from Bob Messina who Coached Polly Plumer at University High School (Irvine) and UCLA. I also received great ideas on training and building a program from Jack Marden, Sr. Mission San Jose. Sharing ideas and learning is an ongoing and life long process. 

4) What are your expectations for your runners during the summer? We encourage the runners to be active and build a base. We use time and not miles for our training. There are fun runs at local parks during the summer. We have had runners keep logs with varying degrees of success. 

5) Your teams are rather large especially considering that your school is in Division IV. How do you attract so many runners to your team? Boy, that is a great question! When I first started at Moreau there were about 1400 students and we had about 50 runners on the team. The last 4-5 years we have had over 120+ runners with the school enrollment at about 900. I think the best recruiters are the great coaches and returning runners on the team. We have 8 coaches for the team who are incredible! Don Feria (alum), Audrey Schroeder (foreign language teacher/coach), James Hannon (Theology teacher/coach and alum), Enrique Henriquez (Science teacher/coach), Rene Sanchez (Theology teach/coach), Rondy Lazaro (alum) Joanne Couling (Science teacher/coach) and Liam Foley (alum) are all fantastic with the runners! The p.e. department is very supportive of the program and allows for presentations to all their classes. We do lots of activities to try and promote team spirit and pride.

6) Describe the training area around your school. Positives? Negatives? There is plenty of concrete around the school, but we are very lucky to have great trails at the end of an half-mile uphill road. We can take these trails all the way to Garin Park. We also are lucky enough to be able to take a bus to practice once a week to some great training sites that offer plenty of hilly trails. 

7) What do you consider some of your key workouts that you do throughout the season? We have started to do more core exercises and drills in recent years that have been good! We have some challenge runs that we name after places like Mt. Fujii and Mt. Kilimanjaro that are favorites. We do fartlek workouts in the beginning of the season that increase in duration each week. Owen Anderson of Running Research has also provided ideas for great workouts. We also work on race simulations. Last year we were fortunate to have Sergio Segura from the JFK Sports Psychology masters program work with the runners. The mental "workouts" were very positive! 

8) Reflecting back through your coaching career, can you identify a few highlights? We have a lot be thankful for and appreciate. My experience has been that the "great" teams are the very close ones. We really encourage team building and synergy! There have been some very special teams and individuals over the years that would fill up pages. Every year we start off with an alumni run-an idea from Coach Joe King from Encinal that is always a highlight! The opportunity to work with former runners who have come back to make the program better, these have included Marc Puppo, Brian Henderson (great Miramonte coach!), Erich Ackermann, Bob Canalas, Marisa Wilson (Boyce), Rob Butner, Ryan Preston along with current ones mentioned above. Every year we are fortunate to be able to take an overnight trip for an invitational and have taken some very special trips over the years! This year we went to Rhode Island for the Ocean State Invitational. What a great meet and memorable experience for the team as we were housed by North Kingston High School cross country coaches and runners! Last year we went to Oregon and had the chance to meet with Alberto Salazar that was It was an incredible experience. We have gone to Japan and raced in an Ekiden with our sister school in Funabashi and then witnessed their national championships in Kyoto! After so many years there are so many highlights! The support of my wife Jessica and daughters Hayley (a senior on this year's team) and Kayla! In the end, it is the people: the runners, parents, coaches who make it all special. 

9) From when you started coaching to now, what are the biggest changes that you have seen in the sport of cross country? One thing stands out: the technology! With the advent of the internet the world has gotten smaller and with sites such as yours, we can all learn more the sport and get results instantaneously. For the Mariner-Saucony Invitational Doug Padilla brings his RunnerCard finish line program! I think it is the best thing for the sport since dirt! Every runner gets the card when they cross the line and his scoreboard scrolls the results as the runners exit the chute! However, the real essence of cross country has remained the same.

10) What inspired you to start the Mariner Invitational and the dinner the night before the event? We are always trying to find ways to promote the program and the sport and thought it would be great toput on an invitational. It just so happened that a meet that used to be held on the 3rd Saturday in October was not going to be run anymore and so we chose that weekend back in 1984. As for the dinner, I had run a marathon down in San Diego and they had a pasta dinner and speaker named Bill Bowerman. I thought that it would be great to one day be able to get runners and coaches together the night before a race to share pasta and ideas. We have also had our families host runners from outside the area to help make the trip! Last year you know we had Billy Mills! We have had some incredible speakers! Olympians, Brain Abshire, Mark Conover, Brad Hauser, PattiSue Plumer, Regina Jacobs, Matt Giusto, Doug Padilla, Jeff Atkinson. This year Saucony and TranSports brought so many prizes! Every year our parents feed , on an average, 300 runners and coaches! 

11) What advice would you give to young coaches just starting out? Make it fun! Recruit great people who love working with kids to help coach. We are so fortunate to have a parent, Laura Zaro, who communicate to the more than 120 families on the team all of the plans and needs of the team! Recruit students to help as stats. It takes more than a village to make a successful program. Don't be afraid to ask-I have always found that the people who call "peak performers"-like many of those listed above are always willing to share and give back to the sport! 

12) Anything else you would like to add. Thanks for all you do to promote the runners and the sport! Congrats and many thanks to Chris Puppione! I have learned a great deal from him! Good luck to everyone the remainder of the season!


Unknown said...

Coach Wilder is a great person. I remember back in 1991 when my brother and I were first starting to run cross country. We got invited to come out to Moreau's fun runs with a kid I played soccer with, Pat O'Neil. We were at a rival high school, Irvington, but PW didn't mind. We got to run with Mark Douglas and Chris Puppione who completely opened our eyes to the sport of cross country. Coach Wilder even let us go to their cross country camp. I've tried to emulate his program in a lot of ways, including popsicles after summer fun runs.

Noel Mattern
Granada HS

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Not popsicles....Otter Pops!

Anonymous said...

I was around in the beginning of Phil's career; I was coaching at Castro Valley High: it was great competion; we did okay and any time we could beat Moreau it was a pleasure but very difficult; it was a great time to be coaching in the East BAy
your friend
Tony Casillas

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