Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Catching up with Tamalpais coach Sylvia Goodman...

Today we chat with Tamalpais coach Sylvia Goodman who just finished her 8th season at Tamalpais High School. Her boy's team won an incredibly competitive NCS Division IV team race this past season by a single point over 2 time defending champions, St. Mary's Berkeley (and by five points over 3rd place San Rafael). Sylvia's top runner, sophomore Daniel Milechman, was just voted as the sophomore of the year on the 2008 All NorCal XC Team after winning his first individual section title and finishing 3rd at the state meet (An interview with him will be posted shortly). Sylvia also had a great deal of success during her own high school career (in a different state) which you can read about below.

1) How did you get involved with running in your childhood?
I have 2 older brothers, and I used to joke that I took up running and tree climbing as a form of self-defense. Actually, our parents used to take us up in the mountains hiking a lot, and they would give us a 20 minute head start down the logging road ( I think the idea was to tire us out) before they started driving back. We'd run as far as we could before they caught up with us. I remember doing this when I was around 5, so I've been running for nearly 50 years.

2) Tell us a little about your running in high school and beyond and some of your achievements?
In high school in the late 60's and early 70's I was 3 time Oregon state champion in the 880. Unfortunately, injuries pretty much ended my running career when I entered college. I am still in touch with my high school coach, Sharon Hatfield, and consider her to be my savior during high school and my inspiration and mentor. Coaching at Tam has given me the opportunity to complete the circle.

3) How did you get started with coaching?
I am a psychotherapist by profession and early in my training I worked with a first grade boy who I had a strong connection with. He was a gifted runner, and I went to his meets throughout his grade school and middle school career. At his 1st high school race, I was introduced to one of the coaches who had heard of my back ground in running, and I was asked to coach cross country the next season. That was 8 years ago. At that time, the program was small, had not had consistent coaching, and not much success in recent years.

4) Who do you consider as your coaching mentors?
See above.

5) Besides your current coaching situation at Tamalpais HS, where else have you coached?
Prior to coaching at Tam, I had coached boys rec league soccer, and middle school cross country and soccer. I sought out my high school coach, went to training seminars, and did my best to get up to speed on the most current training techniques before launching into the cross country season at Tam that fall 8 years ago. I also had great support from my assistant coach Bob Friedlander. The program has definitely been a collaborative effort.

6) Tell us a little about the Tamalpais program when you first started coaching at the school?
See above.

7) Can you identify a runner(s) that you feel helped elevate the Tamalpais program to what you hoped the program would become?
We have had more strong teams than individuals, but Emilie Olson (07) went to state all 4 years of high a freshman she was a member of the Tam girls team that placed 10th at state in D4. She competed as an individual the subsequent 3 years, finishing 18th her senior year. Sophomore Dan Milechman, who placed 3rd in this year's state D4 competition, is by far the most talented runner I've coached. Coming into the season, I knew I had a very solid core of 5 senior boys, and Dan had run well as a freshman last year, earning the #2 spot on the team after steady improvement. Dan is as solid emotionally as he is as a competitor, and his team mates love him. He does not particularly enjoy the attention his success has garnered, and is all about the team. When interviewed by the local paper about his feelings about going to state, he remarked that he was excited that his team would be there with him.

8) Your league (and area) did extremely well at the NCS meet this year. How did this helped your team?
I think its great that we're in such a competitive forces us to think strategically and constantly push. Nearly every school in MCALs had either a very competitive team or a top runner this year. It was great! It set us up well for NCS. Both the girls and boys teams did an outstanding job of coming together and really competing at NCS this year. I couldn't have been prouder.

9) What were your goals going into the season for your team and was it a surprise winning NCS?
Coming into the season I thought the boys team had a decent chance to make it to state, and that was the focus of the season. My girls came so close to making it too...that was sweet! But the boys winning NCS and upsetting St Mary's by a point was huge!

10) In looking at what you do with your team, what do you consider as the keys to your team's success?
Cross country is a physically and psychologically challenging sport. We try to make it fun, to foster a sense of family and a positive environment. As a result, I have athletes who more internally motivated. They learn the importance of working as a unit and not as individuals, with strong team values and respect for each other and other teams.

11) If you were to give advice to a young coach, what would it be?
My advice to a young coach would be this: never lose your passion, your sense of humor, your patience, sight of your goals, or yourself. Respect each runner as an individual, support their effort, and listen. Make it fun.

Thank you very much Sylvia! AJC.

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