Monday, May 16, 2011

Catching up with Scotts Valley HS coach, Doug Chase...

Today we chat with Scotts Valley HS head cross country and assistant track and field coach Doug Chase (picture to the left with star runner Vanessa Fraser, now at Stanford University).  He is seen here to the left with his girl's cross country team which finished in 2nd place this past season in Division IV at CCS and 9th at the California State XC meet.  Coach Chase started at Scotts Valley HS in 2008 and is coaching the teams at the school after 33 years at New Trier HS in Illinois.  

1)  What sports did you play before and during high school?  Some highlights?
I participated in the normal pre-high school endeavors, with baseball and basketball being the most prominent until high school.

At Maine West HS in Illinois I ran 4 years of cross country, and was in the top 8 from sophomore year on. I was the captain and the #3 man on the 1966 team, led by Lee LaBadie, which captured 6th in the IHSA state meet. I was also the track captain, running 4:32 in the mile and 9:39 in the two in 1967.  Back in those days, when the "deuce" was in its infancy, 9:39 actually qualified for the state meet in 1967.

2)  What led you into teaching and coaching?
Teaching high school seemed like a natural career for me: I liked being around kids and I enjoyed history.  In fact I'm pretty sure I was always a better teacher than a coach.  Teaching, after all, paid the bills, while coaching was my two hour a day vacation in the "toy department" of the school.  I loved it.  I still love it.

My actual origins as a coach can be traced to a very fulfilling  4 years competing at Carleton College in Minnesota.  I was the cc team captain in 1970 and ran in 3 NCAA "small college" cross country meets from 1968-70.  I also captained the track team, and typically ran the 880 and mile (no metric back in the dark ages). To my dismay I never won a Midwest Conference title in either, placing 2nd in each race in 1971.  I did run in the NCAA track finals in 1970 in St Paul, MN, placing 5th to earn "small college"  All-American status. But it was at Carleton that I began to appreciate our sport and the people who labor at it.  I began to understand the notion (I've put this on team t-shirts since) that running isn't as much a sport as a lifestyle.  A lifestyle, I might point out, that frequently changes lives. I've seen it, and it keeps me coming back.

3)  Who do you consider your teaching and coaching mentors and what were some of the most important lessons you learned from them?
I was blessed with excellent high school coaches, Bill Barringer and Joe Jobst, who valued wide participation and steadfast commitment.  But I grew the most in college, running for Bill Huyck.  His leadership was casual, but he was a great teacher who taught all his athletes a lot about goal-setting, hard work and commitment.  At Carleton we didn't just throw those words around: we lived them. I also began to appreciate  the value of teammates: I learned as much from them as from my coaches. I still communicate with those guys, even 40 years later.

4)  What were some of your challenges during your first few years of coaching?  What are the biggest changes for you as a coach from then to now?
At first it was a challenge to separate their training from my running. Regrettably, I think I sometimes wrote workouts so I could participate.  Old age took care of that temptation a long time ago.

5)  You coached at New Trier HS in Illinois for over 30 years.  What sports did you coach and what were some of your accomplishments there?
I coached and taught at New Trier for 33 years. I was the head boys cross country coach for 31 years; head boys track for 21, although I always saw myself more as a distance coach and track "administrator". I never coached the girls.  I had excellent assistant coaches, all of whom were on the faculty, and all of whom stuck around for a while.  We had great continuity, and I think that contributed to our success.  When I retired from teaching I was more or less required to stop coaching as well.  It was not my choice, but a district rule.

As for accomplishments, we had more than our share of conference/sectional championships and sent a number of teams and individuals to the state championships. New Trier was a large school, so we achieved some success because of our size.  But looking back I'm proudest of the fact that we had an open, participatory program.  If a boy came to practice and worked hard, we would get him a uniform/sweats, we'd coach him with enthusiasm and we would get him into meets, regardless of his ability.  To do this we sometimes double or even tripled up, sending our athletes, and some of the coaches, to 2-3 different meets on selected weekends. (we used to call them "3-meet weekends")  For the last 4 years I was there, we even had an 8-10 man "marathon team"--guys who trained alongside our distance runners, but who were focusing on a May or June marathon/half-marathon.  (we had to keep our head down on that one, since all the boys were on the track roster, but never ran a track race because of "coaches decision": though it was legal, the physical education department was not always supportive of our efforts)

6)  After all those years in Illinois, how did you end up in Scotts Valley, CA?I moved to Soquel in May, 2007 after retiring from NT the previous June. My wife also retired, so the plan was to live the CA lifestyle: play some tennis, run, bike and hike whenever and wherever we felt like. To do so was a sacrifice: we left lifelong friends, and our two children, back in the midwest. But if I hadn't moved, then retirement would have been miserable.  I really liked working at New Trier: I used to kid people that I had the best job in America. I just had to "get out of town" or I would miss it too much. So I had no other plans except to view California as a new adventure.

7)  What led you to coaching at Scotts Valley HS?
I answered an ad in the paper two weeks after I arrived in CA.  Go figure.

8)  You are now an off campus coach.  Biggest changes from being able to coach at the same school you teach?   
It used to be very satisfying to have student athletes in class or in advisory, and of course I don't have that now.  I think getting to know kids in two different environments enhanced the experience for both the students and me.  But that ship has sailed...

9)  Your girls' cross country team finished in 2nd place this past season in Division IV.  what were some of the keys for their success?
Just the usual stuff.  Intelligent and skilled athletes, with solid upperclass leadership, and hard work.

This sport is not "rocket science"...  It was a particularly satisfying season for us: for the girls, because they really were in the vanguard of a transformation in the culture of distance running at the high school, and for me, because I had never coached girls before and didn't know what to expect once the girls had to perform in the crucible of CCS and State.

10)  From your experience in coaching cross country and track and field in another state for many years, what do you think California could do differently in both sports that would benefit both sports?
--I think CA needs a class system for track and field.  Perhaps not as extensive as in cross country, but it is not fair to have Scotts Valley or San Lorenzo Valley with 750 students competing against the huge schools over the hill or in the rest of the state.  The CIF defense is that track is an "individual sport", but then they keep team scores.  Makes you wonder.

--The "waterfall start" used in most meets is unfair to runners in the 1600/3200.  The "run up" to the line becomes a race, people are "hooked" and the #1 and #2 seeds, even when they start briskly, frequently get the whole field to cave in on them in the first several steps.  Of course they use the waterfall in college and in the Olympics for the 1500, steeple and 5000, but in each case the start has 100 meters until the first turn.   The alternative is to run the first turn in alleys (4 for an 8-lane track) where all runners get an equal chance to get to the cut line, and the faster runners will have had the chance to separate themselves from the others before anyone cuts to the pole once the stagger is made up.  That's among the reasons why the 4 x 400 is now run in a 3-turn stagger.

--As a distance coach, I love the 4 x 800, which was a conference and state series event in Illinois.  Of couse there are reasons not to run it, especially from small schools (like Scotts Valley) who would have a difficult time finding enough athletes to fill it.  But relays do broaden student participation, and it is a very entertaining race.

11)  On the other end, what is working in both sports in CA?
--the prevalence of electronic timing is terrific.  My old school, New Trier is hosting their league championship this Friday, and they will still use hand-timing.

--the very detailed online dissemination of data like results and entry info is terrific, and is of course related to electronic timing.  You don't have to work very hard to get informed about the competition.  It's fun to be a fan of the sport here...and certainly your blog is a part of that.

12)  Anything else you would like to add. 
I've said enough.  Thanks, Albert, for letting me vent.

Thank you very much for your time Doug!  AJC

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