Monday, July 06, 2020

Catching up with Dougherty Valley coach, Stephanie Bambury

Today we chat with Dougherty Valley coach, Stephanie Bambury. She has been the Cross Country and Track and Field coach for Dougherty Valley ever since the school first opened in 2007. During her 3rd XC season, Bambury led her girls' team to their first section title by winning the North Coast Section Division IV race. Since then, DV has won 3 additional section titles in Division I (2 boys and 1 girls) and has qualified to the state meet consistently since that first section title in 2007. They have also done well on the track with the likes of Lucas Badcock (1:57.79/4:12.77/9:18.08), Neil Braganza (1:59.22/4:13.17/9:15.72) and Helen Guo (2:20.70/5:07.38/10:55.38). Bambury also ran at Lynbrook HS and qualified to the state meet in the 1600 in 1991 as she helped lead Lynbrook to the team title. You can check out a video of that race HERE.

1) What was your own running experience? How did you get your start into running? Highlights and proudest achievements during your competitive period? Did you participate in any other sports?
 I was originally a competitive swimmer and state cup winning soccer player. My first season of cross country was my senior year because girls swimming was a fall sport at the same time as cross country. I attended Lynbrook High School and there was no cross country coach so my parents asked a friend to coach me. Mark Frise was the Homestead HS coach but was not coaching at the time. In my first year of cross country, I won our league meet and took 4th in CCS Div 3 to go to State. I was 47th in the state that season (photo below to the right). Mark Frise was my assistant coach for several seasons at Dougherty Valley. I ran track all 4 years of high school. I was 2nd in CCS in the mile my freshman year with a 5:07.0. I was a 4x400 runner as well as a state meet qualifier. My Track team my freshman year won CCS with 7 girls on our team.

2) Who were the coaches that had the biggest impact on you as an athlete and what did you learn from them? 
I did not have a distance coach while in high school. Mark Frise was the first running coach I ever had and he was amazing. His knowledge of distance running was excellent. I was lucky to have him coach me to the state meet in my 1st season. Unfortunately, I broke my collar bone in the last soccer season of my high school career so my senior year track season was not so great. Mark taught me to have patience in my races and to know the course so I would be able to make my move at the right time. He taught me that it was supposed to hurt and how to mentally push through the pain. I credit him with helping me get my scholarship to St Mary's and being a D1 athlete.

3) What led you to coach and what was your first experience? What did you learn from that experience? 
I have been coaching my whole life! In high school, I recruited 4 basketball players to the cross country team so I could have a team of 5 and score at meets. I coached them on the days I was not running with Mark. In college, I was a youth swim coach. My St Mary's Coach resigned mid-season and I helped coach the other runners through the season. My first high school coaching job was at Wilcox High School with Walter VanZant. He was a great role model, completely dedicated to his runners. That season I learned Hank Lawson was coaching at my alumni Lynbrook and needed an Asst. Coach. I coached alongside him for 3 amazing seasons. Hank was my biggest coaching influence. He showed me how to set up a successful season, how to connect with athletes, and how to be an amazing coach. I am the coach I am today because of him. He continues to be my biggest coaching mentor. In 2015 I was awarded NCS's Coach of the Year award, I credit that to Hank and how much he has taught me about coaching.

4) How did you end up at Dougherty Valley? What else do you do at the school besides coaching?
When my husband and I relocated to the East Bay from the South Bay, I spent 3 years coaching at Foothill HS and Amador HS before Dougherty was opened. I was hired by Denise Hibbard as the first cross country coach at Dougherty. Our first season we had 15 runners on the team (photo below). It was a very new experience for me. I was just happy to have all 7 runners in a race cross the finish line! As the years went by our program grew and so did the talent on our team.

5) What was your experience during the first year? Who were the athletes that really bought in and helped you establish your program during that time?
There were many athletes who have helped shape our program. One of the earliest was Jonathan Javier. He was one of my first highly dedicated and focused athletes. His love for his team and the sport was new and different for our program. He was a huge influence on the younger generation on how to be a "real team". The girls on my 2009 team that won NCS were all great influencers for the girl's side. They were very team-oriented and great supporters of each other. Neil Braganza put DVHS on the map at the higher levels by placing in the top 10 of State D1. His dedication and hard work showed our team how to push through injuries and that hard work and focus really pays off. Jake Echner has been the biggest team influencer so far for our boy's team. His ability to bring the team together under a common goal was life-changing for our program.
6) Looking back at your time at Dougherty Valley, what have been some of your biggest highlights and proudest achievements for your athletes and teams? 
There are a few biggest achievements I am most proud of. Winning NCS Girls Div 4 in 2009 when the school was less than 5 years old was one of the biggest. Being named Coach of the year in 2015 was another. But I think most of all starting a program from scratch with a school full of kids who were relatively unhappy to be there and turning it into what it is now is my crowning achievement. (If you include track: winning DFAL 2 years in a row was pretty cool too).

7) What are your expectations for your runners during the summer? Any running camps? 
This summer has been challenging for everyone. Yes, I really hope all my athletes are running every day, but I am unable to check in with them or meet with them. We do not know if or when we will have a season. Everyone is waiting for CIF to make their announcement on July 20! Holding our breath is exhausting! I really do not want my seniors to miss out on their last season!

8) Who have been your coaching mentors during your own coaching career? 
Hank Lawson has been my biggest coaching mentor. He showed me how to push kids to their limits while having fun and making everything challenging and interesting. I love his funny hats at races and how much he cares about his runners. He is an amazing person! I would not be the coach I am today without his influence.

9) What does a typical week look like for your runners? Any morning runs? Typical weekly mileage? The distance of the longest run for your experienced runners? How often do they do strength work? 
In a typical week, my runners are doing 40-45 miles. I do not believe in higher mileage for HS athletes, their bodies are not developed for it yet. Let them ramp up in college. In the past few seasons, some of my most talented athletes have tried to increase mileage and it has resulted in injuries and peaking too early in the season. We do double days on Mondays with speed on the track at 5:45am and distance in the afternoon. We try to do all road runs on some or all dirt to save on knee and shin injuries. DVHS is lucky to have so many trails right outside our doorstep. We do hills every week and more speed towards the end of the season. Our longest runs are 10-12 miles and we try to incorporate strength and core 3-4x a week.

10) Since your running days to now, what are the biggest changes that you have seen in cross country and track and field (positive and negative)? 
I think the biggest challenges kids face these days is the balance of running and school in their lives. I do not remember being as stressed in school as my athletes seem to be. I wish they would stop and realize this is the best part of their lives and savor the moment. I want running to be a life long sport for my runners. I want them to be healthy and well balanced.

11) What would your advice be for a new coach taking over a team especially during these uncertain times?
To new coaches: remember to focus on the kids who want to be coached, and don't let the negativity of those who want to complain get you down. Take pride in watching your athletes improve and always look for ways to reach your kids. No one is perfect.

12) Anything else you would like to add. 
I sure hope we get a season this year!!

Thank you very much for your time, Stephanie!

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