As I continue on into 2018 with the goal of providing informative content on this site, I wanted to introduce the audience to another great Texas High School Cross Country and Track coach, David Park.
Coach Park is the long-time coach at Decatur High School, in Decatur, Texas, and is no stranger to State Championships and podium finishes. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Coach Park for several years and can say that he is very passionate about coaching, educating, and his TEAM.
There is a lot of GOOD in this interview; I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HIS ANSWERS FOR #4, 5, 6, 8, AND 9. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
1. How long have you been at Decatur High School and what is your official role / title?
I have been the head cross-country and head women’s track coach at Decatur for the last 14 years. I was in the same capacity for 12 years at Keller High School.
2. What is your educational background?
My educational background is kind of crazy. I graduated from Keller High School. My college background is a little more checkered. I ended up with a trades & industry certificate from the Texas A&M extension service. I went to many schools in the process. I was fortunate to be coached at Keller High School by Bubba Thornton. He would go on to become the Head Track & Field Coach at TCU, Texas, and 2012 Head coach at the Olympic Games. I relied on him a great deal during my early years as a track coach.
3. What is your running background?
My running background is as crazy as my college background. In high school if food wasn’t involved, I wouldn’t be running. I was a football player that was told by Coach Thornton that I would be running track. Well I wasn’t a sprinter but found out my freshman year that I could be a pretty good Discus thrower. If I knew then what I know now, I would have asked to join the distance runners. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started running to keep the weight off. Slowly I couldn’t imagine my day without a daily run. I was just running miles, no specific training. One day in May a friend of mine asked if I wanted to run in a four-mile fun run with him, so I did. During that race, just a little over half way I wasn’t far from the lead pack. Later I found out that the lead pack had the local elite in it. On my way home, I kept thinking if I got serious about training I might be a good runner. That day I was hooked. As the years passed, and I got better at training, I think I became a runner. My thirties were dominated with my yearly calendar revolving around Boston and a Boston Qualifier.
4. If you had to sum up your coaching philosophy, what would it be?
Teaching life’s lessons through running. There are so many parallels between life and the discipline of training.
5. What is your favorite XC workout?
My Favorite XC workout is a spin off of mile repeats tailored to our situation. We call it DRS, which stands for District, Regional, and State. We do the workout on one of our two home XC courses. At the high school level we have many different “speeds” on the team, so time over distance gets very cumbersome. Distance over time, however, ensures that we will all have the same recovery and finish together. We will do 4 X 7 minute runs. The catch is, each one must be better than the previous one. We say that the first one is an invitational meet; the second is district so your intensity must improve. The third is regional and the forth is state. They must improve each time. If they fail to improve, their season (workout) is over. Those not making a distance need to cheer the other runners as they continue the workout. Make sure your team culture is strong enough that makes the kids want to improve each rep. If the culture is weak, then kids will miss the mark so they can end the workout. It is really cool to see some of the slower runners power through the full workout just like the big dogs, they really feel good about themselves at the end.
6. What is your favorite Track workout for a 16/32 kid?
I have many favorite track workouts. This is more of a technique than a workout. I think I got it from Brooks Johnson from Stanford a long time ago. We have cones that just stay on the track at 300 meters, 200 meters, 150 meters, 100 meters, and 50 meters from the finish. Regardless what distance of the interval, the last lap is gun lap. Every time they hit a cone they must up the intensity and run faster. Kids tell me that they mentally see the cones in meets on the gun lap.
7. What’s the most challenging part of your job as a high school coach?
I think the most challenging thing about coaching high school distance runners is to get them to push past the pain. Once they push through the pain threshold one time, we got them!
8. What’s the most enjoyable part of your job as a high school coach?
The most rewarding thing about coaching high school kids is the kids themselves. I don’t care if it’s a 15:00 minute 5K runner or a 25 minute 5k runner; when they do something they have never done before, the look and feeling is priceless.
9. Favorite coaching memory?
I have been blessed to get to work with so many championship athletes. Obviously standing on the stage as champions are awesome memories, but my favorite memories are during the season watching 50 to 60 kids show up at 5:30am to get better… best time of the day.