Jake Powers is a Greater Texas Track Club Elite team member, but also the Head Cross Country coach at Houston Christian High School. I’ve known Jake for a few years now and love his passion for the sport.
He is another ‘young’ coach from our program; but he’s working hard and seeing lots of big improvement from his kids. As you can tell from the interview below, Jake is super passionate and excited about what he’s doing with his team there at Houston Christian.
I am excited to see Jake continue to grow and evolve as a coach.
How long have you been at Houston Christian and what is your official title?
This is my first year at Houston Christian High School and I am the Head Cross Country/Distance Track Coach. I am also the Testing Center Coordinator for the PCR (program for college readiness) department.
What is your educational background?
I have a Masters in Sports Management from Dallas Baptist University and my undergraduate degree is in Business Management from the University of Texas at Arlington.
What is your running background?
I started running track my freshman year in high school and fell in love with it. I walked on at the University of Texas at Arlington and ran for them for 3 years. While at UTA I did not get a lot of chances to race but made steady improvements every year. I knew I was capable of running fast I just needed more chances and so once I graduated in 2014, I decided to use my last semester of eligibility somewhere I could get opportunities to race. That place was Dallas Baptist University.
While at DBU I really started to shine. Coach Phillips knew what I needed to be a successful runner and we worked at that. In my final XC season I earned Heartland Conference Runner of the week award, All Conference, and was 1 spot away from being an All-American at the NCCAA XC Championships in New York. I continue to train today under Coach Phillips Elite group called the Greater Texas Track Club.
What is your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosophy is providing the opportunity for athletes to reach their full potential. I want to show kids how good they really are and how good they can be. While it is very simplistic it is also very complicated. One of my favorites quotes that my coach told me was by Arthur Lydiard. He says “there are champions on every street corner, you just have to know how to train them.” I am a huge believer in this. There are plenty of kids out there who can excel at xc/track but aren’t trained right or choose a different sport. Take my top boy for example. He played football since he was young and even as a freshman in high school. Then he decided to run track to work on his speed for football. Well he goes out and was 1 second away from breaking the freshman 1600m record. Fast forward to this year and within 7 months of training with me he breaks the school record and he is only a sophomore.
What is one of your favorite XC workouts?
My favorite XC workout would be Tempo 400m Hill Repeats. I am blessed to have a small Hill on campus. It is surrounded by grass too which makes it perfect for XC training. I typically measure out a 400m loop so the kids have to run up the hill twice for one rep. I love hills as they build both aerobic strength and muscular strength. I typically do these early season right before we transition into race specific work. We do about 10-15 repeats totalling running up the hill 20-30 times. One thing I noticed with my group is that we have trouble hitting paces and really locking in when it comes to straight tempo runs. Thus on the hills I give short rest to simulate a tempo run but mentally it’s easier for them to lock in and hit the paces. Typical session would look like this:
10-15 Hill Repeats @ Tempo Pace w/ 1 min rest between each rep.
What is one of your favorite 1600/3200 meter workouts?
My favorite workout for a 16/32 kid would be 600m repeats. 600s are tough…Plain and Simple. There is just something about them that not only make it physically challenging but mentally challenging as well. Speaking from personal experience when it comes to 400m repeats and down those reps are mentally easy. You get through 200 and then you only have 200m to go. With 600s you have to maintain that same effort for another 200m and mentally it’s challenging especially when you are tired. What I like is you can tailor the 600s to suit either the 3200m focus or 1600m focus. I took this session straight from my coach and found it to be very effective:
3x 600m @ 3k pace w/ 200m jog recovery
4 min jog recovery
3x 600m @ 2″ faster per 400 than 3k pace w/ 200m jog recovery
4 min jog recovery
2x 300m @ mile pace w/ 100m jog recovery
What is the most challenging part of being a high school coach?
I would say I have 2 equally challenging parts of the job. The first would be getting the kids to buy in. You have to get the kids to believe in your program and to “buy” your program. It’s tough to do, but if you can get your kids to be ALL IN you are going to have yourself one heck of a program. You could be the best coach in the country but if your kids don’t buy in and question everything you do then good luck! These are high schoolers and trust me, they will have questions and doubts about your training but you have to be able to break it down to them in a manner they can relate too and get them to see the progress they are making.
The 2nd challenge which is just as hard is recruiting. Houston Christian High School is a private school with no lower school. We are the only school in the Conference with no lower school for kids to come up too. This is very challenging as some of these coaches are working with these kids from the time they are 6th graders. So If I want to compete and beat the St John’s, Kincaid’s, Hockadays I have to physically go out and recruit. We also do not give out scholarships for athletics either. Some of the top schools in the SPC Conference do give out scholarships and thus it is hard to get the big time runners. While this is challenging I really enjoy it. I get to pick the kids that I want in the program.
What is the most enjoyable part of being a high school coach?
The most enjoyable part of the job is seeing all the PRs, school records and excitement on the kids faces. This sport is hard and I really challenge my group. I ask them to make a lot of sacrifices and to just see that commitment pay off is amazing for me as a coach.
What is your favorite coaching memory?
I have 3 favorite memories from this year:
1st being during XC season at the SPC championship meet my girls team tied the highest finish in school history and my #3 was sick and my #5 had a migraine that was so severe she was seeing spots. I had to rely on my 6 and 7 and boy did they come through when it mattered! My #1 also finished in the top 30 where she wasn’t even in the top 50 last year.
2nd favorite memory was when my top boy broke the school record the1st track meet of this year. He ran 4:43 for 1600m and the school record was a 4:45. I knew he was fit but I didn’t think he would run that quick this early off nothing but long runs and hills. This was a month after running a 5:15 at the Texas A&M Indoor High School invitational. His PR before that was a 4:54.
3rd favorite memory was when I had one of my boys who was on JV last year qualify for the Conference Championship meet. He had to run 11:05 and he ran 10:56 for 3200m. His PR last year on JV was a 12:11. He was so excited and you would have thought we just won a championship! It was amazing to just be apart of that and see how happy he was.