ELMSFORD, N.Y. Richard MacLeish is a science teacher and track and field coach at Alexander Hamilton High School. A former track athlete himself, the coach discusses his coaching techniques and the attributes and challenges of track and field athletes answering Five Questions
What was your route to a coaching career?
I had always been interested in track and field. I ran track for my high school team (Lynbrook High School). When I was hired at Alexander Hamilton High School in 1999 to teach science, I inquired about coaching, and coincidentally the athletic director was looking for a head track and field coach. The rest is history. This is my 11th season at Hamilton and its been the only place I've coached.
What are the basics of coaching a large team of athletes with varied skills?
Know your sport, know your athletes and then set appropriate goals. Being flexible in your plans, flexible in your expectations and flexible in your schedule. During a daily workout our 50-plus athletes might be working on 5-10 different events simultaneously. I might have to work with shot putters outside the gym then on my walk in, critique with a hurdler working in the gym then move onto athletes in the weight room.
All the while giving feedback to help athletes improve. I never seem to have enough time to cover all the events. The Hamilton leadership has been incredibly supportive of the track program. I have two tremendous assistant coaches in Jim Aiello and Jessie Vega, who work incredibly hard to ensure the team is training well every day. We work well as a coaching team and really support each other.
We plan out each season in detail. We know what should be trained for every day of the year, but we are willing to change the plan as needed to best fit our athletes. We always keep our goals in mind and train towards them.
What skills are most important for success on the track?
Mentally, its dedication, desire and patience; physically, its coordination, resilience and strength.
Who were your mentors?
I learned a lot from working with Jim Farley (now the head coach at Woodlands). After Coach Farley left Hamilton I spent a lot of time learning the ropes on my own. I follow Jay Johnson's work online and really like Latif Thomas for sprinting information.
How do track athletes stay focused between events?
Depending on the meet, athletes either have a lot of free time or very little. During the indoor season there tends to be more free time than during spring meets. We try and take advantage of the meets as workout opportunities. Since Hamilton has limited track facilities we try and take advantage of all the chances we get to run. We have long warm-up routines that athletes do before their races and our distance athletes will try to get some long running in after their races. When they are not working out, the team tends to get homework done, listen to music and do scavenger hunts.
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