Q&A Interview: Coach Dave Montgomery Of Highland High School

Name: Dave Montgomery (Monty)

Team: Highland High School

Year with Team: 19th

    What are your goals for this season?

    Our goal every season is to do well at Sectionals and give it our all to get to the State meet then run that race in peak shape. We race every meet, but the end-of-the season meets are what we peak for. We also have a goal of getting close as a team and making every decision based on the good of the team.

    Could you give a little bit of your background in the sport?

    I began running in Junior High, High School (9:48 two-miler & 4:36 miler in H.S.). I ran for a Community College in Michigan, and then transferred to Northwest Missouri. Then I ran post-collegiately for the Footstop Racing Team out of Michigan. I have lifetime bests of 1:05 in the Half Marathon and 2:22 in the Marathon, from back in the 80s after college. My best races were over 10 miles. I was an endurance mule.

    Is there something that stood out from your days as an athlete that carries over into the way you coach?

    I think what I learned from many elite runners was different training ideas and mental training and nutrition. I also learned that over training is happening to so many runners, even today. I think it's a fine balance as to when to push them and when to let them unleash the beast. I had pretty good coaches in high school and college. My community college Coach really got me to believe in myself. The big thing was always working on connecting with those you coach. Working on the mental side. Not easy with a big team like we have at Highland but I have great help from Coach Resendez and Coach Hagen.

    When did you decide that you wanted to coach high school runners?

    During College and then when I lived in Eugene, OR for a few years. I helped out at a couple high schools in the Detroit area and saw good results. I had all this knowledge and I needed to apply it.

    Your reputation as a fitness guru precedes you. Do you engage your athletes in supplementary weight training, and if so could you give any specific rules every runner should follow in the weight room whether they're beginners or proficient?

    First, I am just an old guy that does old school training with NO weights. I do a lot of the old Charles Atlas stuff, but only old guys will remember him. HAHA. We do have a XC/Track class and we do basic lifts but not a believer in heavy lifting. We also do Isometric holds and a lot of body weight stuff from pushups, pull ups and lots of core work. I think for runners the core and prehab stuff is so important. Kids today, as a whole, are very weak, so these types of exercises are a must. The stronger they are from head to toe the better they will run and stay injury free.

    What's the best advice you would give to any of your athletes if they just ran the worst race of their career?

    It's just another race, it does not define you and I have had kids in tears at the State meet that bombed out due to pressure or sickness, etc. Thing is they just need to know you understand. I tell them they have 15 minutes to be mad or bummed then it's time to be a good teammate.

    What's the proudest moment you've ever had as a Coach?

    I think every season watching athletes get confidence and run a great race or when they all become close as a team. So great to see the young kids who are real quiet then after a few weeks their cutting up and laughing, having a good time. A great memory is when our guys won the 2011 State XC meet. Great bunch, but State Championships do not last and every season has its victories and defeats. The closeness of the team and doing things to get to that point is what I am proudest of. Watching kids run a personal record or get a medal when they usually do not get one, is so much fun to watch.

    Are there any traditions you like to do as a team?

    We strive to have our athletes be empathetic, kind and serve each other. I think working smart is the tradition we always tell our athletes. As far as some main tradition really do not have any. After most practices I do a thought of the day of either a quote or a handout on anything from mental toughness to diet to having good character. I think traditions can be a bad thing at times. Every team is different and I think you should change things up a bit. We do have Pasta Parties the night before most of the bigger meets and kids will dress up or wear their team shirt to promote XC on days of meets. Best thing is when kids come out and run for the first time thinking it's easy, they learn real fast it's the toughest sport they will ever do.

    Let's talk a little about breaking limits. You often promote work-ethic as a quality necessary for an athlete to push the limits of what they thought they could do. How do you shape your season with this in mind? How often do you tax your athletes, and is there a time during the season when it's more important that they do so?

    We start in June. I am a big believer in building a base of miles. Not a fan of high miles. We hold kids between 30 to 50 mpw in the summer and during the season it's around 40 mpw. It's what you do with the miles and how hard you run at certain times. Too many coaches do not look at races as a hard effort, we do, there are not that many so we race them all. We do 1 to 2 hard workouts a week and a few are very callousing where most are structured to their ability and what they can handle. The other days are easy or steady state pace. Most hard workouts we finish where most could keep pushing. Our training works and we have been able to get kids to peak at the right time most years. This comes from smart training, team unity, and athletes and coaches who do not want to let each other down. A kid running with love in his or her heart for his/her teammates and coaches is a dangerous and gutty competitor.

    What is the most important thing you want young people to understand through running?

    That hard work is key to success in anything and there are no free rides. We live in a very entitled and angry society; with running nothing comes easy. Working towards a goal is what will drive you to keep going day in and day out. Serving others and having a helpful attitude is a key to happiness. Too many people just go through the motions and settle for mediocrity. Whatever you do, you give your best and strive to win, whether it's talking to a friend, working a job or an assignment or playing a sport, you give it your best.