Coaches' Corner: Coach Monty on the Coronavirus

MileSplit AZ reached out to a handful of coaches in Arizona to get their reactions to COVID-19. Note that these interviews were done before the official cancelation of the 2020 high school track and field season.

Coach Dave Montgomery (Coach "Monty")

Highland High School

Q: How many years have you been coaching in Arizona? At Highland?
AZ 31 years. At Highland 23 years.

Q: What's your brief running/coaching background?
Ran in Jr High, High School in Michigan ran for Northwest Missouri State Univ. "82" after college ran for the Footstop Racing Team out of Detroit MI-- 2:22 Marathoner, 1:05 Half marathon, 1:03 20K, 30:05 10K- 14:30 5K. Coached at two high schools in MI as an Asst. Then a year stint at Tohono O'odham HSin "88", the only year they had XC, then Bradshaw Mtn High from 88 to 97 coach both XC and Track.

Q: What has been the level of disruption to athlete training and competition because of COVID-19?
Well, we cannot practice or meet as a group so they are training on their own. It also gets them out of a routine and runners need a routine.

Q: What have you been telling your athletes during this time? Are they on some sort of modified training regimen?
I post workouts on our mass texting app. I post workouts to keep them motivated. Challenge them to get the miles in and to stay mentally focused on their daily training.

Q: How do you keep athletes motivated during this time
I send out mass texts a few times a week with motivational stories, videos, and challenges. I tell them running and exercise in general can help their mental focus and give them purpose. Athletes need to roll with the punches and embrace uncertainty. Really, running and competing is always uncertain. Dealing with disappointment is part of life, it's not always easy but we deal with the cards we're dealt with. I live by this and have instilled this in our program. I tell them we're all in this together, be thankful for your fit, things will return to normal, pick 5 things you're thankful for daily, enjoy running and feeling the wind in your face.

Q: How are your seniors handling this situation?
They are all still training hard and optimistic. They are very motivated. They are keeping in contact with each other via texting and social media.

Q: What, if anything, is positive that may come from COVID-19, that you have witnessed or heard in regard to your team/athletes?
Many of our athletes have told me they miss the team and it made them grateful for their teammates, realizing we need each other in good and tough times. Many are enjoying their running more due to running alone and realizing it's special to be fit and being able to do something most won't do or don't do. They have been sharing some very funny pics on our mass text app. So they are keeping their sense of humor which keeps the team together.

Q: What are your thoughts about a high school season this spring? If there is track by late May/June, are you going to suggest your athletes do club races?
Yes, some will, but some have told me they want to get ready for XC once it's over. Our top athletes are planning on club stuff in May.

Q: What's been the biggest challenge for you as a coach during this time?
I cannot be with them and love them up, razz them, cheer them on and time them. The energy from these athletes is really something that I miss. I even miss their silly shenanigans. Winning is fun but for me, it's about building relationships daily for me, it's always about the athlete. We have 85 distance kids and we had 270 total out for track before it stopped. Speaks volumes about the athletes we have and their commitment to getting better. As I tell them. I am always their coach and always there for them if needed. A great quote I like is:

There are no easy roads to success You must learn how to move in the face of doubt. act in spite of uncertainty, and embrace the struggle. You're going to fall, it's part of life, but it's not your failures that will define you, it's how you choose to respond.