New track coach finds balance between coaching, counseling

After four years of being the assistant coach of the high school women’s track team, Chris Wood, one of the high school counselors, is transitioning into his new role of head coach and bringing new ideas with him.

“I was the assistant for four years prior to being the head coach, and it was a smooth transition with the last coach stepping down and me having the interest stepping into role when [Troy] Beckner asked,” Wood said. “[Being head coach is] a lot. All due respect to every head coach out there. [With 85 girls out for track], trying to balance line ups is a difficult task. We can’t get everyone to participate as much as we want. It is a lot to balance being the counselor and the coach, but everyone has been very helpful, especially my wife.”

Wood has had a history in coaching a variety of different sports. Wood said he has coached youth soccer and baseball, softball at Don Bosco and boys cross country in Cedar Falls.

“One of my favorite stories [from coaching track] was my first year coaching. We had finished really well on the four by four at State, and a couple girls came up to me really excited about how it went. It was really cool because neither of them thought they would run 400s, and at the end of State, they were in the top five. It was pretty amazing hearing from them when they were so happy with themselves,” Wood said.

To help create more memories like this for the athletes, Wood has brought some new ideas to the way the team is practicing.

“I don’t want to say that there is a ton of changes, but one change is the introduction of the 400 culture. We kind of have put everybody on the spot to be able to run 400s because it is the race that when you finish you know you’re stronger. You are only as strong as the 400 program as you have developed, and the race is not a favorite, but it helps to make you stronger,” Wood said. “We have also tried to have a lot of fun, and I think we have ingrained a lot of joy into practices. We show that giving back to the community is an important thing. I cannot put into words how important it is to be involved in the community, so we spend time walking around and picking up trash in the parking lot and staying after track meets to pick up. We just do it as a team and take pride in what we do.”

Even though some of the changes and the demanding workouts cause the athletes to make some adjustments, Wood said that this is definitely helping.

“I think we just have high expectations. One of the reasons I love to coach the Cedar Falls girls is when you ask, they rise up. We keep the bar high, whether it be for our varsity athletes or 9/10, if we can have that culture of high expectations, we get high results. I like to think that we just don’t get satisfied. We want to be the best, and we want to strive to be really really good, but it takes a lot of hard work too,” Wood said. “I think probably the most important thing is to continue to develop strong, courageous female athletes.  It is not just about winning. You face a lot of difficult situations, and it a lot of the times comes down to you being able to face your fears. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and you can embody it through track and field.”

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