The first California state cross country meet took place on Saturday, November 28, 1987. Since then, some of the state's brightest and most successful cross country coaches have amassed multiple team and individual championships. Of course, the roots of cross country in California go back FAR before there was a state meet, and this state was a breeding ground for legendary coaches in the "pre-state meet" time period. Some of the Golden State's best have bridged between the two eras, starting before the state meet came into being and continue to coach to this day. Every week through the end of cross country, we will feature one of these Coaching Legends, a past or present figure that helped shape the sport in the Golden State and make California the best state in the nation for cross country!
Sometimes a coach's legacy is fully apparent by the numbers - championships won, honors earned, athletes that moved on to college competition, and many other quantifiable standards. In many cases, though, the true impact goes far beyond measurable achievements, and such is the case with San Luis Obispo's Steve Boaz. Oh, the numbers are there: 14 county championships, 19 league titles, numerous appearances at the CIF finals and state championships, and a state title in 2003. When you speak to those who know him, though, they all choose to focus on something else: his outstanding mentoring of young men and women.
Recent graduate Callum Bolger, a two-time state champion and a Foot Locker finalist, expressed the lasting effect of his relationship with Coach Boaz:
There is no way my life would be where it is today without Coach Steve Boaz. My four years spent with Boaz have impacted me greatly not simply as an athlete, but as a student, and most importantly as a well-rounded person. His emphasis on doing the best you can every single day and staying consistent with a quality lifestyle has allowed me to thrive in all facets of life. Throughout his almost 30 years of coaching at San Luis Obispo High School, he has touched thousands of lives, enriching and facilitating growth in each and every one of them. He allows student-athletes to see the long-term benefits of consistent and smart hard work; years of training finally pay off with a huge performance, as runners grasp times that once seemed unfathomable. Boaz has assisted in countless transformations of all-around unmotivated freshmen into determined, mature scholar-athletes by senior year. He has taught us all that if you apply the right mindset and work ethic on a day to day, month to month, year to year basis, you excel significantly toward your best self. The mechanism behind Boaz's success lies here: providing all optimal coaching energy and skills to those student-athletes that commit to reaching their full potential. He doesn't force the training onto anyone, but if someone truly wants to be the best they can be, there is no doubt he will be there every step of the way, providing all his experience and wisdom. I will always appreciate his guidance and support in my journey through life and I wish the best of luck to him in all his future endeavors.
Another former SLO athlete, Christine Hoffman, emphasizes Steve's ability to reach and relate to his athletes. "It is incredibly hard to put Boaz's personality into words but one of my favorite things about Boaz is that he is a great storyteller and this trait, in a way, explains a lot about his personality. As a great storyteller Boaz is wise, humble, humorous, and patient and all of these traits are the foundation of his coaching style."
Boaz has also had a profound impact on other coaches. This sometimes happens formally through presenting at clinics such as the annual summer LA84 clinic. More often it occurs informally, as he has a reputation for being open and supportive with his peers around the Southern Section and beyond.
The final word comes from fellow CA Coaching Legend Ken Reeves: "Steve Boaz is the type of coach you would want your children to have. Passionate, knowledgeable, caring and has the best interests of his athletes in mind in relationship to training and racing. Seems to create running as a lifestyle for his athletes. One of the best coaches for coaching the 'individual stud' yet leaves enough in the tank for college success afterwards if the student-athlete so desires."