As we approach the beginning of the outdoor season, we will continue to profile track and field coaches (and many that coach cross country as well) to our California coaching legend series. We have a lot of choices that cover the entire spectrum of events but as always, if you have coaches that you would like to nominate, please let us know on twitter @milesplitCA or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you ever wanted to know what training techniques Steve Chavez used during his time at Murrieta Valley, all you had to do was ask - he would gladly share all of his workouts (as well as the science behind them). Or, like many of his contemporaries, you could attend one of the many distance training clinics he held: attendees included Bill Gregg of Davis Senior and Doug Soles of Great Oak, who credits Chavez with helping him learn how to coach elite individuals when Soles was still at Desert Hot Springs.
Soles sums up the impact Chavez had through coaching education: "Steve was very instrumental in the development of many coaches in the early-mid 2000's. He hosted a coaching clinic each year at Murrieta Valley High School that helped motivate, teach, and challenge many coaches to improve as well as coordinating the distance portions of the LA84 clinics for a time. Looking around the landscape of coaches in California today, you can see the impact that Steve's education played for many of us. I personally learned a ton from Steve, from how to compete to how to set up training blocks that would develop athletes, to how to be the coach my athletes deserve."
Chavez had undeniable success at Murrieta Valley, which certainly lent credibility to the methods he was so willing to share. His girls won the 2002 state championship, and both squads routinely finished in the top 5 in the state during the 2000's. The Nighthawks also dominated the Southwestern League during his time at the helm, taking multiple titles with both genders in the cross country program. Soles says, "I think one of the most amazing things about Steve's teams was that they were consistently good on both sides for so many years. Not only did his girls team win state in 2002, but he set the standard for success for about an 8-10 year window. He was taking his boys JV team from the year before and qualifying to NXN with it. To me, he set a standard for dual gender coaching and coaching education in California. He shared everything and so many of us benefited from it."
Why would a winning coach share his training principles with his competitors? The desire to educate fellow coaches made all the sense in the world for Chavez, who was one of the first coaches to try to translate the science-based training principles advanced by Dr. Joe Vigil to the high school level. The systematic, physiology-based program was something that he could teach to other coaches. Vigil's approach also included coaching education, and that willingness to share his methods certainly carried down to at least one of his students.
In a 2013 interview with Albert Caruana on Cross Country Express, Chavez explained one of the factors that drove his interest in helping coaches develop:
"Early in my coaching career my team got good very quickly without me really knowing how to handle it. I faked it well, but deep down I knew I was in territory I was not prepared for. This led me to study consistently successful programs and coaches to glean some insight into why they were successful. What I learned was that in every instance there was a dynamic coach who held high standards that they did not waiver on. The athletes all had complete trust in the coach and as such could be pushed harder than other teams. These teams also had great confidence in and trust in each other. Most importantly, they all set an expectation of excellence. They never made excuses and always seemed to produce."
Chavez stepped down from coaching at Murrieta Valley to spend more time with his family, and also to pursue his longtime goal of earning a Master's Degree. Despite a relatively short career (at least in terms of others in this series), his legacy continues in the training that so many coaches around the state learned from him, and the techniques that he shared and they incorporated.