CA Coaching Legends: Ken Reeves

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 continuing 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!

It's hard to find a coach that has had more success with both the boys and girls programs than Ken Reeves. He is best known for his time at Nordhoff High, which started before the state meet era and continued until his resignation in 2001. During that span, Reeves' Ranger teams won 11 state championships (6 for boys and 5 for girls) to go with 14 combined CIF Southern Section titles. Reeves was not a cross country runner in high school, but he did compete on the track - as well as playing football and soccer, and also swimming. He played soccer in college, and that was the sport that began his coaching career (at Dos Pueblos first, then continuing at Nordhoff). After he stepped down from that job, became involved with meets at the school, and eventually merged that with his own triathlon and marathon training to become the distance and cross country coach. Reeves moved to Ventura, where he coached alongside Bill Tokar, and both were named LA Times Coaches of the Year in 2003. That was far from the coach's only recognition: Reeves was named National Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2000, and he was inducted into the Ventura County Hall of Fame in 2002. Following his retirement, he remained connected to the sport through announcing at meets as well as conduction clinics and consulting with programs and individuals to improve their training.

2011 Interview with Ken Reeves on Coaching Mentors, Philosophy, and Techniques

(Reprinted with permission from Albert Caruana)

That would be enough of a resume to achieve "coaching legend" status in and of itself, but the story doesn't end there. Reeves decided to write a new chapter by coming out of retirement to coach the brand-new program at Foothill Technology, beginning in 2014. His boys team made the state meet in their first year of existence, and the girls team followed suit in 2015 (with the boys finishing 2nd in the section and 5th in the state that same year). This past fall, the Dragons claimed Division 4 state titles with BOTH squads, with the boys also winning the Southern Section championship. That brings Reeves' total portfolio to 13 state championships, and there is no sign that his Foothill Tech squads are going to slow down anytime soon.

Along the course of his long career, Coach Reeves has made a significant impact on countless athletes as well as the coaches that he has worked with and competed against. Fellow Ventura coach Bill Tokar put this into words:

What stands out to me about Ken Reeves are not the 11 state championships his runners earned during his tenure at Nordhoff High School, but the great respect his former runners have for him, and not simply in terms of his coaching expertise.  An incredible number of his former athletes keep in contact and often ask for his advice in all aspects of their lives.  I realized many years ago that Ken is not just a coach of Cross Country/Distance runners, he is a mentor to young men and women on the road to adulthood.   His athletes see him as their coach well beyond high school and college years.   I can see Ken's house from my classroom and the fields at Ventura High school. Not a week goes by when I do not see one former athlete or another walking up the stairs to his front door wishing to catch up, talk, and/or get advice. That respect and those relationships are a legacy equal to his state titles.

Ken works incredibly hard and sets a very high standard for his program and himself.  Coaching a successful program takes a tremendous amount of effort.  I have great appreciation for successful coaches because our consistently great California coaches deal with all the same issues as every other high school coach.  Developing, then coaching a perennially great program does not mean the work get any less or easier.  One of the quotes Ken tells his runners is, "The reward for hard work is the opportunity to do more hard work."  The coaches you see every November at the state meet do it year after year, and start each season with the same boulder to roll up the hill as every other coach.  Issues such as administration, transportation, fundraising, parental concerns, putting on a meet, discipline, teaching novices, etc. do not go away because of success.  Even after decades of experience and earning state/national coaching accolades galore, I have heard Ken, just as every other cross country coach, have a discussion with the freshman who says warming up will make him too tired to race, deal with the parent who schedules tuba lessons every Monday during pace practice, and enjoy the pleasures of school district transportation.   Simply because a coach is successful does not in any stretch of the imagination mean his job is any easier than others, but the great ones like Ken, set standards and do the little things that make programs successful year after year.

(Photo by Juan Carlo/Ventura County Star)