Legendary coach Ken Reeves retires (Our interview)

1) What led you to decide to retire at this time?
Short answer.  Due to the district financial challenges created by the pandemic, no temporary teachers in the district were rehired this year.  I was one of 38 temporary teachers that were not rehired this year.  If you want the long answer, let me know. 

2) Looking back at your coaching career, what are you the proudest of accomplishing?
Think my response would be similar to Amos Alonzo Stagg when he was asked "what do you think of your team?"  His response was "I will let you know in 20 years."  Think that the majority of impact I might have had as a coach has/had little to do with the trophies/medals and much to do with what the sport and the education the students get/got.  Had two opportunities to get a little feedback on some of this recently.  During the summer, the present Nordhoff coach, Dave Settem asked me to do a zoom presentation to this year's team about the Legacy of Nordhoff High School cross-country.  Contacted about 10 alums who in turn probably contacted about 20 alums each.  Got a great response on what they got out of the program besides running.  Was great to hear what they thought the program was rather than just from my vision.  Was from the #1 folks to the last person on the team and what he/she perceived his/her role and responsibility to be.  Did a PowerPoint on that and presented that to the present team.   On my birthday, my sons organized a surprise zoom meeting with over 80 of the former student-athletes from Nordhoff, Ventura, and Foothill Tech.  Some of the folks I hadn't seen in over 35 years.  Included students from every level of the team, from the all-state folks to the 125th boy/girl in the JV league meet.  Was great to see these folks and hear what cross-country really meant, way beyond the trips to state.  Also great to see how many of them are still doing some sort of aerobic exercise on a regular basis. 

3) How did you change as a coach from your first year coaching to the last years at Foothill Technology?Over time, think one of the biggest changes is ownership the student-athletes took in the program.  Training programs became much more individualized and spent much more time on the little things.  Also spent less time on trying to "win a championship" and focus more on competing at a championship level.  Spent some more time on visualization, teaching goal setting, and letting the student-athletes determine the direction of the team.  To tweak Yogi Berra.  Cross-country is 90% physical and the other half is mental. 

4) What is your advice for a new coach who wants to build a successful cross country program?
So many thoughts here-here are 10.
1.  Fall in love with the sport and hold yourself responsible for passing on that love.
2.  Write down your philosophy of coaching and of the sport and recheck it regularly during the season and during your career            
     a.  Include in that philosophy the direction you want the team culture to develop
     b.  Keep a record of everything
.  Spend at least 15 minutes a day reading about the sport.
4.  Ask questions of anyone and get a mentor.
5.  Go watch other teams' practices and talk to coaches.
6.  Attend at least one beginning clinic each and every year (regardless of how good your team becomes).
7.  Err on the side of under training.
8.  Even in the pandemic there is always another meet.
9.  Let your athletes know that you are interested in their academic and social progression as well as their athletic progression.       
     a.  Get to know them as people, not just students or athletes.
     b.  Still need to be the coach, not their best friend.
10. There is no easy way to be successful at anything.  Be willing to put in the work and especially learn from the things that didn't go well.  Keep a record of what went well, what needs to change and what you could have done better.

5) What changes do you feel could be made in California that would make XC and TF better in the state?Whoa -- so many opportunities -- get to be commissioner of cross-country and track and field for the day.  Here are a few of my ideas off the top of my head.

1.  Think it would be great if there was a statewide coaching group that was involved with the decisions on the state meet and state divisions.  Know there is an advisory group, but think it would be great if each section had one vote and one representative, and information could actually be brought forward by the section's coaches.  In lots of states, the coaches association runs the whole state meet and makes the rules and regulations.  Know that many Southern Section folks would not go for this, but think it would be fine if each section had one equal vote.
2.  If I were "commissioner" of cross-country, would probably go with the following decisions about divisions in cross-country:       
     a.  If the decision was to stay with 5 divisions, then think D5 is capped at whatever number (is at 600 now).
          1.  Take all of the schools in the rest of the state and divide by 4.
               a.  Wherever the breakpoint was, that was where the division line was made.
               b.  Thus would have D5 and 4 other equally sized divisions throughout the state.
                    1.  Section could do whatever they wanted at the section meet, but at the state meet, divisions strictly by size.                       
               c.  Now, each section has a different system of determining division sizes.  As a result, have 10 different ideas.
                    1.  Think there needs to be one statewide idea.  Used to have the same size divisions for every section.
                         a.  Last season, would have had some different state champion teams and individuals if every section used the same
 formula.  The team from (Central Coast) section would have been a division 5 state champion instead of a 3rd place D4 team.                                               
                              1.  If the section used the state size cap for D5.
               b.  If that couldn't work, then go to the state track example -- one state meet, one division.
                    1.  Works well for community college.
               c.  As "commissioner," not a big fan of the state meet being a qualifier for NXN.
                    1.  Doing the awards tent have seen teams go home in tears because they won the state championship but didn't qualify for NXN.               
                    2.  Think the state meet title, places, etc, should be the function of the state meet.
                                                 a.  Understand the desire for the meet.  Just don't think the state meet is the right avenue for a "qualifier."                               
                              1.  Think it takes a little away from what for most participants, could be the highlight of their athletic career.
                                   a.  Had a great principal that always suggested that the state meet should be treated as a once in a lifetime experience.
                    3.  If it has to be a qualifier for NXN, then
                         a.  Add a 6th division (open) and any team or any individual that wants to qualify for NXN would run in that race only.
                         b.  Or see example B above -- have a one division state meet.
3.  Mechanics of the state meet       
     a.  Love that they have added a police officer out at the entrance to help traffic at the conclusion of the meet now.
     b.  With the adding of the "cement" start boxes, have added some pluses and minuses.
          1.  Arc is now correctly drawn for all boxes, so that is a plus.                       
               a.  All the boxes are numbered so easy to see where you are supposed to be.
               b.  Doesn't have to be remarked during the meet.
          2.  Minuses
               a.  Not all the boxes are the same size
                    1.  Would have to redo all of the boxes to correct this.
               b.  Distance between each box is now less distance.
                    1.  Could possibly solve this by putting cones to separate each box, thus creating a little more room in between boxes.
               c.  Size of the "cement" box is not big enough for the entire team to stand on the box.  Some folks just have one foot in the box.
                    1.  Due to the size of the boxes and the distance between the boxes, recalled starts and falls have gone up at the meet.
                         a.  Remember a few years ago where about 100 folks went down as the teams just went off the grass.
                              1.  Probably had some impact on the final success of those teams on that side of the starting line.
     c.  There appears to be an advantage for certain boxes
          1.  Ones closest to the finish chute seem to be at a disadvantage as the whole field flows that way.
               a.  Look at the video of the starts.                       
               b.  Suggest seeding from the middle out.
                    1.  Top seed team in the middle box.
                    2.  Next two seeds on both sides of that box.
                    3.  If you didn't want to use "seeding", could go with Section champs with better "spots." 
                    4.  See note above about the pile-up off the grass a couple of years ago (wasn't recalled).
               c.  Presently placement of boxes just seems to be on a rotation with no real concern where the teams go.
4.  Overall rules       
     a. State-wide, who thought it was a good idea to expand the number of regular-season meets to 14 in a 10 to 12 week season?

Track and Field
1.  Think it would be very cool to add the 4 x 800 and the 4 x 200 to the state meet.       
     a.  Could even do prelims and finals on the Friday day of the meet.
          1.  Or, could just have finals with one team from each section.
               a.  Take 9 best times from CIF sectional finals.
          2.  Could finish Friday night with a bang.
2.  Return prelims to 27 qualifiers (three heats of 9 for everything).       
          a.  Remove the time qualifiers.
               1.  Would also help remove so many folks from the SS to the meet.
          b.  Return to the formula that allowed so many qualifiers from each section on strength of performance at the time.
               1.  Cap SS at 5 qualifiers like back in the day.
          c.  Shortens the prelims day significantly.
               1.  Makes section qualifier meets more races and less "time trials."
                    a.  Folks band together to run the qualifying times in qualifying meets rather than necessarily running for a place.
                         1.  Especially the distance races in SS.
                              a.  Become time trials rather than races.
3.  Limit the 800 to 9 finalists.       
     a.  Works for Olympics, World Championships, NCAA, National Championships, etc.
     b.  Everyone has a lane.
          1.  Seems to be a tangle in the breakpoint for the 800 every year at the state meet and sectional meets.
4.  Think the qualifying system from league to CIF to State is not necessarily good for the athletes.       
     a.  Too many high-quality meets over the course of a short period of time.
          1.  For SS, league prelims, finals, CIF prelims, finals, masters, state prelims, finals.
               a.  Process is five weeks long.                               
                    1.  Up to seven meets for SS.
          2.  Some other sections have more "meets" in a shorter period of time.
          3.  All of this is on top of the 14 meet "regular" season allotment.
               a.  And who knows how many preseason "all-comers" meets today.
5.  Think the California State Track and Field meet is awesome.  There is one state champion in each event.
6.  For both CC and track and field, put a statewide cap on the maximum amount of money an invitational can charge. 

6) Now that you are stepping away, are there any people that you would like to thank?
Way too many folks to thank here individually.  So, will limit it to ... 
1.  My wife Debra-she has allowed me to play at cross-country since 1985.  Has certainly cut into family events, family vacations, and family time.  She has been an active partner in the journey, from cooking thousands of meals, hosting team and coaches' meetings, organizing team camps and activities, pointing out ways to be more efficient, positively interacting with the parents, and being a sounding board for many of my "unique" ideas.
2.  My two sons, Tyson and Trent.  Again, cross-country has certainly cut into family time and I missed a few of their events and activities because I was at a cross-country meet or practice.  One of the reasons I stepped away from Nordhoff when I did was that my oldest son was entering high school the next year.  As they are now both have masters in strength and conditioning, they both have taken the time to add additional quality to our programs over the years and kept me aware of the constantly changing studies in fitness and strength.  Early on in life, I convinced them that setting up a cross-country course was a fun family activity and they "ran" with it.  While neither was a cross-country or track and field athlete, they certainly have contributed a great deal to our teams and athletes.
3.  The LA84 Foundation:  Think that the contributions that the LA84 Foundation has made to coaching education in both cross-country and track and field have made a huge impact on the quality of the experience for our student-athletes and coaches in the state of California.  Skip Stolley had the vision to create a tremendous program and Wayne Wilson, Michael Salmon, Jacqueline Hansen, Devin Elizondo and Tim O'Rourke along with thousands of others have helped move it to the next level.