Where do you presently coach and how long have you been there?
I coach for Cardinal Ritter College Prep. 2019 will be my second year. I coached at Ladue Horton Watkins High school before this, for 7 years.
How did you start coaching? Past coaching jobs.
Coaching was always a passion of mine. I started volunteer coaching for the AAU team, St. Louis Blues Track Club, where I began my running career. I then volunteered at my high school, Gateway Institute of Technology from 2009-2011. Then I was hired on at Ladue High School in (2012-2017) as the girl’s assistant coach. I coached Sprints and Hurdles. In fall of 2017 I got the opportunity to coach at Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School, where I also teach.
Why did you decide to become a coach?
It’s pretty simple, really. It was my passion. I love helping, and I love running. I knew I wanted to give back to my community and this was the way to do it. I wanted to set an example for children, to be a living witness and attest, “ If I can do it so can you”. I had coaches believe in me, just like I believe in my athletes, which can make all the difference . It doesn’t matter where you come from or your background, “YOU TOO CAN MAKE IT”. I wanted to set that foundation not only for my athletes, but for my own children as well. “Yes, there will be times you want to give up, but Coach Spain will be right there to help you along the way.”
What events do you coach?
I coach sprints, hurdles, and mid-distance, if needed.
Were you a competitive athlete? If so, events and accomplishments.
YES. I was so competitive that I treated practice like a meet. I always worked hard. I wasn’t the fastest (more like 3rd fastest, most definitely wasn’t the slowest) on the team, so I had no choice but to outwork those around me. I was very competitive, but humble. I wanted to prove myself on the track rather than by mouth. My high school won state my freshman year, and my junior year. In 2003, after coming 5th in the 300 hurdles my sophomore year at sectionals (they take top four to state), I was determined to give it all I had. I won state in the 300 hurdles the following years, 2004 and 2005, and I got 5th in the 100 hurdles in 2004, and 2nd in 2005.
College was rough my first few years. I had just had my first born, Kyndall, and was trying to get back on track. But I came out on top, after having my baby and a hamstring injury. In 2011, I received “All American”. I got second at nationals in the 100 hurdles, running my PR, and 6th in the 100 meters, also running a PR.
Who influenced you most in terms of your coaching style and philosophy?
A lot of people influenced me. All my coaches from AAU to college. I took something from all of them, and put it into Coach Spain’s “Big Pot” and came up with my own coaching style. The work ethic, and workouts from my AAU coach, and a friend I coached with in the pass. The eagerness and energy from my high school coach, and the dedication and the will to never give up on an athlete, from my college coach.
What is your biggest challenge as a female coach?
I’ll have to say the challenge has been being a young female coach really. A lot of seasoned coaches and track parents second guess your ability. But the only thing I can think of as a female coach is that you get some backlash when coaching male athletes (that’s in any sport). That’s the only challenged I’ve faced as a female coach.
How do you motivate your athletes?
I motivate them by just being myself; energetic, enthusiastic, loving, fan of the sport, and a mentor. I run with them, I jump with them, and even hurdle with them. I lead by example. I’m not just going to tell you, I’ll show you as well.
How do you set goals and plan workouts for your athletes?
I evaluate what kind of athletes I have. I set a base, a foundation, and we build from there. We build from endurance to speed work to tempo, to speed endurance, and strength. All of that is built on the kind of program you wish to have, and the athletes you have as well.
How do you prepare your athletes for race day?
Race day is nerve wracking as it is. Coaches know you’re ready physically, but not what goes on in the head of an athlete. So I try to get to them mentally prepared. Imaginary and mental is key. Imagine yourself running your races in your head, breaking down every 100, every hurdle, and every approach. If you get to them mentally, that’s half the battle. Lead them to believe in their craft, and preparation of their races. “Trust the process”.
What do you wish for your athletes?
I wish for them to be athletically and academically sound. I wish for them to understand how significantly sports can impact their education. I wish for them to have the mental toughness, because the road gets tougher. I wish for them to succeed to the highest heights they can imagine, all the while being humble, and remembering where they came from, and how they got there.
What is the philosophy of your HS program?
"Athletes don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." This is one of the quotes I live by. Building relationships is the most important thing to me. I believe showing an athlete how much you care about their success will allow that athlete to perform at their best, and give you their all. Everyone is different, and being able to identify and relate to everyone will make you a more successful coach. I believe giving an athlete a lifetime experience. I want to expose runners to a competitive environment that will be remembered through life as a positive and rewarding experience.
How does your HS program become a unified team?
“All for one and one for ALL.” I establish that we are a “sisterhood” at the beginning of every season. If one fails, we ALL fail.
Do you work with both men and women?
Yes, mostly girls, but I help out with the boys from time to time. For the most part it works out well. Sometime I have to use my workout as punishment for the guys (LOL).
How have you changed as a coach over the years? Do you coach differently today than you have in the past?
Yes, I have changed. When I first started out I was just going off experience, and even though that’s a big part of coaching, fundamentals are a key component as well. I learned what days and weeks to do what, such as tempo, speed work, endurance work, and so on. Even though I’ve learned more, I still coach somewhat of the same (maybe a little calmer, some might think over wise!). Just different approaches for different athletes.
What resources would you like to have as a female coach?
Number one is better facilities, but I believe that’s for everyone in this area. (St Louis)
What would you like to add to your coaching expertise?
More workshops geared for women by woman athletes.
I would like to add more all-around full body training, something like crossfit training.
Tell me a story about a coaching experience that has made a huge impact on you?
Just recently, a few weeks ago, I received a card in the mail from an older athlete and her family. And it read “Coach Spain, We can’t tell you how grateful our family is for you. You helped push our kids to be great, all while loving them at the same time. Now that they both have graduated, we just wanted to say thank you for all you do”. All this time I just thought I was doing my job as a coach, but in reality it was way more than that. What impacts me the most is knowing that I touched the lives of others. You never know what impact you may leave on an athlete, and/or their family. This is the reason why I coach.
What advice would you give women who want to coach?
I would say to them, keep striving to be the best. It’s O.K to be the underdog. Never stop learning, always be compassionate but tough, knowledgeable but understanding, fun but determined. Most of all lead by example.
What else would you like us to know about you?
I just graduated with my Masters in Education from Lindenwood University. All the while working full time, coaching indoor and outdoor track, being a full time mom, wife, being active in church, and personal training. Never give up on your dreams even when times get tough. It’s in those tough times that make the strongest people.