Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coach Profile - Dustin Sweeney

Meet Dustin Sweeney

Name:  Dustin S Sweeney
Place of birth:  Winchester, VA; Reared in Berryville, VA
Year of birth:  1983
HS:  Clarke County HS
College:  Shenandoah U

Coaching Credentials:  USATF Level II
Coaching Mentors:  Lydiard, Vigil
Coaching Background:  Clarke County HS, James Madison University, George Washington University, Pacers NB

Dustin's Story / Coaching Background:

Berryville, Virginia is a sleepy town nestled in the northern neck of the Shenandoah Valley.  It was once known for it's vast acres of apple orchards.  It was then, for a short period of time, known for running.  The apple orchards were uprooted to make room for corn and soy beans.  Much the same, running, has been pushed aside.

I dressed in the locker room by myself; tights, long sleeve, hat, gloves.  Laced up the Asics 2040 and I was out the door.  I was fourteen and indoor track wasn't in my vocabulary.  It didn't exist in Berryville.  The only thing that existed were miles of gravel roads, back roads that meander around cattle and horse farms, the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I ran solo almost every day.  

I was preparing myself for the upcoming baseball season.

Spring came and I made the JV baseball team.  My coach came up to me two weeks into practice, took me aside and told me something that I never forgot, and something that has been a theme throughout my life.  He said "when I was in high school I played in four sports, I was very good at all of them, but I wasn't great in any of them.  You have a chance to do something and be great at it..."  Maybe he was just telling me I was a lousy baseball player.  Once you start a season in a sport, you're not eligible to switch sports -- they made an exception in my case.  I finished the year all-state in the 3200.  

I was then possessed.  I grabbed "How to Train" by Hal Higdon, I flipped through and found a chapter written by John Davies.  Davies was coached by Arthur Lydiard.  My life changed that summer.  I ran my first 100 mile week, and it was easy.  As the youngest of three, you always struggle to define yourself.  I was a runner, and this is what I will do for the rest of my life.  

Four years later, I was back coaching at Clarke County.  I was eighteen years old when they hired me.  I would be coaching some athletes that were older than me.  I would be coaching athletes that had more facial hair than me.  I would be coaching athletes that didn't like me.  To have a winning team, you first must develop the correct culture, this is impossible to do without pissing people off.  It's a tough row to hoe, and it can take years to develop.  

It took me two.  

My girls and boys finished third at the Virginia State Meet in 2003.  Parents, friends, other coaches were all elated for me, the athletes and our program.  I was happy, but strangely not satisfied.  I understood that the culture had changed when I looked around and noticed my athletes were not satisfied either.  They weren't breaking bats over their knees, but they were hungry.

Again, everything changed that winter.

The following Monday we were still running.  Of course, some athletes had down time, but I was still there, and people ran.  Where six years ago I was the lone runner, I now had a crew of boys and girls ready and willing to see just how fast they can push their bodies.  CCHS agreed to start an indoor track and I was having the best time of my life.

We went on to win the following three Boys and Girls State Cross Country Championships, equaling Pat Henner's record at Blacksburg HS.  In 2004 we also had both individual state champions and team champions, equaling Ron Helmer's record at Virginia HS.  I was in esteemed company, and I was 21 years old.  Our teams would win eight of ten cross country titles, as well as several outdoor track titles.  Berryville was now a running town.  

I left Clarke Country to pursue the NCAA. This is my dream job.  I quickly learned that the NCAA is not designed to promote athletic excellence.  I can post about that later.  

I learned much from Dave Rinker and Bill Walton while I was at James Madison University.  Coach Rinker allowed me to take the reins of the middle distance program after less than a month on board.  This was my chance!  There was a steep learning curve and I was still developing as a coach.  My girls went to place fourth at the ECAC 4x800, running the second fastest time ever at JMU.  

I moved on to George Washington University and eventually landed with Pacers.  I'm forever grateful for the experiences I had in the NCAA, but in my endless pursuit of excellence, I understand where my talent lies and that's with developing post collegiate athletes.

I started coaching my self and my good friend, Charles, when I was 15; I'm now 30  I've been coaching an incredible 15 years.  I was insatiably driven in my younger years; getting up at 4:30 am, working off caffeine and dreams.  

I have found a great niche and incredible opportunity in the DC area.  DC was once an (elite) running town, and it soon will be again.  

Coaching post collegiate athletes is what I was meant to do and that inspires me every day when I get up.  Meaning in life is incredibly hard for some to find.  I found it when I was fourteen, logging miles in the apple orchards.

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