Bridget Martin is the Girls Varsity Head Track and Field Coach at PCM High School, Monroe, Iowa, USA. ?Bridget began her coaching career as a volunteer coach after needing to replace the “gap in her life” after retiring from running; and is now celebrating her 10th year coaching.
In her interview with FCN Blogger Sara Schwendinger, Bridget explains her love of the sport, how she cultivates confidence in her athletes and how she sometimes finds it difficult to manage her coaching and family life.
Why did you become a coach? Did you have any coaches that inspired you to take this journey in your own life?
My first coaching job was a volunteer position for junior high boys track and field. My brother was actually on the team, and they had a large team and were in need of more coaches. I agreed to help out, and I fell in love. As a collegiate runner, I was feeling a void in my life in the area of track and field, and coaching was exactly what I needed to fill that void. Being a part of the journey of improvements for each of my athletes was something that hooked me right away. I found it very rewarding to watch the progress and excitement of each athlete as the season progressed. I also enjoyed the opportunities to coach the life lessons. I signed up to help the athletes become better runners, but it was a bonus when I was able to coach them to become better people. My college track coach at Wartburg College, Marcus Newsom, is an exceptional coach and one that I definitely keep in mind often as I navigate through my coaching journey.
How long have you been coaching? How has your coaching changed since you first began?
This spring will be my 10th year of coaching track and field. I also spent one of those years coaching volleyball. The biggest change I have seen since I started coaching is the ability to analyze how your team stacks up against other teams in big meets like conference and districts. With the advancements made on Quikstats, the number crunching possibilities are so much greater. As far as the actual athletes, I feel like the acceptance of females in the weight room has made huge strides. The girls are coming into the season with more and more hard work put in during the off-season.
What is your coaching philosophy? How does this philosophy affect how you guide your athletes?
I believe I am not only a coach of the sport of track and field, but also a coach of the game called life. There are so many opportunities to reach the athlete on a deeper level. Whether it is rejoicing in their successes or helping them through a hardship, there is always a life lesson. An element I plan to add to this season is weekly motivational videos. Brian Cain with Peak Performance puts out a video clip called the Monday Message. I plan to work those into every week of the season. I am a big believer in the mental side of the game. Our quote of the year last year was your body achieves what your mind believes. Creating an outstanding physical and mental individual who not only loves the sport of track and field and feels part of a close-knit team, but also learns some life lessons along the way is the overall goal.
How do you cultivate confidence in your athletes given the variations in ability level and experience in the sport?
As we work through the season, I work hard to make sure every personal record is announced after each track meet. An athlete may never win an event, or even place in the top 8 all season, but a personal record is always a first place in my book. We also talk a lot about how track and field is a team sport even though many think differently, and every single point counts. 8th place still gets the team 1 point! We rejoice in not only the 1st places that get us 10 points, but also in those 1 and 2 point events. It was great for our team to see this first hand last year at district track meet when we won the district championship by one point. The girls experienced first hand the importance of every single point
How do you balance your coaching responsibilities with other work responsibilities and family life?
I’m not going to lie, it isn’t easy. I have a two year old and a three year old, so to say life is busy would be an understatement. My husband often brings my kids to track practice, so I am able to hang out with them a little bit while at practice. When practice is over, they enjoy taking their turn long jumping, using the starting blocks, or jumping hurdles. The girls are always so good to my kids, and I enjoy seeing my kids create bonds with the girls on the team. Most of my babysitters are my track girls. We also have a lot of team activities to create that close-knit family atmosphere that my children always attend as well. My administration is very supportive and allows me to include my family in my coaching. I am also lucky to have a very supportive husband.
Why do you think there is such a lack of female track and field coaches at the top ends of the sport in all age groups?
I honestly think some of it is because of the lack of confidence in some females. Although fully capable, many don’t see the role of a head coach as a female. I do feel like I have seen more female head coaches as the years have passed. Another reason may be because of duties in their family. Like I mentioned earlier, I am lucky to have a husband who is willing to step in and take on some of the responsibilities that I would usually take care of in our household. Some females may not feel comfortable or be ale to change up those roles.
If I asked your athletes to describe the type of coach you are, what do you think they would say?
I would hope they would say I am coach that not only cares about their track and field abilities but about them genuinely as a person. That I am a coach that works to create fun even when it is a tough workout one that is as transparent as possible in my reasoning and decisions made. I am a coach that works to create a family atmosphere so that everyone feels like they are a special part of the team. That is my goal anyway.
How do you define success as a coach?
When you witness the joys of improvements (a new personal record) on the face of every single athlete on your team. That’s a win.
What is your ultimate ambition for your coaching career? What is the legacy you would like to leave?
I want to be remembered as a coach that worked hard to create a team culture. I want to be thought of as someone that created a team environment where every girl felt like her role mattered. I hope to create a culture where hard work can also be fun because success is fun. I want my athletes to say during the season and for years to come, I get it now.
What advice would you give to other current female track and field coaches or who are interested in coaching?
It is so worth it. The examples you can set for young females on your team are endless. Demonstrating to them that a woman can be in a coaching role while also working full-time and a mom is a powerful message. It isn?t always going to be easy, but it is worth it.
Author: Sara Schwendinger has just finished her first year as an Assistant Middle Distance Boys Track Coach Mat Des Moines Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. She has been a runner herself for almost 26 years (August marks her 26th runiversary). Racing distances from the 800m to the marathon. I just turned 40 in March so I’m a proud masters runner now. Living in Des Moines with her husband David and our furbabies Maisy, a Boxer Mix, and Nosey and Bandit, two Maine Coon cats.