“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” ― C.G. Jung
The way Bob Orgovan taught Chemistry at Amity High School in Woodbridge went way beyond the curriculum he presented to the students in his classes. As even a casual observer can recognize, he and his assistant coach of 28 years, Thom Jacobs, have forged a collegial coaching chemistry that is as good as any in Connecticut. "Thom researches training methods and the science of running, and I handle the paper work duties of the head coach and motivate the kids." Clearly they are a winning combination, and their athletes respond by winning. Simple as that.
Their most recent victory was at The Windham Invitational in mid-September, at which their boys won the Varsity 2 race, beating out a couple of dozen other teams. Simple as that? Think again.
The coaching chemistry Bob brought to Amity germinated as he began his coaching career, which at last count spans 34 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Bob didn't plan to coach when he began his teaching career at Amity High, and didn't run in high school or college. But Roy Rodriques, cross country coach at the time, saw in Bob the makings of an exceptional coach, so he asked Bob to take over for him after his (Roy's) imminent retirement. So Bob's coaching philosophy evolved over the first four or five years of coaching into one of the premier coaches in Connecticut. Steve Stoklosa, of South Windsor fame says, "Bob is admired and respected all over the state."
Boys and girls at Amity continue to sign up for cross country there because they know they will run for a coach who knows how to forge a winning team. They know they will run for a coach who will accept them and strive for their improvement as individuals. Recruiting athletes is easy for great coaches in such an environment.
"I accept all my new athletes as they are on day one, and then every day I try to improve their running through training, increased knowledge of the sport, and by encouraging personal motivation." How does he accomplish all that and continue to win year after year? Chemistry.
As Bob says, "At the beginning of each season I tell the athletes, 'this is your team.' "He tells them the coaches and the athletes will work together to make each of the athletes better runners, and that will result in the whole team improving and ultimately winning. Democracy in action. Not every coach can pull this off, but in Woodbridge, Connecticut they have a great Chemistry teacher. A great coaching team, a great coach.
It seems his athletes can't get enough of him and his Chemistry. Not only has Bob always run with his athletes at practice, but many of them hung out in his classroom before school. Do they just talk about running? Are you kidding? According to Bob, "Many subjects come up all the time." During the warm downs at the ends of practices, during the post-practice stretches, and during the informal gatherings before school, a great teacher/coach attracts kids because the kids know they are taken seriously and they can trust this person, their coach.
Mike Bendzinski, long-time Manchester coach, and himself a New Englands Champion, calls Bob as dedicated a coach as anyone can find, someone who long ago earned respect among athletes and among the coaching fraternity, not just around Connecticut, but around New England. Because of Bob's leadership, Amity holds the record for most consecutive appearances in the New England Championships. Most Coaches would like to get there just once...Bob Orgovan has been there 8 times in a row, and 12 times altogether. A regular thing. high standards and expectations? Results.
Ever the class act, Bob gives Thom Jacobs, who was the Captain of the '81 Amity XC team, much of the credit for Amity's success over the almost three decades they have been coaching together. And you know what? Thom returns the compliment right back to Bob. Chemistry.
Since retiring from the classroom ten years ago, Bob has continued to give back to the sport by serving on the Connecticut High School Coaches Association's Cross Country committee for a total of twelve years, chairing it for eight of those years. Working in the best interest of the sport.
So, after 5 state championships, 2 runners up, 10 league championships, 14 division championships, 5 county championships, 1 New England championships with 1 runner up, the Amity team continues to insist on high standards for their athletes. They have produced 14 all-state athletes, 7 of whom did it twice. Six of those went on to earn all-New England honors. Twenty-four of their teams qualified for the State Open. As was mentioned above, twelve of their teams qualified for the New Englands, and eight of those teams went to that level of competition eight consecutive times...2003 to 2010. Will they go in 2011? What do you think?
So, at the end of the day it's really not that simple. Hard work, motivation, high standards are all important, but never overlook Chemistry.
Coach Orgovan - from start to finish line at the recent 33rd Haddad-Windham XC Invite.