Choosing a life-long career is easy when you know what you want to do before your age needs two numbers. Choosing a life-long career is easy when it finds you. Choosing a life-long career is easy when you realize you're a natural.
Meet Glastonbury Coach Tracey Hollenbaugh.
Sometimes you can see it coming; sometimes you can't, but when her elementary school Physical Education teacher, Mr. Niffin, saw her running during a field day at school and he encouraged her to join the middle school track team when she got there, inspiration happened! As she says, "I was hooked." Her obvious talent would have been noticed sooner or later...probably sooner...but wouldn't you like to go back and thank good old Mr. Niffin for his encouragement...an early example of good teaching and coaching? Lesson learned.
Needless to say she ran through middle school and high school with great success and continued around the track and field at Ohio Wesleyan University where she also played volleyball. Her participation in volleyball provided her an opportunity to compare and contrast a team sport with a more individual sport like track and field, and because she was alert to learn about coaching...even as an athlete...the perspective she gained then helped her to develop her coaching philosophy which continues to evolve today.
It’s hard to pinpoint her specialty at Ohio Wesleyan because she excelled in the Heptathlon and the 400 meter Intermediate Hurdles. Twice she qualified for the Division III Nationals in the Heptathlon and finished eighth in that event toward the end of her sophomore year. Coach just missed qualifying as an All American because just a few years later the NCAA expanded the requirement to include the top 8-places instead of the top six. Additionally, she held the OWU school record in the 400m IM until one of her own athletes broke it…while she was coaching her!
After college she stayed in Ohio and started teaching as well as coaching in Ada, a small town ninety miles northwest of Columbus. It seems like yesterday to her, but 28-years later, and after some seasons of volleyball and many seasons of track and field and cross country, it’s been quite a ride.
During her years at Ohio Wesleyan, 1989-92, she was Women's Head Coach, and her teams won three North Coast Athletic Conference Indoor Championships and one Outdoor Championship. She coached four All Americans there and earned North Coast Athletic Conference Women's Coach of the Year three times.
Clearly, her coaching track and field was important to Coach Hollenbaugh, but her family came first. When her husband Dave's job required relocation, Coach followed him because she knew she could find a coaching job near Dave's new office.
So, from OWU Tracey moved on to coach at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she served as Men's and Women's Head Track and Cross Country Coach from 1993-1997, and the successes continued. While at Wittenberg, her men's teams won three straight NCAC Outdoor titles, two Indoor track titles, and the school's first Cross Country title!
While coaching at Wittenberg Tracey was the first woman, at any NCAA Division, to coach a men’s team in any sport. It was the Indoor Track season…November, 1993. Modestly she says “…it was no big deal;” it was an opportunity to coach athletes…whatever gender…so she grabbed the opportunity and they all were off and running…pun intended, and her successes came early and often.
While all that was happening on the men's side, her women's teams won Wittenberg's first Indoor Championship, and captured four runner-up finishes. Tracey produced three All Americans and she earned Women's Coach of the Year honors twice.
All of the Coach of the Year honors remain special to Tracey and deservedly so, because they are given by her peers. She cherishes the recognition by those against whom she coaches, but with whom she shares a bond of professionalism to their sport and a dedication to their athletes.
However, in 1999 Dave's job required another move, this time to Connecticut, and by this time they had two children, son Ryan and daughter McKenzie. Putting her family first, she stayed home with them when they were young, and delayed a resumption of her middle school teaching until they were of middle school and high school ages. In 2007 she earned her Connecticut teaching certificate and began teaching Physical Education at Smith Middle School in Glastonbury. Of course leaving the programs in Ohio at which she created so much success was hard, but she moved on with the confidence born of winning to new challenges and opportunities here in New England.
Was her string of successes interrupted by the move to the high school level in a new state? Hardly.
At Glastonbury High she began coaching girl's volleyball in 1999, and continues today as that sport's Head Coach. In 2006, girl's track Head Coach Brian Collins told her Glastonbury needed a pole vault coach, so there she was...lured back into the world of Track and Field.
Since Tracey started coaching at Glastonbury her boys teams have won the Central Connecticut Conference Indoor title in three of the last four years. Within the CCC her teams won the North Division title in two of the past four years. In the spring of 2009 her boy's team was runner up in Class LL Outdoor T&F, and most recently, her boys made her a very proud coach by taking 2nd in the 2012 CCC Indoor Championships.
Stepping back and taking a look at the success of all these teams...both men's and women's, college and high school...what do they all have in common? Meet Glastonbury Coach Tracey Hollenbaugh. So, you ask, what does she do right? Well, she will tell you that getting athletes to believe in themselves is of seminal importance. Once they believe in themselves, anything is possible for them, and athletes will work very hard to accomplish what they envision for themselves. They will push and test themselves to find out what they are made of...how far they can go...day to day, practice to practice, meet to meet, season to season.
Tracey knows this focus becomes very individual; athletes see their goals and they drive themselves to be the best they can be. However, in track and field, the cliché gets translated into reality when an athlete accomplishes a personal goal in late May, for instance, that he or she did not think possible when the season started in March. This motivation is what Coach instills in her athletes, and they work hard for her because they know how much she works hard for them and strives for their success as individuals. Can you count how many good things happen as a result?
Not only has Coach been able to bring her athletes along, she has had the unique and rewarding experience of coaching her daughter McKenzie, currently a senior at Glastonbury High. Could we have a future coach here?
To the people along the way who coached her, Tracey Hollenbaugh gives undying credit for allowing her to learn and grow, and she wants to pass that awareness on to her athletes. Call it life-long learning or whatever you want, but it's as real as the next championship her athletes earn for themselves, or the next personal goal one athlete achieves for himself.
And speaking of credit, Coach Hollenbaugh is very quick to recognize her fellow coaches at Glastonbury: Girls Head Coach Brian Collins, and assistants Tom Cieslowski, Brandon Dickman, and Mark Alexander. They coach by event, and each coach includes boys and girls in his or her event group. They are a team of their own.
Tracey has a long way to go before she hands the stopwatch to her successor, but it's a safe bet to assume she can retire someday, satisfied that she loved what she did with her career that started one day a long time ago during a field day at school when she only needed one number to state her age.
Pictured below is Coach Tracey Hollenbaugh and members of the Glastonbury Boys Indoor TF Team at the 2012 SCC Coaches Indoor TF Invite.