The Ottawa University track and field athletes had a chance to learn about military life from Marine Sgt. Michael Pride.
Pride, who is the Marines track and field coach, got the opportunity to see and learn how Ottawa athletes train. It was a win-win situation Tuesday afternoon at OU’s Bo Boucek Track.
Pride spent the past week or so with the University of Kansas athletic staff learning different ways to coach his athletes, which are part of the Wounded Warrior Project.
He spent Tuesday and today working with the OU coaches and athletes. Pride witnessed the sprinters and distance runners on Tuesday and today watched the shot put and discus throwers.
It was an eye-opening experience for both parties.
“I am trying to learn how to teach, teacher of my craft instead of do, do, do,” Pride said. “I am learning to understand the strength and weakness of an athlete. To coach someone up. Not to expect everyone is on the same playing field.”
Pride was severely wounded when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device and overturned. He was flown back to the United States because of his injuries and was then assigned to Wounded Warrior West in October 2008 to recover.
Pride became involved with the Wounded Warrior Track and Field Team. In 2009, his involvement with the team went from bystander to participant. In 2010, he participated in the inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo. Pride won a silver and bronze medal.
He then moved to coaching, but did not have much experience. Pride watched and listened to Ottawa head track coach Tim Byers.
“His team respects and believes that style of coaching will work for him and his team,” Pride said. “What I learned for myself is to develop my style of coaching. Hopefully my team respects that and will work hard for me.
“Nine times out of 10 if they believe in what you are saying, they will work hard. That is kind of the way I was taught as an athlete. That is the way I will pursue it with my athletes.”
Byers, a Desert Storm veteran, jumped at the chance to meet and give coaching tips to Pride. The OU coach was contacted about the opportunity by Phil Vardiman, who is KU’s assistant professor/clinical coordinator in the department of health, sport and exercise science.
“It was a no brainer,” Byers said. “It is an honor. I am glad this could all work out.”
Byers told Pride his coaching philosophy.
“I explained in what I look for in our track athletes,” Byers said. “The biggest thing we want to do is teach. We want to help them be a better athlete. We are both on that same playing level.”
Pride, who worked with the Jayhawk men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball and rowing teams, said it was nice to get a different perspective from the Ottawa athletes.
“Here you have to depend on your coach,” he said. “Here is more of being taught how to execute.”
Pride explained he is dealing with several issues with the Wounded Warrior athletes.
“Not everyone’s injury is treating them the same,” Pride said. “You have to understand how to work with the different injuries and how to coach them up with that injury. It will be a work in progress.
“Some of them have not been out of their house. Some of them when they come out to compete that is the first time ever really showing their injuries to the world. We try to make them feel comfortable.”
Byers said the two coaches are working with different type of athletes.
I have mechanically-sound athletes with working limbs,” Byers said. “He may have to deal with two missing legs, an arm or an eye. Some of our kids are not perfect runners. I can’t make them a perfect runner. Whatever weaknesses they have, we can make them better.
“That is what he can do.”
Pride told the athletes about the Marines’ conditioning program and how each Marine needed to be disciplined in every part of their lives.
“I never thought my story meant anything to anybody,” Pride said. “Everybody has been all ears and eager to listen.”
Byers said, “He is talking about losing soldiers and comparing that to losing a race. It hits deep into the heart.
“The kids should be looking up to someone like this. A true American hero.”