Coaches Corner with John Mackey

12/15/2021 / Posted by Staff

Give us a background of how you got into coaching XC and/or Track & Field. My first teaching/coaching job was with the Corning Bobcats in 1985. At that time Corning was one of the few schools around the area to have a track. Consequently they hosted a meet nearly every week. I volunteered my help because I had a background in high jumping from my high school days. I enjoyed the atmosphere around the track as kids could instantly measure their success or failure with weekly results. When I moved to Mansfield in 1988 I coached football and basketball full time. The track program was small but in good hands with the current staff. There wasn’t an opportunity to help in that area until several years later. In 1999, the position of head girls track coached opened. I wanted to get back into the track and field game. The idea of coaching multiple events that have measurable results challenged my teaching skills. I accepted the position and have enjoyed the connection ever since. What inspires you to continue coaching the sport? I tell the kids all the time it doesn’t matter to me if they finish 1st or 101st so long as they are getting better. They are competing against themselves. I really enjoy when track athletes set a goal and achieve it. The thrill of a player running a second faster, jumping an inch higher, or throwing further gives me enjoyment. Give us a memory that has stuck with you through the years. There are several memories that stand out. Winning the first state title in 2007, winning every district track event in 2010, hauling our own high jump pit to an away meet in 2006 because the host wasn’t going to conduct the event, and having my Mom witness every state championship before she passed are all memories that go through my mind periodically. However, the story of 2011 haunts me still. What differences have you seen in the program since you've been HC? When I took over the track program at Mansfield there was no track and no field equipment. We ran on the road next to the WPA rock gym and along the edge of the football field next to Highway 71. With some convincing, the superintendent agreed to fund an asphalt runway at the end of the football field. We dug a sand pit at one end for long jump practice and placed a pole vault box at the other. We washed cars to buy giant cargo nets and a set of used standards. We filled the nets with donated foam for a homemade pole vault pit and high jump pit. We bought 1 pole, and 1 implement each for shot and discus. As our teams began having success it wasn’t long before a new high school and track stadium was built in 2004. We began hosting meets bargaining visiting coaches into working events instead of paying entry fees. Most of our school employees and volunteers had never been to a track meet let alone knew how to run one. Eventually our track graduates and their fans steadily returned home to take ownership of the program and help produce well managed meets to this day. What's your take on the direction of High School XC and/or Track & Field in Arkansas? It seems to me Arkansas high school track has embraced technology and science based coaching. When I started teaching, track techniques were explained through books with stick figures. The coaching was done mostly through the coach’s eyes. Now, ipads and Youtube videos do amazing things. Coaches are willing to share through technology to make athletes better and better, and for coaches to get smarter and smarter. I think the younger coaches are not afraid to try new things while adding to the lessons learned from their older contemporaries. Nutrition and the science of sport are producing bigger and better results. Arkansas high school track and cross country both have embraced these new ideas and methodology. It’s providing so many more opportunities for our student-athletes. I believe the direction of our in-state talent is on the rise because of this. Championships Track tenure: 1999 - present Outdoor State - 5 state championships, 1 state runner-up, 15 state Top-10 Indoor State - 7 state championships, 2 state runner-ups, 16 state Top-10 Conference - 15 conference championships, 6 conference runner-ups Cross Country tenure: 2015-present State - 1 state runner-up, 6 state Top-10 Conference - 5 conference championships Athlete Accomplishments 2 State Heptathlon Champions 54 All-State Outdoor athletes 60 All-State Indoor athletes 42 Meet of Champions qualifiers 236 All-District track athletes 25 All-District cross country athletes 2 All-State cross country athletes 4 College athletes Coaching Accomplishments 2 AHSCA Female Track Coach of the Year (2007 & 2014) 1 Lowell Manning Female Track Program of the Year (2010) 15 Conference Track Coach of the Year 5 Conference Cross Country Coach of the Year Years Coaching 36 total years of coaching (1985-present) Experience includes - Track 25 years, Basketball 26 years, Football 21 years, Athletic Director 12 years, Cross Country 6 years, Golf 2 years, Tennis 1 year.

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