A First Practice

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"The Last Lecture" is a book that has become an academic series where a person of influence associated with education is asked the question, "What wisdom would you want to impart on the world if you knew it was your last chance?" These talks are thought provoking to say the least, both for those providing the talk and those listening. My college track and field coach, Al Carius, gave his "Last Lecture" in 2013. He just finished his 53rd year as the head cross country coach with his team's third straight NCAA championship. Giving your "Last Lecture" is not something that means you need to be at the end of your career, but it is one that is asked of people who have made a difference in many people's lives through teaching, coaching or mentoring.

Before I accepted the head track and field coaching position this summer at Luther, I reached out to Al and asked for any wisdom or guidance he would be willing to share. I did this because he made a positive impact on my life and has helped shape my coaching philosophy as well as my desire to coach student-athletes.

I have had the privilege of a coaching career that involves schools with track and field legacies—from North Central College and the University of Chicago, and now Luther College. Each school has a rich history of track and field programs at great levels. Our conference just had a name change so I have the privilege of being the first head track and field coach at Luther College in the American Rivers Conference. If you look back at the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference history though, you will see that Luther emerged with the most men's team championships across all sports with a resounding lead in cross country and track and field championships. Across women's sports Luther was second for total team championships.

When I first walked around the indoor track, I spent time looking at the school records and the name(s) beside them. I wanted to know the history of the program so that I could be proud to captain this next phase of history we are about to create. When I show recruits around I talk about our history but remind them they are the future.

As I think about the countless athletes that Luther has impacted for the better, I get excited about the future and how I get to see it firsthand. If you ask my coach what he thought his "Last Lecture" would have been about when he first started coaching, he would mention something about how he took the job so that he could keep training as a runner. I think about this so that I can be aware of the past but have a focus towards the future. With cross-country season wrapped up it is officially track and field season!

I don’t think I need to prepare a "Last Lecture" just yet, but am so excited I get to prepare "A First Practice" with Luther track and field.

Stephen Fleagle

Stephen Fleagle

Stephen Fleagle, head track and field coach, is in his first year of coaching at Luther. He takes over the Norse track programs after serving as an assistant at the University of Chicago since 2012. While at the University of Chicago he helped coach 11 athletes and seven relays to 31 NCAA national meet appearances that led to 10 All-American honors. Fleagle is a 2008 graduate of North Central College.

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