By MELANIE BRIDGE
At the NCAA Indoor Track National Championships, the U.S. Track Coaches Association named BYU’s women’s track coach Craig Poole the national coach of the year.
For a coach who has never won a national championship, it was a great honor.
Yet, sprinter Windy Jorgensen said when asked about it Poole bowed his head, got humble and said he owed it all to his assistant coaches and the team.
“Really the award is because of his coaching, he is great,” Jorgensen said.
The entire team echoes that sentiment. Part of the reason the team members feel they have succeeded is because of Poole’s coaching ability.
“He’s awesome, and he knows exactly what he’s talking about,” sprinter Angie Poulsen said. “I just take his word for it and do what he wants because I know he knows.”
“Probably in my coaching experience, I don’t know that I’ve seen a coach that has more knowledge overall of track and field than (Poole),” said assistant coach Richard Legas.
Not only does Poole have a great overall knowledge of the sport, but he knows the specifics of each event and sees the little things that no one else notices. On Sundays after a meet, he watches the races and analyzes them, Jorgensen said. He loves what he does.
Poole also knows when to take charge and when to delegate, Legas said. He has gathered a coaching staff that works well together, and he lets the other coaches supervise their individual areas.
Some of the team members came to BYU because of Poole’s commitment to them. Heptathlete Marsha Mark chose BYU because Poole saw her talent before she broke the Trinidad javelin record while at Ricks.
Jorgensen ended up at BYU for many reasons, but one of them was Poole. He stuck with her and believed she still had potential, even though she did not improve during her senior year in high school, Jorgensen said.
Many of the Cougars could tell similar stories about Poole, but they all add up to one thing: his eye for talent.
“(Poole) has great ability to see talent, and he’s gone out and worked hard to recruit that talent and get them here to BYU,” Legas said.
“Poole is always there believing in you,” Jorgensen said, “but he makes you work hard. He knows what you are capable of, and he makes you work to achieve it. He lets you know what he expects.”
“In spite of all the hard work, Poole also makes track fun and he’s a great friend,” said jumper Marian Clayton. “He helps you and it’s fun just to talk to him.”
At practice Poole can be found watching several events at once. He measures steps for the hurdlers while timing the sprinters and watching the high jumpers’ technique. Even when he’s busy, Poole takes time for any of his athletes who come to him with questions or problems.
All of these traits add up to a very successful coaching career. Poole began coaching track at BYU 17 years ago. During those years, BYU has won every WAC outdoor title and six of the seven WAC indoor titles. Before BYU joined the WAC in 1990, they won every AIAW Region VII and HCAC title.
In the conference, the Cougars are almost always assured an easy win, but competing at the national level is a little more challenging. For indoor track, Poole led his team to a seventh-place finish in 1982-83 and a 10th-place finish this year. During the outdoor season, the Cougars have been more successful. They finished in the top ten in 1982, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1992.
Besides coaching, Poole is responsible for sports psychology at BYU. He has an Ed.D. in physical education and educational administration from the University of Utah. Poole is married to Sharon Woodland. They have one son and three daughters.