Ed Eyestone: The transformation from athlete to coach

Track and field coach Ed Eyestone talks with runners at the 2013 Autumn Classic (Jaren Wilkey)
Track and field coach Ed Eyestone talks with runners at the 2013 Autumn Classic. (Jaren Wilkey)

Ed Eyestone always knew he wanted to be a runner.

As a two-time Olympian, a former BYU Cougar and now the head coach of the men’s and women’s track and field program at BYU, Eyestone recognized his passion for running early on and decided to center his life around it.

“I have an absolute love and drive for running,” Eyestone said. “I always wanting to better understand what it takes to perform my best in any situation.”

BYU has been a second home for Eyestone for many years. It all started in his early high school days, when he developed an aspiration to become a D-1 collegiate athlete. Eyestone began his running career in 1974 at the age of 13 and has kept that admiration for running throughout those 40 years. The only break Eyestone had from his running routine was a two-year LDS mission in Portugal. Once the mission came to an end, he continued his running career with determination and passion.

Eyestone has maintained his passion over the years, leading him to succeed in many areas of his life. Within his running career, he participated in two Olympics; won four NCAA championships; won 10 All-American awards, one world track championship and nine World Cross Country Championships; and set a collegiate record in the 10,000-meter race. On top of amazing track accomplishments, he also continued his success elsewhere. From American road races to family reunions, Eyestone understood his own personal intentions.

Eyestone competed at the professional level for about 15 years. Furthermore, Eyestone was almost 40 when he reached the peak of his running career. Reebok sponsored him during his professional years, which continued to support his financial stability throughout his many seasons.

“It was my life,” Eyestone said.

Eyestone prolonged his love for running when he applied for the position to coach the BYU men’s cross country team. Since his collegiate years, all he can remember is wanting to coach. He rechannelled his enthusiasm and purpose from being an individual runner to becoming the coach of many runners. Because Eyestone had been a BYU runner before, he believed he could create this bond with the athletes. Alongside his love for running came the love he has for the runners he coaches.

“I think there are a lot of coaches who can get in the trap of making their athletes do certain things, but he respects our agency and lets us do what we want,” said BYU athlete Shaquille Walker. “He really lets us choose how good we want to be by creating this bond between the athlete and coach — that’s what makes him extremely great.”

Eyestone wants his athletes to feel comfortable with his coaching methods, but more importantly he wants them to acknowledge how important it is for them to adore what they do and not just go through the motions.

“I look up to him,” Walker said. “I trust him, and that’s what makes him a good coach.”

Eyestone strives to create a relationship with all his athletes. As track and field head coach, he wants all his athletes to feel compassionate about the sport they participate and compete in. He had the benefit of being trained by a highly intelligent and constructive coaching staff while running for BYU. These were the men Eyestone looked up to and received much of his running inspiration from. The BYU athletes under Eyestone’s instruction now look to him as the inspiration, much like he looked to his coaches during his collegiate career.

“I personally think he is an absolutely amazing coach because he doesn’t even coach my specific event but still knows my name, my stats, my potential as a BYU athlete,” 400-meter hurdler Kaylee Packham said. “He continues to help me form goals around my running career as well as my individual life.”

BYU sprints and hurdle coach Kyle Grossarth believes Eyestone connects with all his athletes on a personal level and gains respect from that.

The atmosphere Eyestone has created for the BYU track and field program is something special. He accomplishes the goals he sets for the team and remains humble about his accolades. Eyestone is a running legend at BYU, but most importantly he made BYU a legend because of his running. Eyestone transformed from being an image for BYU to creating an image for BYU.

“I look up to Coach (Eyestone) because he is patient and he’s just a good guy who cares more about us, who we are, and what we want to achieve besides running,” track athlete Sean Adams said. “I think those are the main reasons why I look up to him a lot.”

Ed Eyestone is a coach who understands his athletes because he was the all-around athlete.

“Coach inspires us daily just because he’s coach, but most importantly because he was an athlete who can now connect with his athletes,” Walker said.

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