Jeff Brady isn’t new to track and cross-country by any means. He ran in high school and during college at Bellevue Community College. His biggest source of experience may comes from coaching the sport at the Tahoma School District for over 25 years.
“It was a great experience for me, so becoming a teacher was because of that,” Brady said.
Tahoma School District Spokesman Kevin Patterson said Brady is a staff member who makes his district proud, and that he’s really helped build a successful culture and champion team at Tahoma High School.
“I wouldn’t say that. I would say we have continued growth,” Brady said. “We’ve always been focused on giving kids a great experience. With that we’ve had lots of numbers and lots of kids throughout the years. Every year we get a group of kids coming in they raise the bar for the next group. That bar has continued to raise not just with the kids but with the coaches. The coaches challenge each other.”
Despite his modest approach to his team’s achievements, Brady was honored by the U.S. Track and Field, and Cross Country Association as the Girls’ High School Coach of the Year for the state of Washington. This is the second time Brady has won the award. He earned the title in 2018 as well.
“This honor is based upon the performance of the Tahoma High School team throughout the 2019 season and is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the student athletes, the coaching staff and the administration of the school,” a letter from the association to Brady said.
The U.S. Track and Field, and Cross Country Association in a nonprofit professional organization representing over 9,000 coaching members who are associated with the NCAA track and field, and cross country coaches associations.
“The (association) serves as an advocate for cross country, and track and field coaches, providing a leadership structure to assist the needs of a diverse membership, serving as a lobbyist for coaches’ insterests and working as a liaison between the various stakeholders in the sports of cross country, and track and field,” the letter stated.
The work Brady and the coaching staff put in, for not a lot of extra pay, would be strenuous to many. The Tahoma High School track and field team is starting the 2019-20 year with 111 students. The cross country team is starting with 150.
“It takes a lot of strategy to make sure each student gets one-on-one time and good coaching,” Brady said. “I’m not the same coach I was 25 years ago. I have had to learn a lot.”
One of the biggest changes Brady made was learning how to be more constructive and less critical. Instead of focusing so much on making sure every team member was running a certain distance or a certain pace, he began focusing on how each individual is doing.
“I used to see it more with the distance kids,” Brady said. “I used to get frustrated and blame the kid. Now I think ‘what can I do to help?’ I want to help them with their techniques more than just yelling ‘run faster!’”
Brady said watching students who may have been afraid to try out a sport succeed in personal ways during track practice or at meets is why he loves coaching.
“I love that this is a no-cut sport,” Brady said. “Some students are fantastic athletes and some are doing it and beating their personal bests each time. Some of these students have evolved into the best of the state. That’s why this is a program award. They say its the head coach but it’s the staff, it’s the kids, it’s the parents … everyone as a team contributes to that.”
Tahoma has the best track athletes in the state. Last season Tahoma girl’s track too the state championship in the 100-meter race. The Tahoma team has taken home state titles three years in a row.