Coaches Corner with Cross Country Coach Steve Keith

Nov. 16, 2007

Subscribe to Commodore Nation magazine / View Archived Issues

A member of the Vanderbilt cross country and track and field teams from 1977-81, Steve Keith returned to his alma mater in 2006.

You went to school at Vanderbilt, how did you get into running cross country and track while in school? When I came down to school at Vanderbilt, I saw a sign walking down to the post office in Sarratt (Student Center) that said, “Come out and run track,” and I did. I ran track and a couple of years of cross country here, and that kind of got my interest going in that specific area of athletics.

What type of student-athletes usually compete in cross country? I think the sport is kind of like swimming where the sport is so repetitive. It is not for everyone, but it seems to attract a certain kind of personality and fortunately for me, that personality usually includes kids that do well in school and manage their time well.

How did you get into coaching? When I graduated, while all my friends went on to business school and law school, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Teaching was something that I wanted to look into, so I went to grad school at Emory University with that in mind. I inquired with the track coach at Emory whether they needed any help. The coach told me that they needed some graduate students to coach, so I started coaching.

What is the best advice a coach ever gave you? “What you do in practice is what you will do in a game.”–former soccer coach Ray Beckman, who is in the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame and St. Louis Fire Fighters Hall of Fame.

What is one of the challenges with coaching cross country? One of my main concerns is holding back. I don’t have to motivate these kids because they are driven in the classroom, and they are driven in running. I just have to know when to hold back in order to get them rested and make sure that their legs are good for the big competition. If I asked them to run through a wall, they would do it. My punishment to them is to not let them run.