MURFREESBORO — Anyone who meets Oakland track coach Al Evans can clearly see he cares for his students. What’s also obvious is that he’s a humble man who choses to motivate his athletes with quietly spoken but supportive instructions.
“Two-forty-one, two-forty-two, two-forty-three … If you don’t know your time, you didn’t run it!” Coach Evans says to encourage his student-athletes at a recent practice.
Evans found out last week he’s been named the 2012-2013 Tennessee Boys Track Coach of the Year. But don’t ask him what he did to earn the honor; he’s much too modest to say, even though his team placed second in the state last spring and included a stable of what he describes as “thoroughbreds.” All he knows, he said, is that the award is given after input from TSSAA assistant directors and some principals and coaches from around the state.
“Sometimes it may be based on what a team has done or where they’ve gone, or in some cases, it may be where a coach takes a look at the whole picture,” Evans said. “It’s not necessarily always about the best runners. It may be about what you do with every kid.”
Evans has been a track and field coach for the past 34 years. He started at Ezell-Harding Christian School in Nashville where he coached for more than a decade. He then coached at LaVergne High School for 21 years. For the past two years, he’s coached at Oakland after being hired by Principal Bill Spurlock.
“We are very happy for Al,” Spurlock said. “He epitomizes everything that you look for in a coach. He has a strong work ethic, he is a student of his sport, and most of all he cares about his players.”
True to his nature, Evans is quick to share credit with his assistant coach.
“Mark Stevens is my throwing coach and he has definitely made an impact at LaVergne and Oakland,” Evans said.
Evans’ mission is to work with every student regardless of their initial skill level and to get their parents involved, he said.
“I always like to have a success story with someone whose probably not the top runner. I’ve had a couple of runners that it’s been very challenging but I’m goal oriented. Everyone can have a goal,” Evans said. “The toughest thing probably is to get them to believe in themselves.”
Evans said he is honored and surprised by the state award. In the past, he has been named the top coach in the county but never at the state level. The TSSAA will next submit the names of all coaches of the year to the National Federation of High School Associations for an opportunity to earn an award for the southeastern region.
In the meantime, Evans said he will focus on the upcoming season and helping his students be the best in the Tennessee.
“I will sleep easy when the team is No. 1 not No. 2,” he joked.