Coaches Spotlight- Kelly Williams
How did you get involved with running/coaching?
I started running with my cousin Kim Eldredge when I first moved to Atlanta from Ohio. She was a great influence on me with various sports she exposed me to at such a young age. It's funny we both ended up being Physical Education teachers and coaches, matter of fact she currently coaches at Chapel Hill middle school and runs one of the middle school road runners programs.
When I first started teaching I saw a need at the elementary level to get kids active and involved. I started a youth running program in our community called Road Runners. That program encouraged kids to stay on track in the classroom, be disciplined in behavior, grades, and workouts, and encouraged families to become involved in the school, fitness, and nutrition. The program started in 1991 and is still going strong and has really had a impact on our community. It was my first real coaching experience as a teacher.
How did you get involved in opening Chapel Hill in 1999? How does it feel still being a part of the program all these years later, with all that the teams have accomplished?
In 1999 I was asked to come start up a new high school and program at Chapel Hill High. It was a honor to be asked and a lot of work. We had mandatory freshman and volunteer sophomores. We had 60 runners most brand new to XC. We had a lot of work to do and a building that was not finished until January of 2000. It was some of the hardest times but most rewarding. Everything was new and fun. The energy was magical and the community was so supportive. Some of the kids were some of my first Roadrunners from the elementary school many years ago. Since then Chapel hill has grown and expanded. We have moved from AA to AAAA then AAAAA now AAA. Next year we are going to AAAAA. So as you can see we have moved up and down the GHSA classifications list. We have had so many great runners and families come through the hill as we call it. Some of them have moved on to running in college, professionally, fighting for our country, coaching, or just living life. We have lost a few that impacted both myself and the many kids who called them friend. It’s been a humbling experience that God has taken me through and I am grateful for everything he has taught me and the wonderful families I call friends.
As for the accomplishments we have achieved here at the hill those were great, but it’s the family atmosphere and the love the kids have for one another that matters the most. Our kids to this day still come to see us at meets, come to practice sessions, talk to the kids, and most of all mentor them to be the best they can in all of life's adventures.
You teach, coach, AND work as a respiratory therapist at Piedmont Hospital. How do you find time to balance it all, and how does your job at the hospital inform your coaching/teaching and vice versa?
I have taught public school and coached for the last 21 years. What some people don't know is that I also work at Piedmont Hospital as a respiratory therapist. I have been doing respiratory for over 27 years. I originally wanted to be a doctor, but God had other plans for me. My love for kids and sports pulled me in one direction while my love for medicine in another. I decided to pursue both and see where God would take me. A lot of days I ask God are you sure about this and he always sends a messenger!! I work every weekend, usually an all night Friday shift, then head out to the meets early Saturday mornings. Some meets I just run around in my scrubs. I get some pretty interesting looks form people. I just smile and keep moving.
I think my knowledge of medicine really helps me to better understand what my athletes are going through and adjust the workouts to meet their needs. The heart and lungs are amazing when functioning through high demands of VO2 exchange and understanding how that works and the needs of the kids we have helps our staff do a better job. The funny thing is the kids really just want to hear all the latest and craziest emergency room stories!
I love working both fields. I like the energy of the kids and learning, but I love working in a high demanding field of emergency medicine and saving lives. It’s a crazy ride sometimes, but my ultimate goal is combining the two. I work a lot of camps Nike and Brevard where I get to be the medic and the coach at the same time. Eventually, I will retire and will work for a company teaching CPR and AED training.
Do you have a mentor that has had a big influence on your coaching?
My biggest influence in coaching was the people around me. My cousin Kim and her husband Todd helped me with their knowledge of running . The rest of my family pitched in and we made it a family event to build something special. Without my family I could have never achieved any of the things I have been able to do. I am so thankful for each and everyone one of them. The first year I went to camp I met Andrew Hudson and his wife and really learned a lot from them both. As the years past I just spent time with various coaches like Andy Christie, Tom Kutter, Jason Rakestraw, Dennison Strickland, Ted Wansley, Mark Benadict, Coach Roy Benson. Just to name a few. Then I hired a guy Ronnie Brown who helped me to expand my outlook and made me a much better coach. In the past few years Coach Alan Drosky has spent countless hours talking and answering questions to help me sharpen workouts. I think the key is no matter how good things are going it can always be better. One must be willing to listen and learn, even if you pick up one little thing it can make all the difference in the world to just one kid
What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the program from when you arrived at Chapel Hill to now?
I believe the biggest changes in our program have been the size of our team and the quality of our workouts. As the years have passed and more schools have opened up around us our school population has decreased by 1000 kids. Needless to say it changed our team from the 60 to 30 and the types of runners we are getting now are different. We seem to go with various waves of sprinters or distance. Currently we are low in numbers with girls distance runners but had great success with a freshman group of female sprinters. Our staff has also decreased, but the coaches we have are very specialized and perform at a high level. It is amazing to think how we have changed but still keep on striving to perform and make our trips to Carrollton, Albany, and Jefferson each year. We will always strive to perform with the best of our god given talent.
Can you explain about the youth running program you started in Douglasville?
In 1991 I started Douglas County Road Runners at Lithia Elementary school. I saw a need to get some of our most difficult students under some type of program where they could use their high energy levels and yet have some guidelines to perform in the classroom. I invited a couple of kids to stay after school, eat snacks, workout, and study. The guidelines where set up so they could come each week as long as they behaved and performed in the classroom. Before I knew it we had 125 kids each week, test scores were up, and we were getting ready for our first race. We won 34 of the 38 trophies at that race. Now the program is in all of the elementary schools and one middle school in our community. The kids now have a mandatory number of races they must run and school competitions. They can earn special awards including letters and jackets. To this day I never imagined how much a impact the program would have on our community. I no longer run the program, we have some great coaches that took it over Coach Soles, Coach Hughes, and Coach Eldredge have done a great job really taking it to another level.
How has XC and track changed in Georgia since you’ve been coaching?
Since I've been coaching I have seen a lot of changes in both XC and Track and Field. We have expanded our look on how to qualify for state in both avenues. We have seen sectionals come and go and maybe come again in XC. It used to be based on a time qualification or a top two finish at Regional's. In track we added wheel chair events. I was so excited to be a part of that... We have now gone to sectionals which has brought some growing pains, but I believe it has also made state championships more rewarding. Pole Vault for both genders is now occurring which did not happen 21 years ago. Various relays are being conducted at track meets. Still hoping for some of those to occur at the state level. Overall, some great things have changed during the years.
Your school has moved up and down in classifications during your coaching career. What difficulties or challenges has this presented?
We have moved up and down the GHSA classification list while I've been at the hill. At times we have competed with fewer kids and some disadvantages in our facilities, but we have never let that determine our fate. We have always set up our schedule throughout the season to compete against the best in order to be better or even the best. We do not lower our goals nor expectations to perform to the best of our capabilities or God given talent. Be humble, gracious, and let your feet do the talking not your mouths!
Moving forward, how do the XC/Track teams look for next year?
As for the future, only God knows what is in store for us all. I will continue to be a humble servant and try to give my best to the kids and ask the same from them in return. We have a great group of kids returning for the upcoming 2014-2015 season along with some very eager runners coming in. I hope our staff and the reputation of our program will encourage many young ladies and gentlemen to join us when the doors open at the hill in the fall