Coaches Q & A with Tim Cummings of Riverside Military

When did you first become interested in Track and Field? 

I did every sport offered in high school, we were in the infant days of interscholastic athletics at Athens Christian, but what we had I did and it was all fun. 

Did you ever compete in Track scholastically, and if so where? 

We were just starting out in Track at ACS in the early days of the school, no hurdles or pole vault, with very limited competitions, but this was 45 years ago, I wasn't very good, but always had plenty of enthusiasm. I enjoyed Basketball more than anything else, and for a small school we weren't all that bad. 

What are your favorite memories from competing in Track and did you win any honors?

Being on the ground floor of a sports program, at the pioneer days of a school, where everything was new and unbroken ground, I think the  best honor received was a Varsity Letter, lol!

When did you decide to be a Track and Field coach?

 I was a 27 year old head Basketball coach and asst. Football and Track coach. Then tragedy struck, our Cross Country coach, Kent Kramer, a distance runner from Michigan, with 5 sons of his own in school, was killed in a car accident coming to XC practice. Kent was one of my best friends on the planet.. I had 6th and 7th grade daughters in the XC and Track programs and became the head XC and Track coach.  

Tell me everywhere you have coached and for how long? 

I coached in Stone Mountain for 3 years out of college, Athens Christian for 35 years and I am in my second year at Riverside Military Academy. 

Who has been your most profound influence in shaping your mindset and program? 

I have been so fortunate to have had many help me along the way. First off, I would say that my dad taught me a lot, and was a great girls coach for many years, teaching me the most important thing about coaching there is: 'We don't coach a Sport primarily, first and foremost we coach PEOPLE. I absorbed a lot of things from Cobern Kelly, who ran the YMCA when I was a kid. It was all caught, not really taught and it came back to me later.. I  worked many years in the Summer with Clarke Central head Football coach Billy Henderson, learning alot from him about keeping 'life things' in perspective'. I met his son-in-law, Grayson Coach Steve Brooks during that time and he remains one of my closest friends to this day. Coach Bill Thorn was always kind to share things with me, as well as Coach Keen from Jefferson (who we were in the same region with for years) but have learned all I can from the many unbelievably talented coaches we have in this state,  many of whom I learned by competing against them.  Coaches like Richard Patterson from Athens Academy, Hall of Famer Tomy Sitton, and Bob Roller from East Jackson, Hall of Famer Brady Sigler now at Jefferson, Roger Edmunds and Coach Stovall. I used to spend hours talking to Murray Sanford, when he would hire me to officiate collegiateTrack meets at Georgia Tech. Murray knew more about Track than any man I've ever met.. I grew up in Athens with Earl Fales who taught PE at UGA for decades and he taught me how to be a Starter and many other things about navigating life.  Aaron James, former UGA and Clemson Track coach, was on our staff for years and was a wealth of knowledge and of course, possibly my best friend in coaching. And there's the legend, and multi Hall of Famer,  Cook Holiday who still helps out at Winder-Barrow HS.

Have you coached any other Sports besides Track? 

I was a head Basketball Coach for 23 years, head Football coach for 9, and even coached Baseball for 2 seasons, a jack of many trades, but master of none.. 

If possible, what has been your best moment/memory as a Coach? 

I would have to say my favorite moment in coaching, was our first year in GHSA about 20 years ago. We were in the GISA for many years and decided to make the jump.. ACS won the GHSA State Championship in XC our first season in the league! We were tied with Wesleyan after the top 5 scored and our 6th runner beat theirs 6 by a few seconds for the win. 2 of my daughters, Cayla and Cassidy, were on that team. Tommy Gillibeau told us we were the first GISA school to win a state championship their first year in the GHSA. I got to coach my third daughter Cimber in several Region meets, one of those, we won on the last event at Jefferson, when our 4x4 came 'B' squad placed 5th to beat a great Commerce team by a point. My son Levi, was a multiple State Champion in the Pole Vault and ran hurdles and relays.  He was a part of ACS teams winning a State  title every year he was in high school (4 consecutive) Its hard to beat that memory, as well as watching him catch passes on Friday nights. Watching my daughter Cayla coach middle schoolers is a joy every time I see it, and  I think she is one of the best coaches in the state. Cayla has 72 MS kids out for Track from the 200 students from grades 5-8. However, the best memories are recalling the look in a kid's eye, when he or she did something special they were not expecting, it's hard to explain, but if you are a coach you know what I am talking about...

What are your favorite events to coach? 

Relays, but I love all of it, I think our 4 x 4 from ACS still holds the A Private state record at 3:20 and change. I've been fortunate to have had some great technical assistants, Track coaches who always made me look good as a head coach. Mike Fowler is the best hurdles coach I know, Dennis Whitfield is a phenomenal jumps coach, Sean Zuniga is great with distance runners as well as  Aaron James in the Vault and many more over the years. 

How different has the adjustment been, from coaching and living on the ACS campus for many years, to being at Riverside Military, and sometimes staying overnite in a dorm room? 

Well we were so blessed at ACS that it's hard to even describe. I will always say that in my coaching career I've been fortunate enough, to have kids that were so talented, they were able to overcome their coaching. I was at ACS for 35 years, but we had a change in Administration there and it seemed to me that they wanted to go in a different direction athletically and particularly Track wise. 

That's when the door at Riverside Military opened up, and it was appealing because they had the Indoor facility..It hadn't been used for Track for 30 years, but the folks there wanted to revive it. We've had Indoor meets there for 2 seasons now and I can't explain how much fun it's been. Our goal is to mondo the whole facility, and make some changes to it, so that hopefully GHSA will approve an official Indoor season. Gary Phillips told me before he left, that was something he wanted to do. It still remains the largest Indoor room without a beam inside in the state. 

Our administration at RMA is very supportive, particularly our President Colonel Gallagher, so that has been a welcome change. My role is different at RMA, I am also the Chaplain for the Corps, hundreds of boys, most without their parents around, so there is always ministry to do. I also teach AP Government so there is never a dull moment.  I am able to stay overnight anytime and it happens a lot, but I love these kids. I had always heard things about Military schools, but I can honestly say that these are some of the most respectful, coachable and appreciative kids I've ever been around, they are a joy to coach and I think that they have bought in to what we are trying to do. I have been fortunate in that our jumps coach and throws coaches (Coach Whitfield and Coach Brownlee) from ACS came with me, and I have Coach Brian Baize, Brandon Forrest and Zack Garrett here on campus helping me, so we are having a lot of fun.
Do you have any specific Goals for your team this Outdoor season?  

We would love to win the Region 8-A title again and dream of winning State. But A private is very competitive now, so the Lord would have to come along side us for us to have a chance, but it is a dream of ours. 

How much has Track changed since the advent of and now MileSplit GA? 

The kids are a little faster now and hand timing is virtually gone except for in the most rural parts of GA, and the work ethic in the whole country is different now, so you have to address that. But, kids are still kids.. It's different with Milesplit however, in days gone by you almost had to wait until they handed out the heat sheets at state to see if you had a chance, all that is in the rear view mirror now for years. 

What changes would you like to be made in the future for Georgia HS Track and Field? 

Would like to see an Indoor season and I really miss Jefferson, wish we could bring that back. It was a unique and special experience. Tommy Healon and those guys were great. I would like to see the Sectional gone for class A. It's really a waste of time and money, why not have prelims and finals at state for A like we all did for many years, but we'll play the cards dealt to us. 

If you could turn the clock back, would you do anything differently? 

Have more children, they were so much fun growing up! Otherwise I wouldn't change a thing, it's been indescribably fun and amazing.