Interview: Outgoing USC Upstate coach Jimmy Stephens

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What made you decide to resign at USC Upstate?
There were several reasons.  The primary reason is that I want to spend more time with my one- and two- year old sons.  Coaching makes it tough when you leave the house at 7 a.m. and get home at 7 p.m.   Not having a facility made things really tough.  Our window to train was severely limited and we had to maximize our time at the track.  The other primary reason is that I was tired.  Any track and field/cross country coach at any level will tell you that to maintain your "edge" you must pace yourself.   Track and field / cross country provides so many challenges and the season is so long, if you go out fast, it will beat you down.  Unfortunately, when you start a program from scratch, you have to set a strong pace to be able to compete.  I experienced the same feeling late in my career at Wofford after starting that program.  I was able to move into another situation at Alabama which rejuvenated me.  It is a hard pace and a long season(s).   

Did you encounter any challenges at the university as a coach?
Oh yes!  Starting from scratch, you are always battling; battling for a bigger budget, scholarship money, a facility, etc., etc., etc.… Unfortunately in our sport we are always battling at every level and at any school.  Rarely are track and field / cross country coaches allowed to just coach. This is part of the challenge and you must have your eyes open going into any situation.  You are never just a coach.  

Do you feel you achieved the goals you wanted?
All but one… My primary goal was to make our team a contender in the Atlantic Sun and to have athletes in a position to go to nationals.  We are there. The goal I did not achieve was getting a facility built.  When I took the job the economy was great… then not… that was the biggest factor in not being able to make it happen.   Hopefully it will happen soon.  

What plans do you have for the future?
I am going to be timing track and field, cross country and road racing events fulltime.  I have been doing it on the side for 25 years.  Now, I am going to push forward and make it a career.  Automated Timing Solutions – .   (Site will be up soon) We are going hard out of the shoot… The Eye Opener is our first event.  2,400 athletes….

Where do you see the Upstate program going in the future?
I think there is a good foundation.  A lot depends on who they hire and the support the program is given to the program by the administration.  I think it could be an amazing school for track and field and cross country. We have a great group of athletes and the future could be very bright.  

Do you see yourself going back to coaching?
Honestly, I do not know…  

Do you plan to stay involved in the sport?
Absolutely!   Track and field and cross country gets in your blood.   I love the sport and the life that I have built by being involved in it.  The timing aspect does allow me to stay very involved and able to contribute to the growth of the sport.  I will be in the sport the rest of my life.  

How did the team react when you told them of your decision?
I think I took it harder than them… HaHa.  It is tough but they all understand.  It is tough because as a coach you grow to love your athletes and have a special bond with them.  I will miss them.  

What kind of feedback did you hear from the community of cross country and track and field upon the announcement?
Most were surprised… I took the job thinking it would be where I retire.  All of a sudden, two little guys show up at my house and things change.  Life is good!