Athlete to coach: Sumter's Timmons returns to alma mater

Sumter coach Rich Timmons talks about returning his alma mater. 

Full name: Richard P. Timmons
Date of birth: 1982
Hobbies: running, reading, watching baseball games
Event personal bests: 5:03-1600, 11:10-3200, 17:58-5000
Brothers/sisters: younger brother, Will
Career: Coaching
Major: Business Administration, Accounting, Public Administration
Interesting fact: I once at nine hamburgers after a cross country meet in high school.
scrunners: Can you recap your academic and athletic career prior to coaching?
timmons: I graduated from Sumter High in 2001 and subsequently attended the College of Charleston, where I completed my undergraduate degrees in 2005 and my graduate degree in Dec. 2008.  During my time at Sumter, I was a member of three state championship teams: 1996 cross country, 1999 track, and 2000 track. I began running track in seventh grade at Alice Drive Middle School and did that for two years before joining the high school team in ninth grade.  I joined the high school cross country team as an eighth grader and then walked on to the team at the College of Charleston during my junior year in the fall of 2003. 
scrunners: What made you decide to compete in the sport?
timmons: I had been doing occasional jogging/running at a young age and it seemed like a good sport to try out at the middle school level.     
scrunners: What made you decide to become a coach? 
timmons: My high school coaches (Al Dunn, Steve Robinson, and Carl Baker) had a heavy influence on my decision to become a coach.  Each of these coaches had a tremendous amount of success and just watching how they interacted with the athletes and the lengths they went to in helping the athletes in various ways, I was very drawn to it.  I hope I can have the same impact on others that they had on me.       
scrunners: Was there a key moment that made you become a coach?
timmons: I can't point to a specific moment.  My high school coaches gave me the initial interest in coaching and then I did some things in college with the intramural sports program and one summer with the track club in Mount Pleasant and that was probably what sealed the deal for me as far as wanting to become a coach. 
scrunners: Who do you go to for guidance in life and coaching? 
timmons: I don't know that I have a specific person I go to for guidance.  Of the coaches I mentioned above, none are the most easily accessible -- Coach Robinson actually passed away in 2003, coach Dunn was called to active duty a few years back and is serving in Japan, and coach Baker moved to another school district prior to my hiring as a coach.  One thing I do enjoy is attending any coaching education clinic/seminar that I am able to afford and fit into my schedule between seasons.  This allows me to learn things that helped make other coaches successful and it gives me a forum to bounce ideas off of other coaches in attendance.
scrunners: How long have you been coaching? 
timmons: This was my second year coaching.
scrunners: What have you learned from being a coach?
timmons: On a general level, I've learned a lot about how to better interact with others.  I am a bit of an introvert and that doesn't always work so well as a coach because I have to communicate with many different people -- students, athletes, other coaches, administrators, teachers, booster club members, etc. -- on a regular basis.  Although it should be a given, I've also been reminded that maintaining flexibility in my daily scheduling is very important because there are always things that pop up unexpectedly and you have to be prepared to deal with them. 
scrunners: What do you think it takes to be a coach?
timmons: There are many qualities that contribute to successful coaching, but the two most important for me right now are patience and being a student of the sport.  In coaching distance runners, sometimes you don't immediately see the fruits of your labor.  Depending on the experience of the athlete, it could take significant time to build up their aerobic base and you may not see meaningful results until a year or more down the line.  This can be frustrating for a coach if you don't keep it in perspective.  In an effort to improve my coaching, I also feel it's important to keep up with the current training research, theories, and ideas.
scrunners: How have you seen the sport at the high school level change since graduating high school?
timmons: In looking at the current performances and comparing to what I remember the performances to be when I was in high school, I feel that things are pretty much the same -- there have been several great athletes that came along and posted very strong marks on the top end, but the performances of that next group of athletes seem to be very similar.  I think the Internet has changed the landscape to some degree because athletes and coaches now have much more information at their fingertips than they did just eight years ago when I graduated.  Back then it seemed that they were just starting to get all of the bigger meet results posted online, but now you can search for and find most any type of track and field information you want to find.      
scrunners: What does it mean to you to be a coach where you competed?
timmons: This is a dream job for me.  Although I had thought about becoming a coach for several years, I never expected that I would be presented with the opportunity to be a head coach at Sumter High School at such a young age.  There's definitely a more meaningful connection to the school and a greater sense of satisfaction when good things happen because it means that I've played some small role in continuing the rich track and field tradition we have at Sumter.
scrunners: How long do you see yourself staying involved in the sport?
timmons: I hope to continue coaching for an extended period of time.  It's tough to place a timeframe on it because you never know what might happen in life, but I'm looking forward to spending several more years in this capacity.      
scrunners: Do you have any family members that are involved in the sport? 
timmons: No one in my family competes much or takes a real interest in the sport of track and field as a whole.  My dad is a recreational runner who may enter a road race once or twice a year.
scrunners: What has been your biggest challenge as a coach?
timmons: This track season has definitely been my biggest challenge because it was my first season as a head coach.  Looking back now, I don't feel that I had a full appreciation for all the things a head coach has to accomplish from an administrative standpoint.  As an assistant, I was able to focus mostly on coaching while helping with a few things here-and-there that the head coach needed help with.  As the head coach, I am the point person for everything related to the team, so it's been a tremendous, but fulfilling learning experience for me.
scrunners: When not coaching what do you do for enjoyment? 
timmons: During the season, I'm pretty focused on coaching so I don't give myself much time to do anything else.  If I'm out eating, it's probably with the coaching staff.  If I'm reading, it's most likely something about coaching.  Between seasons, I like to take time to visit some of my college buddies in various places. I've been to California and Hawaii to visit two of them. I also enjoy watching sporting events both on television and in person.
scrunners: What do you think needs to happen to continue to see the sports move forward in the state and in general? 
timmons: At the state level, I think a greater emphasis needs to be placed on getting kids involved at a younger age.  I attended some of the USATF Junior Olympic meets last summer and it was neat to see the young kids enjoying competing in the sport.  Unfortunately, though, most of these club teams are concentrated in a few cities around the state, so a lot of kids are missing out.  On a more general/global level, and this may be easier said than done, I feel that our sport governing bodies must take a more proactive approach in dealing with performance enhancing drugs because the image of the sport is on the line. 
scrunners: What is the one thing you would want to say to those that influenced your decisions in life relating to the sport?
timmons: Just a simple "thank you" for investing a portion of their life into developing my skills as a runner, helping me come to love the sport, and taking other steps (letters of recommendation, phone calls for potential internships/employers, etc.) that showed that they cared about more than just the running.
scrunners: Please explain the Team Timmons shirts.
timmons: A small group of our distance runners competed in some of the USATF track meets last summer and they wanted t-shirts to look somewhat unified.  They decided to call themselves "Team Timmons," I suppose because I was helping coach them a little bit.  So every now and then, you may see them walking around with those shirts on. I try to discourage them from wearing the shirts when they travel with the high school team because I think it could have the appearance that they want to be their own little team-within-the-team. 
scrunners: What do you see your team achieving at the state track and field meet?
timmons: Our boys team has the potential to achieve a top five finish at the state meet depending on how high the guys are able to finish in their respective events.  Roderick McDowell has his sights set on doing some great things in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and 4x100-meter relay, and then we also have a hurdler and an 800-meter runner.  With our girls team, we had an extremely tough day at the state qualifying meet and only had one girl advance in one event. We're looking for a solid result from her on Saturday.