Meet Philip Simmons Coach Josh Michael

Josh Michael talks to scrunners about the 2022 cross country season and his coaching journey.

Name: Josh Michael
Years coached: Philip Simmons High School 4 (2019-Present)

How and why did you get involved with coaching?
In High School I had the opportunity to be coached by my dad. This experience was formational for me as an athlete, but also as a young man. I then had the privilege of running in college for Coach Jones at Salisbury University in Maryland.  Both my father and Coach Jones were fantastic about coaching the whole person, not just the runner. I owe a lot of who I am today to these two men.  Prior to coaching I was an Athletic Trainer and Athletic Director. I learned a tremendous deal in these roles just by watching other coaches and picking up bits and pieces along the way. When my family moved to SC I had the opportunity to take on the XC program at Philip Simmons and was thrilled to step into the role at such a young school and be able to put my program into place. 

Did you run or compete in hs or college? If so, how did this experience help now as a coach?
I ran at Owen J. Roberts High School (01-05) and Salisbury University (05-09). Those eight years of competitive running was monumental in forming my own coaching philosophy. As I  said, I had some spectacular role models as coaches, but I also had some really great teammates along the way. Many of my college teammates are involved in the coaching world at different levels.  Without a doubt, the teammates and coaches I had along the way helped me become the coach I am today.

How did it feel for you at the day of the state championships to have your team win a state title?
Some of these girls have been working toward this goal for the past 5 years. They have improved  each year, but the ultimate goal of State Champion seemed to be just out of reach.  Knowing the countless hours that they had put in and the dedication and sacrifices they made this year, when we heard Philip Simmons it was a blend of elation and relief. Team State Champion was the one elusive accomplishment I didn't have the opportunity to achieve during my time as an athlete, and we have earned 3 runner-up finishes between the boys and girls programs. Looking back on the day, my memories are pure joy.

What steps did you take to prepare for the state meet yourself and your runners?
We started our prep in June. Our girls were so focused on winning the State Meet. We are a very process driven program and we continue to make tweaks to the process until we finally reach the end goal.  Sometime Mid-July I realized that not only were we talented, but we were deep, and incredibly focused.  As we entered the post season portion of our season, we started to see the girls realize how close they were to achieving the goal. As coaches we didn't have to do a whole lot to focus them, rather we had to distract them and keep them loose and ready to race!

What was your main focus throughout the season?
Enjoy it and compete. I say it before every race before we ever get off the bus.  We are here to compete. Although we train through a large portion of the early season, I make sure that we we show up to a race we are ready to compete. One thing that I struggle with as a coach is remembering to enjoy the journey, sometimes we are so focused on the outcome at the end, that we forget to enjoy the ride. It may sound tacky, but I always want to make sure they don't forget to celebrate themselves along the way.

How many hours a week would you spend training your team?
Early season our practices last about two hours and get shorter as the season goes along. Most weekend practices are captain led or just runs on their own.

What is your favorite memory from practices?
Just building relationships and seeing the kids grow together and create lifelong friendships. Also, tea time.

How was the team chemistry throughout the season?
We run our program so that the boys and girls teams do almost everything together, it truly helps us feel like we are a family. We are in an incredibly tight knit group. We have 7th thru 12th graders and three separate schools making up our team, but they are constantly together and creating bonds that go beyond just being teammates. 

What do you say to your runners before a race?
Some version of trust your training, have fun, and compete. Its rare that I have too much to say on the line before they race. 

if you could give a statement to others striving for a state title, what would it be?
Develop a process that you believe in and do not waiver from that. Specific implementation of the process can vary from athlete to athlete, but your principles should remain consistent.

What's it like on the course for you during the state championship races?
Coaching in meets is difficult, there is little to nothing that we can change once the gun goes off. I am there to support and cheer at as many places as possible on the course. My goal is to see as many of them as I can in as many places as possible. 

What is the most challenging part of being a coach? How do you work around it?
Time management. My wife and children will always come first, and I want the same for my assistant coaches and athletes. Trying to get the most out of the little time we have together as a team becomes our priority, we try to have very little wasted time once practice starts.

What do you find most satisfying about being a coach?
Watching the growth of each of my athletes, both on the course and off the course. Seeing an athlete set goals, achieve them, set new ones, and repeat is one of my favorite things to see. 

Overall, where do you see the sports going in S.C. in the future? What will it take to achieve this?
There definitely seems to be a positive trend in participation and success in the sport. I haven't been around here that long, but I think there are a lot of coaches doing a lot of really great things. I imagine we would see a correlation between rising participation followed by increased success.

What does it mean to be named coach of the year?
It is a really great honor, but this is definitely a team award. I have two amazing assistant coaches, Emma Santor and Michelle Santor who are incredible supporters of me and the kids. I also have an incredible group of athletes and their parents who are fully bought into the Philip Simmons Cross Country program!

What's the next step as a team?
November of 2023