Neisler hurdles to head coaching position
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The coaching duo composed of head coach Stu Shaver and assistant coach John Neisler developed a strong foundation for the girls track and field team over the past six years. This year roles will change, nevertheless the team’s ambitious goals will continue to define their season.
Five years ago the Girls Track team found itself in desperate need of a coach. Recently retired from his job as the state police captain with a strong affiliation with the school (four children having attended Uhigh) coach Shaver’s name circulated as a possible candidate.
“My daughter and her friends were juniors that year and her and her friends had no coach,” Shaver said. “Originally my intention was to be an assistant for Coach Hampton in cross country but I was asked by some of the kids (to coach track and field).”
That same year the math department had welcomed a young, new teacher who had running engraved into his lifestyle. Neisler entered the field of teaching with coaching in mind. Shaver and Neisler spent the next five years revamping the team.
“We spent a long time talking about how to set up and organize a track team. How to get kids out for track. How to set them up to be successful,” Shaver said.
Neisler recalls one of his favorite memories, showing that success is something the team has grown to be very familiar with.
“I really enjoyed winning our trophy in 2012 in cross country. That was the first trophy I really felt like I was involved in. It was the best finish in team history,” Neisler said.
Countless conference championships, two sectional championships, two state trophies and six years later Shaver decided to step down as head coach.
“The decision just made sense. I have aging parents who need attention, I have a grandson I love spending time with, and other things that need my time and attention,” Shaver said.
Because Neisler and Shaver have been able to work individually in the past, the position change will bring fewer modifications to the team and season than usually expected with such a transition.
“I think the only thing that might change, is that as disorganized as I am, I am very organized in laying out a season schedulewhat needs to be done where and why and I’m hoping that will make a change to how we prepare,” Neisler said.
Students are taking the switch with confidence.
“I think that Neisler is prepared and has a lot of good ideas as to how he wants to lead the team this year. But I’m excited Shaver is still part of the program,” senior sprinter Micayla Mathieson said.
Neisler has been the assistant for the distance group in previous years so hasn’t been able to collaborate as much with the sprinter side of the team. Mathieson is excited that he will now have the opportunity to crossover between groups. The benefits of the transition extends farther than just athletes, however.
“I don’t think I’ll miss the head coaching position. This is the best deal ever because I can come in, and I can coach, and I can go home. Everything I love about coaching is still here,” said Shaver.
Likewise, Neisler is excited to take on additional responsibilities and hopes to reap benefits from incorporating his coaching philosophy into the program more.
“My philosophy is I want to create an atmosphere where people enjoy it but I also want them to be competitive,” Neisler said. “Track is the kind of sport where it doesn’t matter if you finish first or last, you can always focus on improving yourself. Whether it’s place higher or run faster. If we can do that hopefully we can have kids that come out and want to be a part of it.”
The overpowering support Neisler has received in response to the change seems to foretell the excitement that the upcoming season will bring.
“He’s an outstanding coach, he’s very knowledgeable about track and field, and now he has six years of experience,” Shaver said. “He was born to do what he is going to do.”