Name: Britten Olinger
Position: Assistant Coach — Sprints and Jumps at Montreat College (NAIA)
Past Positions: Head Cross Country/Track & Field Coach at Eastern Mennonite University
Assistant Coach at University of Virginia-Wise
Assistant Coach at Patrick Henry HS and Abingdon HS
Education: BA in History from University of Virginia-Wise
Master’s in Sports Management from Lasell College
Athletic: Ran 2 years of Cross Country and Track at UVA-Wise
Coach Britten Olinger (known to his athletes as “Coach O”) has an incredible, inspiring story. In 2017, he was nearly killed by a reckless driver who blew through a red light at 120 mph. Today, he has overcome the odds to resume his coaching duties at Montreat College.
1. How did you know you wanted to get into coaching?
My first year out of college, I volunteered at my high school during track season. That spring, I fell in love with coaching and being a part of young peoples lives–even if I was just a blip. I knew that the level or pay didn’t matter to me; this was something I wanted to be a part of.
2. How did you get connected with your first coaching gig, and where did it take you after that?
During my first two years of college, I volunteered with my high school team. After graduating, I was brought on as an assistant coach for my college’s cross country team. You learn a lot when given that much responsibility!
From there, a guy who I ran against in high school and I took over a strong high school program.
3. Talk a bit about the accident and how that’s changed your role at Montreat.
I’m considered much more of an assistant coach. Before the accident I was the head Track and Field coach, but because of the accident, we have had to change the rolls around. I hope to become strong enough to resume my role.
The accident has really changed the way I communicate with my athletes. Now, I have to really verbally communicate, because I am no longer able to physically show them.
There are things we have to take into consideration, like transportation to meets, the accessibility of the track, weather, overnight hotels–logistics like that have to be considered now. It’s all a learning experience right now.
4. What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring coaches?
Get involved through volunteering, and don’t worry about the level. Every level and position has valuable knowledge, so don’t feel you are above it.
Be willing to actually listen to your athletes. They say more than how they physically feel, and these things are way more valuable and important to them.