Since this interview, Coach Davis has been tabbed to serve as Bridgewater College’s new Director of Track and Field and Cross Country. Congratulations, Coach!
Name: Coach Denver Davis
Current coaching position: UPDATE: Director of Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field at Bridgewater College (Va.) (At Bridgewater for 8 years)
Past coaching positions: Associate Head Coach for Boys and Girls Cross Country and Track & Field at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, VA (5 years)
Education/Certifications: B.A. in history from the University of Lynchburg (2005)
M.A. in history from George Mason University (2009)
USATF Level 1 & USTFCCCA Jumps Specialist Certificate
Personal Athletic Accomplishments: A member of 10 Team Championships in the ODAC with University of Lynchburg. Indoor Track & Field 1st Team All-ODAC (2005). ODAC All-Academic (2004, 2005). 1st Team All-District in outdoor track at Lake Braddock (2001).
Top Coaching Achievement:
“I had the privilege of coaching 3-Time NCAA DIII National Champion, Amber Celen. She won titles at the 2017 Indoor and Outdoor Championships (60m, 200m indoors and 100m outdoors). She left college an 11-time NCAA DIII All-American, National Athlete of the Year, NCAA Elite 90 award winner, 3 time CoSIDA Academic All-American, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It was quite a journey, one I’m grateful for and one I’ll never forget!
“Second, creating a winning program at Bridgewater through getting our athletes to buy in and believe in themselves. Helping athletes gain confidence, improve their skills, learn to work hard, learn to earn their performances, learn to support each other, and climb the mountain together is a major accomplishment in my mind, and ultimately what my job is all about.”
1. How did you know you wanted to get into coaching?
I didn’t. I had never considered coaching as a career option.
2. How did you get connected with your first coaching gig?
I went home to work for my family’s property management company while figuring out what to do after having been rejected from all the grad schools I initially applied to at the end of college. In the course of running after work most days, I ran into my old high school cross country team and coach (Mike Mangan, who is still at Lake Braddock) a handful of times that fall, and eventually he asked me if I was interested in coaching indoor track. I needed some money, figured it could be fun, and I really missed being around a team. That was the fall of 2005. I never looked for another career path after that first season of coaching high school, I knew that was it and that coaching was what I would make my life.
I moved into the college ranks in the fall of 2010 when my college teammate and long time friend Brian Flynn accepted the head cross country coaching position at Bridgewater College. He called me up and offered me a volunteer position that first season, with the possibility of coming on part-time during track, as the jumps coach. I took a BIG chance, moved, had no job for the first three and half-months I lived in the valley, lived on my savings, until I got a teaching job at a local private special needs school, and made it work. Bridgewater brought me on full-time in 2015-2016. It was a 10 year journey to becoming a full-time collegiate coach, and worth every moment.
3. What is it like to hold your current position?
Busy! My current position is a lot of work, but rewarding in so many ways, and it’s fun, every single day. Some people say there is less to DIII athletics, “because it’s only DIII,” whatever that means. Any coaching job is what you ultimately make of it, and the harder you work, the more work you will do daily, and the more success you will see.
I work hard and wear multiple hats in my current position. I serve as the primary assistant for the cross country season, focusing my efforts with the women’s team, then switch gears during the track seasons and serve as the women’s sprints/hurdles coach, and men’s and women’s jumps coach. I am also the recruiting coordinator for all of our programs. I work with two-thirds of our team as a result during the course of the year.
Not to mention my administrative duties (travel coordination, meet hosting/management, social media, scheduling, leadership program), departmental secondary duties (athletic facilities liaison, game management) and my teaching requirements (two history courses annually).
It’s a full day every day, with a new challenge almost every day, or a new problem to solve. My time commitment is significant to my job and the position I’m in, but this is coaching, it is a lifestyle in many, many ways. I wouldn’t change it though, it’s my passion.
4. What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring coaches?
LEARN and stay HUMBLE.
My old track coach, Bob Digby, told me when I first started coaching, “everything I know, I stole, refined and made my own. Never think you know everything, you don’t.” It was his way of telling me to be humble, and always strive for more knowledge about my craft. That stuck with me and I’ve stayed true to that, and any new coach should heed that advice.
Take advice, seek advice, ask questions, read, attend professional development. Be humble, don’t talk about yourself all of the time, don’t make your coaching about you, make it about them (your athletes). The level of respect you’ll gain and the response from your athletes will soar, and in turn, they will buy in and get better.
Additionally, making yourself diversified in your knowledge and coaching experience and not pegging yourself into one event group will make you a better candidate for jobs in the long run. Realistically, any good head coach can effectively coach every event in track in some capacity. You never know when you’ll be called upon to work with an event group outside your expertise; after all, it’s how I became a jumps/sprints/hurdles coach after having a distance background, and without that willingness to learn and fill a need, I would not be where I am today.