Coach O’Grattan was recently hired for his first collegiate coaching position by an NAIA school called MidAmerica Nazarene University. He is currently working on his USTFCCCA Masters Certification in Cross Country.
Fun Fact: He holds the course record at the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica.
Name: Kevin O’Grattan
Current Position: Assistant Head XC/Distance Coach at MidAmerica Nazarene University (NAIA)
Most Recent Past Coaching Position: Head Coach Olathe West High School Cross Country 2017
Education/Certifications: MA Coaching and Athletic Administration Concordia University Irvine
USTFCCCA Certified Track & Field Coach (Program Management & Technical Track Certifications), Strength & Conditioning Certification, Endurance Specialist Certification
USATF Level 1 Coach and member of USATF Coaches Registry, RRCA Certified Coach, NFHS Certified Interscholastic Coach
Personal Athletic Accomplishments: Coach O’Grattan placed 3rd overall in the 2017 Hawk100 ultra. In 2014, he won a gold medal at the USATF Masters Indoor Pentathlon M30-34.
Top Coaching Achievement: During his first outdoor season as a college coach, Coach O’Grattan coached 3 NAIA All-Americans in the 2018 Women’s Marathon (4th, 5th, 6th)
1. How did you know you wanted to get into coaching?
I had no idea I would get into coaching; I never thought much about coaching as a job.
I spent my youth playing a variety of sports through the YMCA. Later, I transitioned to playing club soccer, but by the time I was in middle school, I realized I was not particularly talented. In high school I had moved my focus to bowling and band. I went off to college, where my major was mathematics education. While studying, I began to take up running for fitness.
2. How did you get connected with your first coaching gig?
After college, when I took my first teaching job, I continued running and started competing in local road races. I took an interest in cross country, which inspired me to attend a few meets. For those of you unaware, fan attendance at cross country meets is exceptionally low, so I was easily noticed by the head coach.
The head coach invited me to come onboard the following season as an assistant. I was reticent, as I felt my knowledge and experience was very low. She reassured me that if I would show up, she would guide me through the rest.
The decision to join the coaching staff is one that changed my life forever, and I will always feel indebted to Coach Helsel, who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time.
3. What is it like to hold your current position?
My current position is very challenging and exceptionally rewarding.
The collegiate system does not often hire coaches from outside of college, so getting to my current position took a lot of perseverance and faith. However, if you are willing to make the sacrifices necessary there are people who will give you a chance.
Coaching in college is a large change from teaching high school, in that the hours are long and the schedule is irregular. During competition season we are often working seven days a week with meets and travel. College recruiting is another new feature that requires constant attention throughout the year. Although these aspects are new challenges for me, they also provide new opportunity for growth, and learning. I enjoy the variety they add to my job.
One of the things I love most about coaching is the challenge of putting athletes in a position to be successful. We use the science of physical adaptation to guide the training we create, but how each individual responds to that training can very greatly. It is quite the art to tailor each athlete’s physical and mental training program so that your team can see improvements in performance across the board. That challenge has been true at all levels I have coached at, including some adults I have coached privately.
This is especially true as an NAIA distance coach, as I handle athletes from 800m through the Marathon, including the technical disciplines of steeple and race walk. Learning the demands of the race and constructing programs that develop the mental energy system demands accordingly is critical.
You also always have to account for time constraints with classes or work schedules. There is a lot to balance when putting it all together, but that challenge keeps the job fresh and exciting. I love coming to work everyday.
4. What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring coaches?
Across all sports, you will find a common thread among programs that are continually successful. Successful programs have developed a culture that fosters their success.
So often, new coaches feel like they have to find the perfect training program or perfect workout. Instead, spend time initially developing the right culture. Focus on getting your kids to want to be there, and have some fun while working. If you do this, you will be on the path to success.