“If you’re going to be a good coach, you have to believe you’re really good, right? You have to balance humility with confidence. You have to believe you’re really good. And I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, but I believe I’m really good. And so, even then I did, even when I was uncertain, so I also did have this false sense of like, ‘Well, they’ve got to hear from me. I’ve got the answers. They’ve got to hear from me.’ None of that matters if you’re not building a connection with each of them every day. I think a lot of it was when I was young, man, [it was] ‘I’m going to put my stamp on this, this is what we’re going to do.’ I wish I could go back and have actually enjoyed it more.”
Chris Miltenberg is one of the top collegiate cross-country and track coaches in the United States. He’s currently the director of cross country and track and field at the University of North Carolina, where he took over last year after holding the same position at Stanford from 2012 until mid-2019. Prior to that, he was the head women’s cross country coach and associate head coach for track and field at Georgetown from 2007-2012. He got his start in coaching at Columbia, where he worked as an assistant from 2004-07. Milt’s resume is incredibly impressive. His women’s cross country team at Georgetown won the national title in 2011, his teams have earned 10 podium finishes in NCAA Championship competition, not to mention numerous conference and regional titles over the past 16 years. He’s had dozens of student-athletes earn All-America honors, many have gone on to run professionally, his teams have been recognized for their success in the classroom, and Coach Milt has racked up more coach of the year awards than I can count.
We recently had a conversation about coaching, the path he’s followed, challenges he’s faced, and who he’s learned from along the way. We talked about why he left Stanford for Carolina, how he and his teams have been navigating the pandemic, and why he ultimately believes the events of this past year have helped him, his staff, and his team focus on what’s really important. Milt also told me how paranoia and insecurity fuel his work ethic, why that’s gotten him into trouble sometimes and what he does to keep himself in check, how he keeps himself sharp as a coach, and a lot more.
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Music and editing for this episode of the morning shakeout podcast by John Summerford.
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