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Rising Stars: Meet David Lee

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Lee.

Hi David, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Track and field have always been a part of my life. A legacy passed down from my dad; I competed at Missouri Baptist University (MBU) as a decathlete, chosen team captain, and still hold the school record. As much as I’ve always loved track, I had never imagined it being my primary vocation. But as I started coaching in high school in 2018 and eventually into the collegiate level, I noticed a gap – a need for technical T&F coaching in St. Louis. Almost every kid who came to me for lessons said, “I don’t have a coach at my high school.” And so, I began trying to fill that gap. It started with word of mouth and only one or two clients a week, meeting all over the city and greater St. Louis. And it stayed that way for months.

I would coach all events except pole vault. Then came the Winter of 2020 when Chris Zoeller (Pole Vault STL) reached out to me with interesting high jump clientele and a facility for me to use. That was a major boost. And thus, High Jump STL began! Word spread quickly, and I had several kids each week coming out for high jump lessons. But I do still coach all sprints, jumps, and throws. I’ve coached 10-year-olds to the master’s level at 70 years old!

The important point is that I think of it as partnering with – not working against – their high school coaches. I’ve been the high school coach who isn’t paid and who’s spread too thin. I get it! But I wish back then I had a coach I could trust who my athletes could’ve gone to. I think in the end, it makes us all better.

So that’s a little of how and why I’m coaching in the private sector. I love the sport, the work, and making my community better on and off the track.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
2020. The pandemic shut down our high school track season and the high school itself. And if COVID was hard enough, losing my job made this time an even bigger struggle. Not one school was hiring philosophy or religion teachers during a pandemic. And I definitely couldn’t afford more education. What’s more, there’s so much pressure in the world to “have it all figured out” and have a “10-year plan” and a “solid” career. But as I looked around at the landscape of higher education, my aspirations in academia were out the window. So I truly didn’t know what I would do or who I was without being on a standard career path. I was worried, to say the least, especially with my wife and 2 kids at home. But with the help of very wise people, namely my wife, and by the grace of God, we both let go of our vocational identities and took a risk to start our businesses and trust each other wherever that would take us!

My private coaching had a slow start, and that also worried me. I didn’t begin with a ton of clients. So I had many days of doubt and anxiety, worried if this would be enough to provide for my family or if I should just get a steady 9 to 5 (but even those were hard to come by in a pandemic). But we pressed on and had to make some sacrifices because 1) I loved coaching, and 2) we believed there was still much-untapped potential in it.

I want to say too that getting through the obstacles was a team effort! Without my wife or our parents watching the kids or her working extra on my down weeks, we wouldn’t have been able to make it. We were juggling two kids and two start-ups. But we had each others backs and did it together. Even now, we must make sacrifices for each other to ensure we can continue to do what we love.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m currently Head Coach/Director of Cross-Country and Track & Field at Missouri Baptist University. I was still teaching high school when I began coaching at the collegiate level. I was the assistant track and field coach at MBU for 3 years. Our men’s XC and indoor T&F team won the conference for the first time this past year. I’m very proud of the 4 All-Americans and 9 national qualifiers I’ve been honored to coach thus far in my career. That’s a huge accomplishment on their part. It takes time to build a program, and we were all very proud.

In just 2 years of private coaching at the high school level, I’m proud of the 15 state qualifiers and 7 All-State finishers! They all are hard workers, coachable, and determined, which paid off! Before MBU, I started coaching track and field at the high school level at Tower Grove Christian Academy in St. Louis City where I was also a teacher. Historically the track team had only a handful of kids. But my first year of coaching, 25 kids joined the team, and we got 2nd at the state meet – the highest in school history! This was a proud moment because of how little we had to work with. I was the one and only coach; we had no track, no equipment, and barely fit into our couple vans. But the talent for the talent, we were stronger than even the other bigger teams. It just had to be unleashed. In our second year, we had over 30 kids come out the preseason but never got to finish that season because of covid.

I think my high school coaching days are some of my fondest coaching memories because we accomplished so much with so little. We didn’t have much, but we had it all! We learned to be tough and resilient, and creative.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc.?
Just Fly Sports Performance Podcast is a great resource for any coach. But I’d say especially for track & field coaches looking to dig deeper into the why and how’s of training.

Book: The Language of Coaching – Nick Winkelman

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Taken from my personal iPhone.

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