The subject of this week’s Coach’s Corner feature is Lenny Raley who is the coach of the Bullitt East cross country and track and field teams.
What is your history with athletics in your personal life?
I started playing with a ball as a toddler. My Dad kept me involved in sports for as long as I can remember. I have always loved basketball. I also played baseball for several years up through Little League. I tried football for one year, but that was not my sport. I started running as a sophomore in HS when my basketball coach told me it would help get me in better shape. I did not have very much success early, but never gave up on trying to improve. I continued to play basketball, but I started to have a lot of success in Cross Country and Track. My senior year at Trigg Co. HS in 1978, we won the school’s first State Championship in Boys track. I was fortunate to be able to continue my running career at Western Kentucky University from 1978-1982.
How did you obtain your current coaching position?
I had a Retail Career for over 20 years with Foot Locker. I decided to make a career change and was able to secure a school position at Bullitt East HS. It just so happened the same year, the Cross Country coaching position became available and I was hired for both Girls and Boys. That spring an Assistant Track Coach position became available and I was hired for that. A year later, the Head Coach resigned and I was able to be named the Head Coach. I have also been involved with Girls Basketball program in the past and currently help with the Boys Basketball program here at Bullitt East.
Who do you look up to?
I have had many positive influences in my life. My parents were a strong Christian influence on me at home. My high school coaches – Jim Wallace and George Radford, were very strong influences and their teachings and examples have been strong for me as they are both in the KHSAA Hall of Fame. I am thankful for all the coaches that I have been able to build relationships with over the past 12 years who have been instrumental in guiding me along the way. On a different note, I look up to all those who have overcome major obstacles to find success in life. I especially admire Christian athletes who are not afraid to proclaim the hope that comes with knowing Jesus Christ.
What are two primary goals you have/had for your team this season?
The main goal is to take student athletes where they are at and teach and guide them to be better than when they started. Not only athletically, but in their maturity levels and how they handle life. I want them to be more prepared for what they will face in the future by participating in our program. And then I want to help them strive to be the best they can be by the end of the season and help as many as possible to qualify to compete at the state meet level.
What is the hardest part of coaching for you?
I think personally it is trying to get students to understand what the real world is really like and what it will take for them to succeed. It is a tough, cruel world out there. They are being pulled in many different directions. There are more choices to make. Many are choosing to participate in other sports year around. And trying to convince some that learning to compete in a different sport can be very beneficial for them is a hard process. And getting parents to understand that as well. Even when the statistics prove this over and over, it is still a struggle for everyone to accept the facts.
What qualities do you hope to instill in your players that they can take with them to their families, careers, and society?
First, is honesty. One will never go wrong by doing so. Second, develop an unbelievable work ethic. That success comes through hard work and there is always others out there working as hard or maybe harder than you. Third, would be kindness. That we rarely know the exact circumstances that others face, so always be kind and do not judge others. And last, but not least is thankfulness. We are so very blessed and have much more than we need.
How do you motivate your best athletes to work even harder?
I work extremely hard to be a coach that puts a lot of effort into helping them be the best that they can be. I often speak of others who have gone through our program before them that have had success and relate that to where they currently are. We have great kids here and typically our best athletes are our hardest workers. And then when they have success, it is easy for them to want to continue that habit. I do stress that I can only motivate to a certain level and then they have to find it within themselves to go to another level. When they have success, then it is easier for them to understand the process.
What’s your favorite memory as a coach?
I am thankful to have quite a few great memories. But to date, I would have to say that on Saturday, 11/10/12 at the state cross country meet both the girls and boys teams had qualified to compete that day. I knew we had solid teams, but was not exactly sure how we would fare that day. We had several young runners and sometimes the pressure of performing big events is hard for them to manage. The girls ran first and I felt that we had performed strong. Results are always after the races, so we were unsure of our finish. But I felt good about it. The boys ran next and throughout the race we just did not seem to be at our best. I just felt that we were better than what we showed that day. The goal was for both teams to be in the top four. The girls results were posted and in fact we did have a good day and they placed 4th. I was very, very pleased and was on a mountaintop.
What does coaching bring to you or your family?
I have now been coaching for 12 years. It is something that I enjoy doing. It brings me joy to be able to see kids improve over time. I get to build relationships that I might not otherwise be able to build. I feel that I have been allowed by God to coach for a reason. So many life lessons can be gained from participating. My wife and I have adopted a young boy from Ethiopia and he is heavily involved in sports. He has been blessed with a special talent even though his past life was one of tremendous challenges. Through sports we are able to connect with him in ways that we otherwise would not be able to. It brings me no better joy than to watch him succeed when before there was no hope for his talents to be recognized.
What is the greatest philosophy you live by?
As a Christian, it is important to be to live a life that Christ would be pleased with and to be the example to others that I need to be. I fail many times. But I have been blessed with a great family to support me and have been able to coach great kids. My whole life has been about working hard to achieve success. It has not been an easy road. But when you make it through the tough times, it makes the good times even better. My favorite phrase is – “Hard Work Pays Off” and I firmly believe in that.