Photo by Martina Almeida
Before coming to Trinity, head coach of Track and Field Marcus Whitehead was team captain at Eastern Washington University and a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I All-West Region 4×400-relay team. Now entering his eighth season leading Trinity, Whitehead has seen 15 Tigers compete in the NCAA Division III Outdoor and Indoor Track and Field Championships. With the season underway, Whitehead discussed what he’s most proud of at Trinity, why he loves track and field as a sport and what his dream dinner party would look like.
Answers were provided over email.
What has been your proudest memory as a coach at Trinity?
Not necessarily one single thing, but we’ve had a lot of senior All-Americans (top eight at Nationals). I think it says a lot about our program that we get that kind of development out of our student-athletes.
As head coach, what does it mean to you that your staff has been named SCAC Women’s Track and Field Coaching Staff of the Year for five straight years — six overall — and Men’s Staff of the Year four times?
It means a lot to us. I’m not sure we really ever stop to think about it because we have lofty long-term goals. We are kind of unique in that we are a young staff but we have also been together for a really long time. It’s been a growing process and we feel the best is yet to come.
With track and field encompassing so many different events, what are the difficulties you face as a head coach making sure the entire team is adequately prepared for their respective event?
It’s definitely a lot of moving pieces. Communication is very important. One thing I learned really early on is that it’s important to let your assistant coaches coach and not micromanage too much.
Similarly, with such a high number of athletes on the team, how do you ensure the team feels like one cohesive unit that is representing Trinity?
Making track and field feel like a team sport as opposed to a collection of individual athletes is always a challenge. However, our student-athletes have done an amazing job of bringing our team together. We talk a lot about staying engaged in a track meet from start to end. Not being selfish about your event, get around and support your teammates.
What is something the casual fan may not know about track and field that you wish they understood?
I love that as a spectator you don’t really have to know a lot about the intricacies of the sport to enjoy it. It’s who ran the fastest, jumped or threw the furthest. Watching the sport live is incredible and really puts the athletic feats into perspective.
What professional athlete in a different sport do you think would be the best track and field athlete, and in which specific event would they do best?
I think the notion that if someone is really athletic in a sport it would transfer over to the highest levels of track is false. Only a handful of people have been able to do it. Derrick Jones Jr. [professional basketball player] in the high jump would be fun. He can practically levitate.
If you were stranded on an island with one person, who would you choose to be with and why?
Probably should pick my wife, but I wouldn’t want both of us away from our little one, so some sort of survivalist person would work.
What three people, past or present, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
[Barack] Obama, Conan O’Brien and Ellen [DeGeneres]
What would you eat at this dinner?
Anything as long as it didn’t come out of the ocean.
Is there a show, movie or type of music that you publicly dislike but secretly love?
I’m not a publicly dislike sort of person, but I enjoy bad movies. Basically anything with [Nicholas] Cage. I also clown on country [music] sometimes but find myself listening to it on longer road trips.
If you could tell the world one thing about yourself, what would you say?
I have a lot of interests outside of track and field: working on cars, house projects, biking, all sorts of things.