Stephen Walsh can read the signs. The sweltering mid-afternoon heat, the green carpeting leading to his office, the conference championship trophies above his desk — Walsh is the head coach at William and Mary now, even if it has been a whirlwind of a journey getting there.
Walsh was hired as the new cross country and track and field head coach Aug. 17, well into the College’s preseason workouts. The former Providence cross country and track coach replaces both former men’s Head Coach Alex Gibby ’97 and former women’s Head Coach Kathy Newberry ’00.
“It was probably about July 30, end of July early August [that Gibby left],” Walsh said. “So it was really quick.”
It was Gibby who first called Walsh about the job after the former Tribe coach accepted an offer to become the new cross country coach at the University of Michigan.
“I know Alex and Kathy well,” Walsh said. “It was something that, when the situation came up, Alex recommended me for.”
The biggest challenge for Walsh so far has been learning his runners’s training programs. Unlike other sports, where a new coach can put a new system in place right away, track and field requires gradual changes to training routines.
“It was challenging because there were a lot of kids, but they are all similar,” Walsh said. “It definitely is a high-mileage, high-intensity type of program. It is evident that what they do is successful, though.”
Despite having a younger men’s squad than last season, which saw seniors Patterson Willhelm and Jon Grey named All-Americans, Walsh’s expectations remain high.
The women’s side is even younger than the men’s this fall, with only junior Kelsey Budd and sophomore Krissa Loretto returning to a squad that finished 25th at CAAs.
“I think the group that we have is a young group, and in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of positive responses from them,” Walsh said.
Despite the change in leadership, Walsh knows expectations are high at the College. But the new coach realizes the small steps he must take in order to win the trust of his runners.
“They had a lot of trust in Alex and Kathy, that’s the big thing,” Walsh said. “No matter what I bring, what I can do, the important thing is to get the trust, get them realizing what I’m saying and what I’m doing can make them better.”