Summer Vacation?

Tony Holler Coaching Blogs 10 Comments

Summer is over.

Tomorrow is the first day of school at Plainfield North High School … my 50th first day of school.

I am beginning to feel like a dinosaur.

Sometimes I catch myself pontificating about how it used to be.  Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring, and baseball in the summer.  The best athletes were great in all sports.  Coaches were teachers.  Coaches commonly coached more than one sport.

Back in the day, college was affordable.  I paid for my entire college education (Knox College) with grants, scholarships, student aid, a summer job, and $8,500 of low-interest federal loans.  My son graduated from the University of Illinois this year owing over $100,000 with most of that coming from Sallie Mae and Discover.  Ouch.

Parents now chase mythological scholarships for their kids.  They sign up for traveling teams and AAU clubs.  They pay for personal trainers, private coaches, and sports performance centers. The cost can be in the thousands of dollars, but they still complain about the PNHS participation fee of $129.

Some parents have read books like Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and they are convinced that 10,000 hours of practice will turn their youngster in a prodigy … free college education … play on TV … glory, fame, and a professional career.

Coaches join the rat race and burn out quickly.

Maybe there is no going back to balance.  Maybe we will never again see multiple sport athletes.

But I think we can do better.

Excuse my rant.


In this blog I am going to tell you what we do at Plainfield North in the summer.

There are dozens of ways of being successful.  I do not believe that my way is the only way.

It is my strongest belief that the best track teams have the best athletes.  Coaching is secondary.

If I wanted to win the Kentucky Derby, I’d spend a fortune buying a great thoroughbred.  I would spend whatever I had left on a trainer.  It is fairly typical to buy a world class race horse for $500,000 and then pay around $35,000 per year for all expenses including training.  It’s all about the horses.

With that said, the main thing to accomplish in the summer … add good athletes to your program.  Never lose kids due to high training demands.  Either keep track fun or allow your kids to be kids.



I started doing Speed Camps in 1999 and have done it every year since.

Speed Camp is not an essential part of my program.  In Plainfield it seems like I’m doing more of a public service than laying foundations for my program.  I don’t make much money.  All Plainfield North High School Camps are under the same umbrella, the price set by the school and advertised similar to park district programs.  The school district skims around 50% of the money off the top.


2012 Speed Camp … got to make it fun!    Click on picture to enlarge.


In Franklin (TN), the administration gave coaches lots of freedom.  I ran three 2-week camps and charged $50 per kid per session.  The school didn’t charge me a penny to use their facility.  I made nearly $8000 and made a difference in the speed development of almost 200 kids.  FHS let me advertise and do whatever I wanted.  The football coaches encouraged their athletes to attend.

I’ve always run my camps coed and ages 10-20.  The way I teach speed allows for all types of kids to be in the same session.

We do a Monday-Wednesday-Friday format for two weeks.  One hour and 15 minutes is the right amount of time.  I once saw a speed camp offered that met for five days, three hours per day.  Are you kidding me?  What are you going to do for three hours?  Geez.

To boil it down, I do speed drills and teaching for 30-40 minutes, then time 40’s and 10m flys for 20-30 minutes, and finish with some type of race or competition.  To see how I advertise the camp … click on this … Speed Camp Flyer.  I get very good feedback from parents.

Check out this year’s times and rankings … 2013 Speed Camp.



Track & Field must be married to football.

Edwardsville High School owes much of it’s recent track success to the fact that four of their five track coaches also coach football.  Edwardsville’s head football coach, Matt Martin, is a master throws coach.  Their head track coach, Chad Lakatos, coaches the freshmen football team.  PERFECT.

After serving as varsity offensive coordinator in 2007 & 2008, I have served as head freshmen coach for the past four years.  My best friend at PNHS is head football coach Tim Kane.  Tim allows me to run the freshmen team with two hour practices.  We only do football 15 days in the summer.  It’s all about positive experiences.  We went 9-0 last year and have gone 22-4-1 in the last three years.  We will go 9-0 this year.  (wink)

Plainfield North’s track/football symbiosis benefits both programs.  See my earlier blog describing our Winter Program.

Last year Annile Williams was a spectacular sophomore for our track team.  Annile (from the island of Dominica) ran 15.21 in the high hurdles, 39.59 in the 300 hurdles, and was a star on our relays.  Annile was a soccer player.  Not anymore.

Annile Williams ... now a football player

Annile Williams … now a football player

Last year, DeVaughn Hrobowski played only one sport … track.  He set a new freshman 100 record running 11.33.  That time broke a record which had stood for 28 years at the Kaneland Freshmen Invitational.  This year DeVaughn is a sophomore football player.

DeVaughn on the right ran on our record-breaking FS 4x1 and 4x2 relay teams. Jared Samms on the left is also a good football player.

DeVaughn Hrobowski (with baton) ran on our record-breaking FS 4×1 and 4×2 relay teams. Jared Samms (receiving handoff)  is also a good football player.


My entire freshmen football team has now been exposed to speed training.  They have gone from ugly to efficient in speed drills.  I have data on each kid.  Click on this link to see data … Summer Speed.

Most important, I have made positive relationships with some terrific athletes and some kids that have great potential.

This year’s freshmen team is the fastest team we’ve had in the last four years.  Speed correlates to points in freshman football.  It’s simple … the fastest team almost always wins. We’ve averaged over 30 points per game in each of the last three seasons and this team will score more!

This year we have 20 freshman football players under 5.00 in the 40.  Last year’s 9-0 team had only 10. There’s no question in my mind, we will go 9-0 this year.

Below are the makings of a great 4×1 team in a few years … all four are track guys.

Nico Capezio ran the fastest times of any incoming freshman in PN history ... 40 in 4.39 ... 10 fly in 1.04

Nico Capezio ran the fastest times of any incoming freshman in PN history … 40 in 4.39 … 10 fly in 1.04


Jordan Gumila ran the 2nd fastest 40 for a incoming freshman in PN history ... 4.50

Jordan Gumila ran the 2nd fastest 40 for a incoming freshman in PN history … 4.50


Carlos Baggett ran the 2nd fastest 10 Fly for an incoming freshman in PN history ... 1.05 ... he also ran 4.54 in the 40.

Carlos Baggett ran the 2nd fastest 10 fly for an incoming freshman in PN history … 1.05 … he also ran 4.54 in the 40.


Even though Joe Coates ran only 4.89 and 1.17, he reportedly ran a 54 split in the 4x4 as an 8th grader.

Even though Joe Coates ran only 4.89 and 1.17, he reportedly ran a 54 split in the 4×4 as an 8th grader.

All freshmen who run under 4.90 in the 40 get a free SPEED shirt … another shameless promotion of sprinting.

By the way, another freshman, JJ Frey is 6-0, 204, and has a goatee.  He is our 5th fastest freshman.  Along with being a terrific football player, JJ will be a sprinter and thrower for us this spring.



My junior vaulter, Dan Gulino, attended Tim Winder’s Vault Camp at North Central College.  Dan went 11-0 as a freshman first-time vaulter, 12-0 last year as a sophomore, and almost cleared 13-0 at camp this summer.  I have sent previous vaulters to my friend Bob Cervenka.  In Harrisburg, my vaulters went to Earl Bell in Arkansas.  If you don’t coach the vault, you need to find someone who can.



I turn my distance guys over to Andy Derks.  Andy was the 1998 Class A State Champion in the 1600 when he ran for his Hall of Fame father, Bill Derks, at Rochester High School.  Andy was OVC 1500 Meter Champ when he ran for Eastern.  He also won back to back Tulsa Route 66 Marathon titles.

Coach Derks with promising freshman Jack Sebok who set our Fr 3200 record, running 10:12

Coach Derks with our promising freshman, Jack Sebok, who set our Fr 3200 record, running 10:12

My contribution to Andy’s philosophy is very general.

  • Happy & healthy runners are the best racers
  • Make the program fun and attractive … promote, promote, promote.
  • “Record, Rank, and Publish”
  • Quality over Quantity
  • Fast guys win races

“I’ve always thought that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.”  -Sebastion Coe, 800m 1:41.73 (1981)

I asked Andy Derks to write a description of what he does in the summer and why he does it.  Click here … PN Summer Distance.



Notice that I said nothing about summer track meets.

I think summer meets are OK.  I announce local meets by tweeting to my guys.  I don’t think many of them participate and I really don’t care.  Our season is 20 weeks long.  I want my guys playing other sports.  I believe that growth mysteriously happens during periods of rest and relaxation.  Taking a break from activity sometimes results in inexplicable improvements.  Week to week grinding results in a decline in performance.  Why do I keep hearing people glorify  “the grind”?  I just don’t get it.

“Any idiot can train himself into the ground; the trick is working to get gradually stronger.” -Keith Brantley

Don’t get caught up in the hoopla of elite athletes doing summer track.  They were great without summer track.  My 7-2 high jumper did a few summer meets but never jumped as well as he did in high school competition.  Superstars are recruited by track clubs in the summer … those clubs did not make them stars.  Parents of gifted track athletes want their kids to do track & field year-round.  This often results in plateaus, mental fatigue, injuries, and stunted growth.

In the recently published book, The Sports Gene, there is evidence given to suggest that playing multiple sports and developing numerous physical skills produce the best college athletes.  I agree.  In addition, it’s more fun.


The difference between a boss and a leader is a boss says “Go” … a leader says “Let’s go”.   -E.M. Kelly


Tony Holler, Head Track Coach Plainfield North High School


twitter @pntrack and @anthonyholler








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