When homegrown Titan Michael Hughes began his coaching career back in Tennessee more than 40 years ago, little did he know that he’d be back on his home turf as head coach of track and field at his alma mater and coaching Olympic hopefuls.
Last month the T.C. coach of 25 years was named the 2018 Winter All-Met Coach of the Year for Boys Indoor Track and Field by The Washington Post. The Post cited his many exceptional state performances in field, sprint and relay events, including the state title-winning 4×200 relay team.
In a typical school year, Hughes works with a significant slice of the T.C. student population. He runs six teams a year: three boys and three girls teams with roughly 180 students per season. In the fall it’s cross country, in the winter it’s indoor track, and in the spring, it’s outdoor track and field. He estimates that only teachers of core courses like English, math and history touch as many students over the course of the school year. And, that’s just during his off hours.
During the school day, Hughes teaches computer-based courses such as cyber-security, network administration and electrical engineering as part of Career and Technical Education. When asked what he likes to do for fun, he responded, “coach track!”
The life of a high schooler can be challenging. Everyone has their own challenges along with the ones imposed upon them as part of everyday life. Coaching track enables me to see kids in another environment, outside of the classroom, where it’s their choice to be there. It’s fun working with them,” said Hughes.
Hughes graduated from T.C. in 1974. After finishing college at the University of Tennessee, he stayed on to coach their track team for nine years. He coached sprints at the University of Texas for another nine years and was recruited to coach at T.C. when the coach at that time was approaching retirement. His 18 years of experience coaching at the collegiate and national levels would prove invaluable decades later when the Lyles brothers strode across his track.
We’ve had some great athletes at T.C. We’ve won many state titles and had some very prosperous years. Coaching the Lyles brothers was one of the great highlights. Unfortunately, Josephus got hurt and wasn’t able to compete at the Olympic trials, but taking Noah all the way through the trials was really rewarding. He came in fourth in trials, number one in the U.S. in the 200 meter and number three in the world at just 19 years old!” said Hughes
Hughes’ experience at the college and national levels meant that he knew how to help Noah through the Olympic trials. He was well versed in how to take a world-class athlete to world-class contests, though he was quick to add that it is the athletes that make the coach and not the other way around. He also shared that sometimes the most reward comes from coaching kids who aren’t very self-motivated and might be a bit mistrustful of adults.
Sometimes, with coaching, students can move through the tough parts and move forward. The rewards are greatest there. Sometimes they will find their limit and decide to do something else, but either way, they’ve learned through the process. We won’t move them all, but will move some that would not have moved forward without support and encouragement,” said Hughes.
Hughes runs an open program. He does not cut. Everyone gets a chance to come, get in shape and develop skills. He lets the kids self-select. Over time, they figure out where they fit in the order of things and either persevere or move on to something else.
Athletics at the high school level is so important; its value is under appreciated by many. In track, I get kids that wouldn’t have a chance in other programs. I have a no cut policy, which is pretty tough to do in any other sport because there are forced limitations on number of athletes who can be on a baseball field or basketball court and to the amount of equipment available for a sport like football,” said Hughes
Through sports, Hughes works to help students understand that it’s all about choices, the choices they make. As a result, many of the students not only do well in track, but in the classroom and beyond. They learn to apply what they learn in sports to other areas of their lives and they learn that hard work pays off.
It paid off last season for indoor winter track where the boys’ team won district and regional titles and were second in the state. The girls’ team won district, came in second in the region, and were seventh in the state. Hughes credits the students for their tremendous efforts and their commitment to the sport. He also credits his team of eight coaches, two of whom are volunteers, for their dedication and hard work with the students.
This is such a tremendous accomplishment for Coach Hughes. Our athletics coaches expand their reach as educators far beyond the classroom. They truly engage the whole student. The talents that students develop and the skills they learn while overcoming the challenges of their sport translate to many areas of life. The relationships that are fostered through coaching and team experiences can be transformational for students of all abilities. We are proud to have a homegrown Titan selected as one of the best.” Interim Superintendent Lois F. Berlin.
In addition to Hughes being named All-Met, T.C. Williams junior Nyla Ward was named All-Met First Team and junior Ibrahim Bangura, senior Kai Cole, and senior Terrence Sakyi received honorable mentions.