Mark LaHaye, St. Joseph's Academy Head Cross Country Coach
High School: St. Edmund's Catholic School | Eunice, LA
College: Louisiana State University | Baton Rouge, LA
Coach LaHaye is in his 5th season with the Redstickers and has led his girls to two state championships (2014, 2016) and one state runner-up (2015).
His success as the Redstickers coach earned him the 2014 & 2016 USTFCCCA Louisiana High School Cross Country Coach of the Year award.
Coach LaHaye is a non-faculty coach at St. Joseph's Academy, and serves as the Vice President of The MAPP Group, LLC, a construction company in Baton Rouge.
What inspired you to get into coaching? Is it something you always wanted to do?
It kind of just happened. As a non-faculty coach I didn't really get into coaching as a career path. I'm a constructing professional/architect. But it all started when my kids were running track at Our Lady of Mercy (OLOM) back in the late 90's, and one of the dads that was coaching the track team asked me if I wouldn't mind helping him. So, I started a cross country team at Our Lady of Mercy and did that for 10-12 years. So it was really by circumstance.
Each year you choose a one-word mantra that will define the character, direction, and vision for your team and you put it on the back of our warmup t-shirt. This year you chose "trust." How/Why did you come up with this year's word?
Well the first year was "Desire", because one of my seniors was a little girl I coached at OLOM and desire was just trying to emphasize where we were going with that first years team. Really what we were trying to do that very first year was institute a new culture and having a desire to turn that thing around. The following year was "Believe", and then it was "Faith", and then "Sacrifice", and now "Trust." Trust came about because we're such a young team. We only have two seniors, 7 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 8 freshmen. We are extremely young, so building trust in each other and putting their full trust and faith in their coaches.
You and your team also have an end-of-summer running camp each year in St. Francisville. How important is this camp as far as setting the goals and expectations for the upcoming season, especially in a year like this one where you have a very young team with only 2 seniors?
It was really good in the sense that we really bonded as a team. I do summer reading with them every year, and this year it was all about positivity and 21 ways to be a better teammate. I started that with the freshman in June, and I focused on the "Summer of Change." So they all thought our word was going to be change. We changed almost everything, including our training routine, which days we train, etc. It was a big shock to the upperclassmen. But they all bought into it. It was a challenge, but it was something they were all very excited about. For the freshman the biggest adjustment is practice every day, because in middle school in the fall they might be doing cross country, soccer, volleyball all at the same time.
Another tradition you started at SJA was a weekly breakfast meeting with your team during the season. What made you decide to do this and how has it helped the camaraderie of your team?
Since I'm not a part of the faculty I don't get to see the girls during the school day, so I wanted to see them outside of school but also outside of practice. The first year I did it, it was a big hit. First week I met with our team council, which in a sense our captains. It's made up of one representative from each grade plus a coach's pick. Then I met with our two seniors, and I just go by grade from there. This week I'll meet with our Top 7. It's just a good way to see how things are going, how they're balancing cross country and their school work, etc. It's different because they get to see me in my work clothes, and they're in their school uniforms not their practice gear. We just sit down, catch up, and eat beignets. And I drink coffee. They drink water.
As a veteran coach, what advice would you give a young coach?
I don't know what advice I would give because I still feel like a young coach. I'm still taking advice. I'm fortunate my three girls ran for Coach Sam Young, so I turned to him a lot. My son ran for Pete Boudreaux, so I also always had him. If you're coaching cross country in Baton Rouge, the resources you have are phenomenal. So I would say as a young coach, you really have to reach out to your peers and ask questions and do your homework. I feel like since I don't have a background in coaching like the others do, I always have to try to get ahead so I'm always studying, going to clinics, researching other programs.