NAU Head Coach Eric Heins was named the men’s Big Sky Coach of the Year award for the fifth straight time. The previous record for most Big Sky COY honors was four, set by former NAU Head Coach Ron Mann. Heins was a graduate assistant coach for Ron Mann, and has shown that he has more than filled the big shoes Mann left behind.
Heins learned a lot from Mann, but just being “knowledgeable” in this sport only takes you so far. To have one of the best cross country teams in the country, year after year, takes much more. Below are some words from Heins explaining that, just like the athletes he coaches, he is always striving for perfection.
I have been accused of being too negative in my race reviews on this blog. I think negative is the wrong word, but I do believe “critical” is a fair description of my comments. As the coach of this program I am always looking for that perfect race and I have high expectations of my athletes. I am critical of any and all mistakes and will continue to push my athletes to strive for the same standard. If I do not, I believe I am doing a disservice to everyone on this team.
I grew up and competed in a time when those that worked hard and had the highest commitment to their sport, were generally rewarded with the victory. Sometime in the recent past our society has become more about giving everyone a chance to win. I see it in states that have six different divisions for state championships in high school sports. I see it today when young people lose and create excuses instead of accepting responsibility for what needs to be worked on. I see it when somebody gets defensive over constructive criticism. I am by no means perfect, but will continue to work on being a better coach and will continue to offer my opinions on how we can become a better team.
As soon as you decide to participate in a competitive event, you must realize that there will be winners and losers. Yes it is important to win, but if you do not win, it must not be because of a lack of effort. Sometimes there will be things that you, the team or I can do better in order to win. Realizing what those are and fixing them is just as important as any aspect of training you can do. Sometimes you will get beat because the other person or team is simply better. The importance of competition is to learn how to be humble in victory, gracious in defeat and to be at your best when it counts the most.
Each of you has a small window of time to compete as an athlete and you need to be able to take more away from it than wins and losses. If you do not “win” that first job interview, are you going to pat yourself on the back or are you going to look at what you can do better the next time you have an interview? My goal for each member of this team is to develop the tools to be positive, productive, successful citizens in each of their chosen professions.
Read more about Heins’ record breaking honor on NAUAthletics.com.