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KSC Coaches Weigh In on Olympics

Keene N.H., 8/15/2008 - Like millions of people around the world, Keene State coaches have taken up a new sport. With one hand on a clicker and another thumbing through the television listings, they have become adept in the sport of channel surfing to keep up with the latest news from the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

“I sit back and enjoy it as a fan,” said longtime KSC cross country and track coach Peter Thomas. Fans they may be, but coaches view the Olympics with a more discerning eye than the general viewing public. Although Keene State dropped its women’s gymnastics program years ago, and there are no plans to set up beach volleyball nets on the shore of Spofford Lake anytime soon, the College still sponsors several sports being contested at the Olympic Games.

Several of those coaches took their eyes off the large set at Spaulding Gym long enough to offer some thoughts as the first week of Olympic competition comes to a close.

“I’m impressed with this year’s basketball team,” said KSC men’s basketball coach Rob Colbert. “Guys are really getting up and defending. I think Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) has done a nice job of blending different levels of talent. You don’t hear about the egos.” Owl women’s basketball coach Keith Boucher was equally impressed with the work of Coach K. “I’m amazed at the way he’s got them to play with a collegiate spirit,” he said. “That’s one of his great skills and a true test of a leader.” Boucher knows first-hand about Krzyzewski’s temperament and unique coaching style that brings out the best in his players. As a young coach at Norwich, Boucher got a chance to work at Krzyzewski’s summer camp at Duke University. He’s been making the trip to Duke ever since.

“Coach K is a very genuine man,” said Boucher. “He believes in the philosophy that you build people more than you build players. That’s why he’s such a great coach.”

Coach Thomas and his athletes have also rubbed elbows with several Olympic- caliber runners. Bruce Bickford, a former coach at Southern Maine, was one of the top 10-K runners in the late eighties, and Erik Nedeau, the current track coach at Amherst College, competed in the 1992 Olympic trials. Nick Symonds, who will be in the Olympic 800-meter field, competed against several Owls runners at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Racing for Willamette University in Oregon, Symonds over took several top Division I competitors to win the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Andrew Wheating, a one-time KSC track recruit, will also be in the 800-meter field. The Norwich, Vt., native came to Keene State on a recruiting visit before deciding to attend the University of Oregon.

One coach who knows what it’s like to compete at the international level is Owl women’s soccer coach Denise Lyons. Before her playing and coaching days at Keene State, Lyons was a member of the Irish national team. “I can certainly identify with the athletes and how proud they are to represent their country,” she said. “Women’s soccer was in its infancy when I played. It wasn’t as big as it is today.”

Keene State women’s volleyball coach Bob Weiner isn’t afraid to share his opinion on the Olympics. “The players are so big and quick,” he said. “In fact, Keene State runs more offensive plays than the U.S. Olympic team because their hitters can beat a blocker one-on-one, while we need some faking-and- baking in order to free a hitter to score.” Weiner says the men’s game bores him to tears because it’s played above the net. And he has a funny reaction to beach volleyball. “It’s a great game to play, but the strategy is pretty simple - put it where they aren’t. Is that interesting to watch? I remember Misty May-Treanor (Long Beach State) and Kerri Walsh (Stanford) playing against each other at the Division I National Championships in 1997. I think both were much more interesting as indoor players.”

Keene State swim coach Jack Fabian had the opportunity to see many of the Olympic athletes at the trials in Omaha. “It’s neat to see how much they’ve improved from June,” he said. “A lot of them worked so hard to make the team and you wonder if they can bounce back and go faster.” Fabian believes the Americans are on the cutting edge of the sport. “Everyone, including the Olympic coaches I talked to, can’t believe how fast some of the swimmers are going right now. At some point you wonder how a human being can go any faster.” Fabian called Michael Phelps a true competitor. “He’s a very talented athlete who put in a ton of work. He’s the reason why you need to develop a program at the grass roots. The United States has a very deep program. There are swimmers who didn’t make the team who might be winning gold medals now. But the rest of the world isn’t too far behind. We’re not slowing down - they’re catching up.”

Boucher spoke for the rest of the coaches when he said, “The Olympics to me is about the years of sacrifice, the dedication that each athlete has put in to reach a dream of competing on the national stage. I admire all the athletes, regardless of the sport.”

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