The Internet Home of Track & Field

2007 XC Week 7

Coach Dan Doherty

Pearl River, NY

Throughout the 2007 cross-country season, the editors of DyeStat.com will choose an Eastbay National Coach of the Week to recognize coaches around the country for outstanding recent achievements in guiding prep athletes.

Coach of the Week Archive

"You can’t expect the girls to be 100% dedicated, if you aren’t willing to do the same."

By SteveU DyeStat News Editor

We here at DyeStat.com knew we were getting a pretty good cross-country coach helping us out when we asked Dan Doherty of Pearl River NY to be one of our DyeStat Regional News Editors.

I’m not sure we all knew just how good.

It turns out that Doherty, who also coaches track and field at Pearl River, has guided the Lady Pirates to eight New York state and two New York Federation championships. and 29 consecutive Section 1 (or Section 9, where the school was previously) titles. He has lost just one dual meet since 1978.

Earlier in the month, Doherty was given the Frank McGuire Award, named after the former college hoops coach and considered one of the highest honors a New York-area prep coach can receive.  The award honors coaches who exemplify integrity, achievement and a quest for excellence from themselves and their athletes.

Coach Doherty graduated from Pearl River himself and began coaching there in 1978..

Coach Doherty Q&A

DyeStat: First, can you tell us a little about the history of the Pearl River program, where in New York it is, and the type of kids you have to draw from?

Coach Doherty: Pearl River is located about 20 miles north of New York City, and borders New Jersey. The families are middle class, a lot of firemen and police in NY City. Over the last several years, the population has changed a bit and there is starting to turn into a higher middle class town. The school district has won several national awards and has a fantastic reputation. Although … I graduated from there in 1974, so how good could it be! There are about 100 girls per class in the high school.

DyeStat: What are a couple of your favorite stories from the early days when you started out as a coach?

Coach Doherty: I got the job at the last minute back in 1978 and had never even thought about coaching girls. The first day I figured I would have them run from the High School to the Middle School (where our XC course is located). The middle school is about 1 mile from the high school. Run over the course and then run back to the high school. You know, a very easy first day. I started them off on their run, got in my car and figured I would meet them at the middle school. Well, as I drove down, they were all walking and they hadn’t even done a mile yet!! What did I get myself in to?!

Over the course of the season we separated the phonies from the people who really wanted to run. The first scrimmage we had, the other team took the first 16 places in the race. The first season was trying! But we did make progress, and then more girls starting coming out for winter track, and the following fall we placed third in the state meet and third at the Manhattan College Eastern States Race. From that season on, I was hooked.

DyeStat: What are some of your hard and fast training principles and how did you develop them?

Coach Doherty: We don’t do heavy mileage, about 40-45 miles a week max. Over the summer, they run about 200 miles, starting out at 2 miles about five times a week, and building it up week by week. I always believed that they only race 5000 meters, so 6 and 7 mile runs are the furthest that we ever do. We do hills early in the season and then switch to intervals with very short rest until almost the end of the season. The last three weeks or so, we don’t do much, just one or two semi-hard days a week.

I have developed this system from my own personal high school and college coaches and by trial and error during the last 30 years. I have learned that every team is different and that you must be willing to make adjustments in what you do. We run twice a day about three times a week until mid October. One or two of these a week are at 6 a.m. before school. Believe it or not, the girls really seem to enjoy this and we get pretty much 100% of the team to come.

We also spend the first week of official practice at the end of August at a camp in Vermont. We rent a house and only our girls are there. It has become my favorite week of the year and I can say without hesitation that the girls love it also. We run twice a day everyday for six days. It is our high mileage week for the year, with about 60 miles. We get just about the whole team to come, from veterans to total newcomers. Their runs are based on their experience, but the rest of the day you wouldn’t be able to tell the vets from the rookies. When we head for home at the end of the week, we are one big happy, united team.

DyeStat: When you look back over the years, what are some of the things that you are most proud of?

Coach Doherty: We have lost only one dual meet since 1978. Our record during that time is 246-1. We currently have a 159 dual meet winning streak. We have also won eight state championships and two federation championships. This past season, we won our 29th straight sectional title. In NY, if you don’t win your sectional, you don’t advance to the state meet. I am very proud of our consistent mark at the state meet, in addition to our 8 titles, we have been 2nd 11 times and 3rd 7 times.

I am also very proud of what outstanding adults so many of the girls have become. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so much more. Last year I had the pleasure of the coaching the daughter of one of my former runners. Not only a great honor, but also proof that I am getting old! So many girls come back and see the team; I am always getting letters and emails from former runners asking how we are doing.

I guess you could say that once you are a “Running Lady Pirate” you are one for life.

DyeStat: What are some of issues in your profession, either generally or specifically, that are your biggest concerns as a coach today?

Coach Doherty: So many athletes from other sports just want to specialize in that sport. Since no one grows up yearning to be a cross country runner, it is getting harder and harder to get girls to try it. It used to be, they would run during their off season, now they don’t have an off season. So many girls think they have to stick with a particular sport, just because they have been doing it for years. It is so sad to see so many of these girls quitting these sports in their later high school years because they just aren’t that good at it. Yet during their younger years, coaches were using them to make a buck to fill out the roster on their travel teams. Some of them could have had great running careers, but never took the chance.

DyeStat: If you had someone starting out in your section as a 25- or 30-year old coach, who wanted to make a long career of it, how would you advise them?

Coach Doherty: The more you are willing to put into it, the more you will get out of it. You can’t expect the girls to be 100% dedicated, if you aren’t willing to do the same. Their excuses for missing a practice or meet sound just as important to them as the one you as a coach might have to miss a day or a meet.

Dedication and discipline are also very important. You also have to make them and all of your runners feel that Cross Country is a major sport. If you make it demand respect from everyone, it will become a major sport in your school.

Congratulations to Coach Dan Doherty, the seventh Eastbay National Coach of the Week for Fall 2007! Eastbay Coach of the Week Coaches will receive a team color Eastbay jacket.

Coach of the Week Archive