By Mary Pritchard, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury High School (SHS) coaches Jim Smith and Kurt Gustafson each recently received a 2015 Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association (MSTCA) Coach of the Year award. Smith was named MSTCA Central Mass. Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year and Gustafson was named MSTCA Central Mass. Indoor Track Coach of the Year.
Particularly noteworthy is that when Gustafson was an SHS student athlete, Smith was his coach and now as colleagues, both were named coach of the year together.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Smith said. “Kurt ran cross country and indoor and outdoor track as an SHS student. He was a superstar at SHS and in the state of Massachusetts. As a senior, he was the captain of his cross country team. I’m happy he’s back at SHS. He’s a natural at teaching and coaching and is great with the kids.”
Gustafson, a 2004 graduate of SHS, studied kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. He has been the indoor track head coach for two years and the assistant outdoor track coach for three years.
“I had volunteered with the SHS cross country team and also began working at the Rocky Mountain Cross Country Camp in Colorado and found it very rewarding working with young student athletes – helping them reach their potential and being part of that journey,” he said. “I realized if I could teach physical education and coach, I’d be doing two of the things I love. I attended Bridgewater State University for my teaching license. I love teaching and coaching. I look forward to going to work each day – it’s awesome – especially being in my hometown.”
Smith, who retired from teaching after more than 38 years, has been the SHS boys’ cross country coach for 25 years.
“I had a coach I looked up to in college and I figured I’d like to coach, too,” he said. “When I taught at Lyman School for Boys, I got the boys involved in a track team and when I was teaching in Hudson, I started the first boys’ and girls’ cross country programs and girls’ track team there. I got a lot out of cross country and track myself in school. Coaching is a way to give back. You feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Smith added that it is rewarding to see the kids develop athletically and personally through the season and the years.
“The best thing about coaching is simply the esprit de corps that our team develops year in and year out,” he said. “The guys really get along well, are all highly motivated, and really try hard. Coaching them is a real pleasure. Kurt receiving this honor gives me immense pleasure. To see him enter the teaching and coaching profession is really rewarding to me.”
Gustafson also values the opportunity to see the progression and continuous improvement in his student athletes.
“Coaching keeps me involved in a sport that I’m very passionate about and I feel that I’m giving back to a sport that has given a lot to me,” he said. “I’m always learning something new and applying new concepts. Coaching is part of who I am. When I’m coaching and teaching I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do.”
He added that receiving the award is just icing on the cake.
“This award means that my athletes, their parents, and my peers recognize the hard work and success of the indoor track team. It’s humbling,” he said. “I greatly appreciate the award and realize that if I want to remain successful like all the other coaches recognized at the awards ceremony, I have to stay committed to working hard, learning new training methods, and effectively training my athletes to reach their full potential.”