By Ian Bailie
With the spotlight thrust upon London and the Olympic games, now-famous athletes have become household names. Significantly less known, though, are the people who support those world-class competitors. At Tech, Coach Grover Hinsdale has worked to better student and Olympic athletes in his more-than-three decade career as a track and field coach.
Hinsdale began his career in college athletics while attending Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. Though not exceptional at a single sport, Hinsdale was able to excel as a decathlete, using his all-around abilities to succeed.
“I was inspired to find a niche on a team,” Hinsdale said, indicating that he’d found that on the Decathlon team.
Through his connections in that sports program, Hinsdale discovered his love of coaching. After witnessing the 1978 Olympic Trials for Track and Field, Hinsdale set his sights on coaching division I track and field. He began coaching at Georgia Tech in 1979 after completing a master’s degree in physical education and coaching at Ferris State and Eastern Kentucky..
Though he originally thought of the position at Tech as a stepping stone, Hinsdale has remained at Tech. For him, the athletes he coaches are unique in the sport.
“I love the caliber of students athletes [at Tech],” Hinsdale said. “It’s home.”
Not only has Hinsdale had a long career with Tech, his has also been successful. He coached 13 NCAA national champions, and he helped Georgia Tech graduate Angelo Taylor to the 2000 Olympics. Hinsdale initially recruited Taylor, and coached when he was rated first in the U.S. and second in the world, according to Track and Field News.
Taylor, who won the 400 meter intermediate hurdle (400 IH) event in 2000 and 2008 and was a member of the gold-medal 4X400m relay team, will represent team U.S.A. in the London Olympics this year, and has the potential to win the 400 IH for a third Olympics.
“Based on what I saw in [the Olympic trials]…I would give [Taylor] good a chance, better, than anyone,” Hinsdale said.
In addition to Taylor, Hinsdale coached at Tech during the college careers of three other Olympic track gold medalists; Antonio McKay, Derrick Adkins and Derek Mills all competed on the Tech track team during Hinsdale’s time at Tech.
Though Tech has not produced a large volume of Olympic track athletes, those who have gone have medalled, most bringing home the gold. Of the eight possible medals, current and former Tech track team members have won seven gold and one bronze.
According to Hinsdale, Olympic-level track competition is fierce. Athletes must first make is through the “gauntlet,” as Hinsdale puts it, of Olympic time trials; between 28 and 34 competitors compete for three spots in the Olympics. During the actual games, the athletes again face a large pool of competitors vying for the top 3 spots.
“To win an Olympic medal in the sport of track and field is an incredible achievement,” Hinsdale said.
The excitement of the challenge, though, is what drives Hinsdale in his coaching. Track and field is a sport where, “higher, better, faster,” applies, according to Hinsdale.
Currently, Hinsdale is not coaching an Olympic competitor, so will not be travelling to London. He will still be watching, though.
“I’ll be zeroed in on the coverage,” Hinsdale said.
By Ian Bailie