Women’s cross-country came in second place in the MAAC Championship last weekend. They were beaten only by the five-times champion, Iona College. Despite the second-place finish, Coach Pete Colaizzo, Director of Cross Country and Track and Field, was named women’s coach of the year.
“When our peers in the MAAC selected me as coach of the year because nominally I’m the head coach, first off it was sort of a surprise because we didn’t win. Iona won, but we had a great meet. Finishing second to Iona is no shame, they’re a phenomenal program,” Colaizzo explained.
Despite the award being technically presented to Colaizzo, who oversees the entire program, he knew exactly who to bring up on stage with him to accept the award.
“It was really an honor for our program to be recognized by our peers in the coaching profession,” Colaizzo said. “To me, it was a no brainer, I’m like ‘Chuck is coming up to get this award with me. This isn’t my award, this is as much his award.’”
Chuck Williams works as a part-time women’s coach of cross country and distance and is the associate head coach of the women’s cross country and track and field team. His part-time position at Marist comes in addition to his full-time teaching position at Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls.
When an award is presented to a coach for something that he credits to his associate coach, who really maintains the allocate? Colaizzo isn’t shy in giving Williams credit. “I’m equally involved, in the fall especially with the women and the men,” said Colaizzo. “But with the women, Chuck kind of plays the lead role.”
“That’s his award. That thing is sitting right in his office.”
Colaizzo also isn’t shy in acknowledging that while it is nice to be recognized by your peers, the athletes are the focus of the program: “We don’t even think about awards. We haven’t won that many awards as coaches but really, any coach of the year award, really in any sport, is a validation of the athletes. Without the runners, we’re nothing.”
If the head coach chooses to give the award to the associate coach, and the award is for the work done by the associate coach, it begs the question as to why the MAAC presented the award to Coach Williams in the first place. But with Colaizzo at the helm of the program, the award went to him. Recognizing the work that Williams does for the program, Colaizzo understands why the award was presented to him, as Coach Williams is not actually on the ballot for coach of the year, being an associate coach. While Colaizzo thinks the MAAC is correct in their layout, the award, while celebrated, is not the focus of their goals as coaches.
“On paper, I’m the head coach; everyone designs their staff how they want. Again, I’m the only full-time coach,” explained Colaizzo. “Could we refigure it so that Chuck is the head coach? I suppose we could. But titles don’t mean a lot to us. Everybody knows what their role is.”
After being coached by Colaizzo during his collegiate career, Williams has remained affiliated with Marist Cross-Country and Track and Field ever since. Upon his graduation in 1999, he came on as an assistant coach for sprinting and field events. He later came into his current position as the de facto head coach of the women’s cross-country team and distance events in 2008. His impact on the program from his time as a student-athlete, until today, is well known and acknowledged by his colleagues.
Even with Williams’ success as the de facto head coach of the women’s distance team, his part-time position is not something that is necessarily looking to be changed. While Colaizzo knows that he could benefit from an additional full-time coach, and would love to have Williams in such a position, he expresses satisfaction in the way things currently work in the program.
“I think he’s very happy doing what he’s doing, being a full-time teacher and being a phenomenal collegiate coach. He balances it all,” said Colaizzo. “I’m in awe at how he balances it. He puts in a full-time effort for us, without a doubt.”
Regardless of who the Women’s Coach of the Year award was presented to, the meaning behind it holds true for the entire coaching staff. They’re keeping their eye on the prize and that prize is very much so less literal than a coach of the year award.
“We’re not in it to win coach of the year awards. We’re in it to win. We’re in it to make our men and women better students, better athletes. And if we get recognized for it, great! […] But that’s not why we do it,” Colaizzo explained. “Our team motto is ‘be better.’ That’s what it’s all about, we just want to be better.
Edited by Doug Johnston