Coaching Spotlight: Dave Halliday - Flagler Palm Coast

We are honored to kick off our Coaching Spotlight series with Flagler Palm Coast's Dave Halliday. Coach Halliday has won many state titles in his career, served as FACA T&F Chairman, as well as being inducted into the FACA HOF twice among his many accolades. Ally Woodard caught up with him to learn more.

How did you begin coaching? 

I ran at the University of Florida and with encouragement from the late Jimmy Carnes began coaching high school upon my graduation in 1994, 24-years ago.

What is it like being up for a National Coach of the Year award?

I am extremely honored to first be nominated as 1 of 50 state coaches of the year by the FACA (Florida Athletic Coaches Association) as the Florida Boy's Track & Field Coach. However to then be selected as 1 of the top-8 coaches in the U.S. is a very high honor, especially by a National Committee.

You were inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame twice, once in 2015 and again in 2017. Your former high school coach, the late Dick Edson, was also inducted in 1995. How did he influence you and impact your current coaching style?

I was inducted as the youngest ever coach into the FACA Hall of Fame in 2015, then I was inducted into the Florida Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2017.  Both were very high honors. I was fortunate to be coached and mentored at Seabreeze HS by three great men: the late DIck Edson, Don Staller (Seabreeze XC Coach), and Dr. Earl Johnson (Asst. Superintendent for Flagler County Schools). They each taught me the value of hard work, commitment, knowledge of your sport, the importance of knowledge of the rules of your sport, as well the importance of integrity . They also taught me as coach you as a coach may care more about the sport than some of your athletes but that part of your job is inspire and instill the values of integrity, hard work and commitment to student athletes.

With four team state championships and many other accomplishments, what do you believe are the most critical aspects of your coaching style that led to this type of success for your teams?

I've had many people ask me that question. First off, I feel that I am an old school track coach, in that I have coached every one of the 17 events in track & field and many coaches only specialize in one area.  That being said, I feel that as far as my overall knowledge of track & field is as good as any coach in Florida and that there are certain events that I excel in coaching as good as anyone in the country. However, that is not what I feel is my real strength. I believe that my ability to relate and motivate young people is what sets me apart from most coaches.

Although today we hear the buzz words like relationship building and expectations in education and in coaching, this is something that I have done for 24 years. Kids know when a coach is or any adult is truly genuine and care about them. That is where I come from. My athletes have always known that I have their backs and that I will support them in any way I can. My belief in them allows them to reach their potential and achieve new heights. Many coaches say these things few really stand behind them. That's why I've had multiple athletes stay at my house after being kicked out of theirs and why I've been in three weddings of former athletes and sent 66 student-athletes onto college. 

What type of obstacles have you and your teams had to overcome to achieve your success?

Obstacles are ever present, whether they be finances, facilities, administration, or coaches of other sports. I am a problem solver and solution maker, so I always look to fix, resolve, adjust, work around these obstacles for the betterment of my programs and my on mental well-being. Negativity and self-pity will get you nowhere. I do not see obstacles, just hurdles to run through.

Did your former position as a FACA Chair for track and field give you another perspective on the sport?

I saw being the FACA Chair as my duty to give back to the sport that I love. The clinic and number of coaches had dwindled to less than 50 participating. By the time I finished the clinic was averaging between 300-350 coaches attending. The logistics in organizing the clinic and the speakers was an immense, challenging, yet fun task. I also got to know so many great people. However, probably the best part of being the chair was truly being at the center of much needed rules changes in our sport.

How have you seen the sport grow during your time as a coach?

Track & field is the #1 participation sport in the US (over 1.1 million students combined) and has continued to grow and strengthen in Florida. We (the coaches) built a better relationship with the FHSAA and then worked on positive rules changes for the betterment of the sport. After I completed my tenure several key rule changes that we had been fighting for passed after years of advocating.

Do you have a favorite moment of your coaching career?

So many to list and choose from.  Each team state title came down to the 4x400 to decide which team won. Coaching my first state championship team at Columbia HS in 2002 was unbelievable; My first championship at FPC dropping to me knees on the infield at Showalter; the numerous individual state champions; coaching a blind cross country runner; watching Justin Harbor go from last to 3rd place finish at Reebok Indoor games in invite mile one week after his father's death; watching Justin Pacifico go from 13th to state runner-up in the last 600m in cross country state meet; the privilege of coaching my daughter Darien for four years at FPC especially in her last meet. SO, many great people and great kids that have made me a better person and allowed me to watch their progression and maturation. Those are just  a few.

Flagler Palm Coast has hosted numerous meets, including regionals, and you just hosted the Flagler Pinnacle Classic last week and are hosting the East Coast Classic this week. What do you enjoy most about putting on meets, and what can fans expect to see next week to start out the season if they've never been to an FPC track meet?

I have always felt that kids want to compete in front of their friends and family. So, I started hosting meets when I arrived at FPC 14 years ago. We as a team and coaching staff take pride in hosting some of the best and fastest run meets in the State of Florida. Hosting meets means we do not have to do any other fundraisers as the revenue generated by the meets allows us to buy more and better equipment for our program. Fans can expect a first-class experience at our meets: great facilities, great athletes, quickly run!

How do you get athletes to join your team and how do you keep them motivated?

You have to advertise whether that be school announcements, Freshmen orientation, word of mouth, Twitter, recreating PE classes, or just stopping kids in the halls and asking, "hey have you thought about coming out for the track team?" We have a rich tradition at FPC so the kids know that track is the premier sport to join at FPC.

However, the amount of work we do also scares many away. Motivation is a daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal part of what we do. We set goals early on and try to improve on those each and every day. Our athletes also know that there are only so few spots available in each event for the larger invitational meets and they want to travel and compete.

As one of the best and most recognized coaches in the nation, what advice would you give new athletes and coaches?

Seek out coaching educational opportunities at every chance, whether that be the FACA, USATF, or USTFCCCA clinics and symposiums. Strive to be a life-long learner. You can always pick up something new at a coaching clinic or reaffirm what you were already doing. Plus going to coaching clinics allows you make connections and friendships throughout the coaching community.

Take your teams to the best meets to challenge them. Remember that coaching athletes is a progression not only over one season but four years. And always make friends with your bookkeeper, custodians, and landscape works at school they will have your back when you need them. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.  You can never be prepared enough for the season, practices, or meets. Lastly, know ALL of the rules and make sure your athletes do as well.

Do you recommend solely focusing on track and/or cross country, or is playing other sports in the offseason a good idea?

Early on I advocate students being multi-sport athletes however once they reach their sophomore or junior year I usually suggest that athletes start to specialize. By that I mean that distance runners should run xc and track year round and track athletes not running xc should either play football, volleyball or swim in the fall.

How do you approach the college recruiting process? What is your advice to both coaches and athletes regarding that?

Athletes need to reach out to college coaches through questionnaires early and often. Athletes need to realistic about their skills and level of competition. That being said if you want to compete at the collegiate level there is a place somewhere for you it just might not be a D1 Power-5 Conference school. I tell my athletes you want to build a portfolio or resume for colleges, that consist of academics (first and foremost), athletics (fast times, far throws and jumps), and community service. Colleges want academically sound well-rounded student-athletes.

The better your portfolio the more choices you will have. Make a pie in the sky top-10 list and a realistic top-10 list. Then research your college make sure it has your major and research the coaching staff. Finally, ask yourself if this coach leaves would I still want to attend this school? Ask yourself if I am in an accident and can never compete again, would I still want to attend this school? Those are important questions. The final question to ask a college coach who is making you an offer is: thank you for the scholarship offer, how much out-of-pocket expenses will this leave me with after.