Zach White had no coaching experience prior to coming to Mount Dora Christian Academy. Now, after finishing his fourth year as a head coach of the cross-country team, he has two state titles under his belt and is the NFHS Florida Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year for the 2018-2019 school year.
For White, having his team buy in on the concepts of family and selflessness anchors his coaching philosophy, which has been an integral part of his success.
"If you can get a teenager to really form a relationship with his teammates and to really value his teammates, and to stop valuing himself or herself as much, then it changes everything," he said.
White has been around cross country and track and field all his life. His father, Leon White, was a legendary cross country and track and field coach in Arkansas for 40 years. White followed in his father's footsteps and ran for Harding University.
White originally came to MDCA as a golf coach. After his first year, he became the XC coach for the Bulldogs -- enjoying the ability to coach in his own style.
"I love the opportunity to coach the way I really want to coach with integrating my faith into what I do," he said.
White says that his coaching philosophy also stems from his father. It's this relationship that oriented him as a coach in his approach with his athletes. While his style is a little different from his fathers, he's aims to adapt the concept of building a culture of relationships and caring for one another.
"When my athletes are in the middle of a race, I hope they feel like they've got a good enough relationship with me that it inspires them and it doesn't belittle them," he said.
Gabriel Curtis, who's now a member of the FSU cross-country and track and field team, was a former runner for White during his time at MDCA. He said the biggest thing he learned from White was to stick with what you care about.
"When you really care about something, you stick with it," he said. "When you care about somebody, you stick with them."
Curtis, who won multiple state championships under White, says the bond between them is special.
"He's still my coach, he will always be my coach," he said. "It's a special bond for sure."
White looks to be more than a coach to his athletes, he looks to inspire them to run for something greater than themselves.
"True greatness is not perfection, it's the ability to get back up," he said. "I seek to inspire my athletes. If I can inspire them, it normally produces a better frame of mind when they step into the races - they're running inspired and they're running for each other, rather than running to get through something that's hard."