Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goodbye

 


Steve Lynn: Coach, Husband, Father, Friend

Steve Lynn
I was an inexperienced sprints coach at the University of Oregon when I met Steve Lynn. I had traveled to Ames, Iowa to compete in a track meet with a young and talented 4x400m relay squad. My boss at the time told me that if I was traveling all the way to Iowa to compete in a track meet, make sure we got into the fast section. Being inexperienced, I entered my relay with a fast time we hadn't yet run. This was common practice at the time, but my entry was particularly ambitious. By the time I arrived at the track for the meet, there was much consternation among some of the other coaches- some of the top coaches in the country, that some of the teams (Oregon, among others) had entered the meet with bogus marks. I knew I had screwed up and feared being embarrassed in front of respected coaches I looked up to and tried to emulate. Enter Steve Lynn. Steve was the meet director and long time head coach at Iowa State University and had a reputation for staging some of the best indoor track meets in the world. Knowing he had a situation on his hands, Steve called all the relay coaches over for an impromptu meeting. He was well aware of who had entered their teams with bogus marks, but instead of embarrassing anyone, he said very calmly: "Look men; we have some great relay teams here today and we're all here to run fast times. Trust me when I tell you I'm going to set up these heats fairly and you'll all have an opportunity to run fast." He then pointed to each coach and patiently asked the same question, "What has your team run this year?" We all answered honestly and he wrote down the new times. "The new heat sheets will be posted in 15 minutes." And that was that. No public humiliation. In the end, we ran the fastest relay times in the country that day. I also learned a lot from Steve Lynn that day.



Years later when I arrived on the UNI campus as the new head track and field coach, I had come a long way but I still had a lot to learn. One of the first people that reached out to me was Steve Lynn. His son, Scott was a hurdler on the team and Steve asked if he could help with my transition in any way and if he could be a volunteer coach for me. Steve was a wealth of information and had coached some of the best athletes in the world. Steve was regarded as one of the best hurdles coaches in the country, so I was thrilled to have him on my staff. When I needed to hire an assistant coach, Steve suggested I consider hiring renown throws coach, Dan O'mara. Dan and Steve were close friends after working together for years at Iowa State. Steve facilitated my hiring of Dan O'mara- the best hiring decision of my career.


For my first two years, Steve was a strong and well-reasoned presence in my program. He had more experience than all of the paid coaches put together and could have out-shined all of us at any moment. But it's not who he was. He was there to coach his son and to help guide me in building the UNI program. In his own even-handed way, Steve looked out for all of us. Spend five minutes with him and you understand why everyone loves him. Steve cares about every person in his life. I've never seen anything like it. Every kid Steve worked with was equally important to him and in return, the kids loved him deeply. I don't care who you were or what your background was; if your heart was in the right place, Steve had time for you. He was all about being good and fair and decent and enjoying the process. I'm sure there were times when he knew I was making poor decisions, but he never criticized. Like any great mentor, he was quick to point out when I got it right and wise enough to let me fail on occasion in order to grow. I always appreciated that.

Chances are if you're reading this, you already know Steve left us much too soon this week. He died Wednesday, January 16th, at the age of 61. He meant more to the UNI program than most people probably realize. For two years Steve commuted the 90 miles from Ames, to volunteer with our program. Even after Scott graduated, Steve's friendship was all around us. He assisted with our home meets and last year stepped in at the last minute to serve as the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Meet Referee at the Indoor Championships. He was the unanimous choice among the conference coaches and did an amazing job.


There is no question his track presence will be missed, but it is his friendship that makes saying goodbye so damn hard. He had a positive effect on so many. I loved getting his phone calls. We'd share stories about our families- he was all about family. I'll miss hearing him gush over his wife, K'Lynn, his daughter, Erica and son, Scott- the family he adored and was so proud of. He would always ask about my family and genuinely wanted to know how they were doing. He'd ask sincere questions of how our athletes and coaches were doing. And of course we would talk on and on about track and field. I'll miss all of that. I always felt better after getting off the phone with Steve. I think anybody who is lucky enough to have him as a friend feels the same way. You hang up feeling like you matter to a really, really good person. You can't put a price on that. He was a true friend to me and a great friend of the UNI program.


On Saturday he will be laid to rest.

If you know nothing else about Steve Lynn, know this: He was one of the finest people you could ever meet. He was as decent a man as ever lived. He loved his family and friends and was loved greatly in return. As another coach put it when he found out the sad news: "Steve was one of the good ones." Those close to him know he was one of the best.

RIP Friend. You will be missed more than you know.