Going into his seventh year as the head coach of Dalhousie University’s cross-country and track and field teams, Rich Lehman has won the AUS cross-country Coach of the Year award a combined six times with both the women’s and men’s teams.
He also won the same award a combined nine times for the track and field teams. It’s quite the resume–one he credits towards anyone but himself.
“I coach at the best school,” he says, noting that the wide variety of programs offered at Dal attracts athletes to the school.
He adds that it’s rare to see a coach win Coach of the Year for cross-country if their team didn’t win the championship. The athletes are the ones performing for the championship, not the coach.
But for athletes to perform well, they need a good coach. And there’s no doubt that Lehman is one of the best in the region. This past summer, he coached the under-18 track and field national team at the Jamaican u18 Invitational Meet, focusing on the distance runners. It was his first experience with the national team.
Lehman says he came out of the experience “more confident” with what he’s been doing with Dal.
And what he’s doing is working. In the 2017-18 season, both his men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field teams won the AUS Championships.
Lehman also gives credit to his assistant coaches.
“There are a lot of Rich’s out there – very few of them are surrounded by the people that I have around me.”
Michelle Reddy, in her fifth year on both the cross-country and track and field teams, says that Lehman is “very supportive in all aspects of coaching,” such as individualized training plans, mental motivation and support outside of running.
When Reddy broke a bone in her foot two years ago, requiring surgery and a long recovery, she says Lehman stuck with her.
“Even when I wasn’t running, he was still around just talking me through it and helping me get back,” she says.
Reddy says that Lehman puts time into forming close relationships with his athletes–getting to know what works best for each person and modifying training accordingly.
He asks a lot of his athletes, they’re expected to train 15 hours a week. “We’re beating people because we’re outworking them,” says Lehman.
Even with a high training load, fifth-year cross-country and track and field athlete Angus MacIntosh says that Lehman comes across as “very laid back” at practices.
“Every workout we do and everything that he has us do, it is obviously calculated … but the way he presents it to us … keeps everyone pretty relaxed.”
Other coaches are typically more serious than Lehman. However, Lehman doesn’t believe the hard and extremely serious approach works for him. He says that the few times a year he raises his voice, “it results more in shock than good performances.”
According to MacIntosh, Lehman’s easygoing nature while still coaching with deliberation is what makes him a strong coach.
It’s a combination that has led to growth in the cross-country program.
“It’s not all business and everyone running for themselves,” says MacIntosh. “Everyone pokes fun at each other and everything, it builds a really good team atmosphere.”
Over Reddy’s time competing, she says “he’s done a great job with recruiting and bringing excitement to the team and getting girls to want to work hard and work towards one goal.”
With both cross-country and track and field teams poised to defend their championship titles this season, Lehman’s coaching has been instrumental in their success.