Darryl Anderson Trains Record-Setters

The director of men’s and women’s Track & Field and Cross Country talks school records, the importance of a college degree and the feeling of seeing his student-athletes develop into Olympians.

TCU Track Coach Darryl Anderson photographed in studio 12/3/19 by Glen E. Ellman

Photo by Glen E. Ellman

Darryl Anderson Trains Record-Setters

The director of men’s and women’s Track & Field and Cross Country talks school records, the importance of a college degree and the feeling of seeing his student-athletes develop into Olympians.

Why did you choose to come to TCU?

I always say to people, “If you’re an assistant in anything, I would think you would want to grow into the lead person — the director or the head coach.” And that’s where my career went: At Kansas State, I was assistant coach. Then I moved from Kansas State to the University of Kentucky as the assistant coach. Then I went to Arizona State, where I was the associate head coach. And now I’m here as the head coach and director. I took the steps to get where I wanted to go. TCU was a good opportunity at that time in my career, and they really wanted me to be here. They showed me a lot of love to convince me and my family to come to TCU.

I got the job in December 2004. It was really a hard time — December, in track terminology, is not a great time to take a job because the season starts in December. I was leaving a school that had become a perennial power in track at Arizona State to come to TCU, a school that was going to be on NCAA probation, but I was going to be the head coach. I knew all of that when I interviewed, and it was a very hard, tough decision. The one underlying thing that helped me and my wife make that decision was the people at TCU. They were very nice. Former athletic director Eric Hyman and his wife, Football Coach Gary Patterson, associate athletic director Marcy Girton, the administration and the people I work with were very, very nice through the whole process. They’ve continued to be that way in my entire stay here.

It’s been a great opportunity for me and a great move for me and my family. Two of my children have graduated from TCU and the third is a sophomore TCU cheerleader now.

When you accepted the position in 2004, TCU’s track teams were on NCAA probation. What was that challenge like?

In the beginning, it was a very, very daunting challenge — it was my first head coaching position, but I was walking into a hornet’s nest. It has worked out fairly well. We’ve had a lot of success: a lot of individual success, a lot of team success and conference success when we were in the Mountain West Conference. We’re growing and getting better as we go in the Big 12. We continue to have people like Du Mapaya winning individual national titles. Whitney Gipson, Charles Silmon and Ronnie Baker are all NCAA champions. Then we have people like Scotty Newton who are All-Americans. We have participated in the NCAA meet every year that I’ve been at TCU. We’ve had All-Americans every year that I’ve been at TCU.

Your student-athletes compete individually but they’re also on a team — how does that dynamic work?

TCU Track Coach Darryl Anderson photographed in studio 12/3/19 by Glen E. Ellman

Darryl Anderson, the 16-year coach of TCU’s runners, jumpers and throwers, keeps the legendary Flying Frogs up to speed. Photo by Glen E. Ellman

At an outdoor track meet there are 21 events. Those events make up a team score when you get to the conference and national level. We’ve had individuals that have won their particular event at the NCAA meet, but there is a team score that’s associated with that also. So it’s kind of a team sport based on individual performances — that’s the way I look at it. Each individual plays a part in the team’s success.

I always talk about team. The team supersedes the individual performance, so we’re always asking, “Are you doing your part to help the team get better and have greater success at the national level and at the conference level?”

You are the director of six programs — men’s and women’s cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field — and head coach of indoor and outdoor track & field. Your teams are training and competing almost all year. When do you have time to recruit?

It all goes together. It’s like having a smorgasbord sandwich: You’re recruiting, you’re coaching, you’re fathering, you’re doing everything inside that window.

We start training in September and our last competition is in late June. Between training and competing, we pretty much go all year.

When we get finished with the track season in June, the cross-country kids will take a couple weeks off and then start their preparation for cross country.

It’s a lot to juggle. I’ve done this for quite a while now. It’s like anything — if you do something for quite a while you get a handle on how to go about doing it.

In January, TCU Athletics announced the addition of women’s triathlon. Competitors race a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bicycle route and a 5-kilometer run. The varsity sport will start Fall 2022. Will you be involved in TCU triathlon?

No, I will not. My plate has enough on it.

This is your 16th season — describe some of the changes that you’ve made to the program in that time.

When I arrived here, TCU was predominantly a sprint program and really emphasized two events: the 100-meter dash and the 4×100-meter relay. They had a great deal of success and when I came in, I was given the task of expanding. We still have good sprinters. We’ve had good throwers; we’ve had jumpers — Du Mapaya, Whitney Gipson and Lorraine Ugen, all NCAA champions. We’ve had some hurdlers that have had success. We’ve had a couple of distance athletes that have had success. We’ve expanded and we’ve tried to cover more events. And that takes time.

There are 21 events at a track meet. We’ve expanded the amount of events that we cover.

When I got here we didn’t have a lot of things. We had a lot of sprint kids. We had walk-on distance kids. We had some scholarship men and women on the distance side. We don’t have more scholarship money, we’ve just spread it out more to cover more events.

What does it feel like as a coach and a mentor to see your athletes win conference titles and national championships?

My part is to help guide them to the highest level of success academically, athletically and socially, from one maturation point to the next in adulthood.

I take a lot of pride in feeling great for them, not necessarily for me, but for them because this is all for them. They’re experiencing being a student-athlete and being at a Power Five school — a school that gives them an opportunity to be highly successful. My part is to help guide them to the highest level of success academically, athletically and socially, from one maturation point to the next in adulthood.

My ego doesn’t grow exponentially because Du Mapaya won the national championship — I am excited that he got the opportunity to get that sensation of being the champion. I got to go along with him for the ride and help guide him from where he started at two years ago to where he is now and becoming a man.

You’ve also had athletes make it to the Olympics to the IAAF World Championships. What does it feel like to know that you’ve helped prepare the student-athletes to compete in a global arena?

That’s the same feeling. Not everybody gets that opportunity. Most kids go through four years and that’s going to be the end of their athletic career. The select few — the elite — get an opportunity to do it at the next level, which is the IAAF-level World Championships or Olympics. For the kids who get the opportunity to do that, it is very, very special and a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Last summer Derrick Mokaleng and Du Mapaya competed at the World Championships and got to represent their country, and that was great — not only great for them, it was great for the university. It helps us in recruiting because regardless of whether it’s football, basketball, track, tennis, they all think they’re going pro. TCU has a program where you see kids actually do that, and that helps advance the program.

Have your athletes broken all of the TCU records?

There are still records up on that board that had been there for quite some time. There are some very, very, very challenging records that preceded me. Our school record board is pretty challenging in most of the events.

Is breaking records important to you?

Records are meant to be broken, right?

It just tells you that they’re getting better, and that you’re providing the service for the kids because that’s what it’s all about anyway: giving them the resources and opportunities to be able to get better. That’s what you want to see. Records are meant to be broken, right?

When a student breaks a record, they can walk away knowing that at the time and era that they competed at TCU, they were the best person to ever come to the university in that particular event. And that’s huge.

Did you ask for a record board in your office?

Yes, I did. I have it there for one reason: I want our student-athletes and recruits to see it. In a small snippet, that’s the history of the program.

Do you ever look at the records that predate you and want to wipe them out?

There are two up there that need to get broken, the 4×100-meter relay (1998) and the 100-meter dash (1989), but they’re very difficult to break because at the time that the record was set, it was the collegiate record, meaning it was the fastest ever by any university. Those are pretty fast records.

What is the energy like when one of your student-athletes is standing on the podium?

I say to my staff all the time, “You coach to go to the postseason.” I want my staff and my team to have a presence at postseason every year. I feel like if we don’t make it to postseason, it was a failure. You want to have some individuals make it because that’s the highest level of track & field in the collegiate system. Now, getting to postseason and having postseason success are two greatly different things. Getting there is hard. Succeeding there is even harder, especially for indoor events. Student-athletes already know they’re one of the top 16 people in the country, per event. There are no slouches in the prelims. A student can place last in their heat and walk away with their head down feeling like a slug, but they’re still one of the best people in the country.

But you want to be able to take part in the postseason on an annual basis. That’s my belief as a coach. If you’ve ever been to an NCAA tournament in basketball or a bowl game in football, it’s electric. You want the kids on your team to experience it at the highest level.

Like last year with Du Mapaya being up on the top step of a podium — he’s standing there and he’s got his frogs up. You don’t want to get down. You just want to stay up there. You know once you step down the journey to get back up there just started over. He’s the defending champion, but everybody in the country knows he’s the defending champion. He has to perform at a higher level to get back to that. Just because he’s the defending champion does not mean anything in 2020.

Do you feel a responsibility to keep him up on the champion’s podium?

TCU Track Coach Darryl Anderson photographed in studio 12/3/19 by Glen E. Ellman

Coach Darryl Anderson said the most fulfilling part of his job is seeing his athletes graduate. Photo by Glen E. Ellman

When we talk about it, which is all the time, we don’t talk about winning the championship, we talk about the process of what it takes to be the champion: how you take care of your body, how you handle stress, how you come to practice every day and train day-to-day. How many quality training sessions can you have in a week? Watching film and seeing your improvements or what you need to improve on, those are important things. They’re critical. I tell Du now that he’s champion, he has to become a student of his event.

Does that speak to your coaching style in general — that it’s all about the process?

I enjoy the process. I enjoyed the process with Du Mapaya last year more than I enjoyed the end result. The end result is the final. It’s over. The process is nine months. Every coach would say, “I enjoy the process.” I enjoy the process and I want the kids to enjoy the process. In track & field the process is very difficult, not to minimize any sport, but in basketball, you make a nice pass, you make a dunk, you shoot a three-pointer and there’s some adulation. If you’re tired, you feel a little bit better after you make that shot. In track, you’re still running; you’re still breathing hard, right? It’s a training sport. All we do is train. It’s conditioning all the time. You’ve got to be able to handle the process, and you’ve got to be able to take care of your body.

Is there an event that’s more challenging to coach than others?

They’re all challenging to some extent. In triple jump, there are three phases. The 400-meter is just the fact that you have to make it around the whole oval fast. In the 100 you don’t have a lot of room to make mistakes in the race. In the relay you have to move the baton from one person to the next. Each event has its own idiosyncrasies that make it difficult.

What’s it like to have your kids also go through TCU while you’re working here?

It’s fun. I don’t see them — it’s like they’re out of state, but I know that they’re here and know that they’re getting a quality education and they’re in a good, safe place.

Are your kids athletic?

My daughter Jasmine is a TCU cheerleader. My son was on the track team here for period until he got into his music.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a coach?

We don’t talk about winning the championship, we talk about the process of what it takes to be the champion.

For me — I always get in a debate with other coaches about this — it’s graduating. That’s what I take the most pride in, that they walk away with a degree. I’ve said that from the day I started because I wouldn’t be sitting here doing this interview if I didn’t have a degree. The curtain came down on my athletic career after four years of college, and then the new act started because I had a degree. I wouldn’t have a coaching job without it. So I explain that to the kids: You can be the NCAA champion, you can be Ronnie Baker, you can be Usain Bolt, but at some point the athletic curtain is going to go down and now what are you going to do? Your degree will be a license to move into the next part of your life. It will allow you to be employed by somebody or start employing people. The degree is the thing that I take the most enjoyment and pride out of.

I’ve been asked the question, “If you could only have one of the two: the degree or the NCAA title?” and I’ve always said the degree. I know a lot of coaches would choose the title. I just want the kids to get a degree.

If all your athletes just had a mediocre season but they all graduated, you’d still be happy?

I don’t know if the university would be happy, and I wouldn’t be completely happy, but I would be happy for them that they got their degree and they can get on with the rest of their life. You have to have a happy medium. The degree is a non-negotiable. The athletic success is actually negotiable because it’s going to depend on a lot of things: One is your genetic makeup and two is your willingness to learn and your willingness to work hard every day, which are in a lot of ways the same things. Your genetic makeup has a bearing on you getting a college education, but it’s not the primary thing. The primary thing is: Are you going to put the work in — reading, writing the papers and go sit your butt in class? All my student-athletes have that skill set, but not everybody has the skill set to run 100 meters in under 10 seconds. Everybody can develop to be a student if they’re willing to put the work in, but in a sport, you can be willing to put the work in and just not be good enough.

Do you still keep in touch with alumni like Ronnie Baker?

I do. I still coach Ronnie Baker.

What’s the most challenging part of being a coach?

In some instances, it’s the parents. The kids are challenging because they’re growing and they’re curious. They’re immature, and they want to have a good time. It’s just all those things. It’s basically having an extended family.

How do you encourage your student athletes to keep their whole bodies healthy and not just focus on practice?

In my coaching career, 90 percent of the time, my best kids were really good students also.

I have to keep talking to them daily. Half the time they don’t hear you, so you have to be like a recorder and keep talking on a daily basis about eight hours of sleep, stress management, then setting priorities — getting into a routine, your academic routine and then your athletic routine. If one is not going well, the other one is probably going to follow suit. Life works in this way: If one part of your life isn’t going well, it spills over into the other parts of your life.

I look at it from this standpoint: Du Mapaya, NCAA champion; Derrick Mokaleng, World Championship participant and NCAA All-American — they both had over a 3.0 GPA. No one can tell me that the two don’t go together.

In my coaching career, 90 percent of the time, my best kids were really good students also. And I would assume that’s the way it’s been for a lot of coaches.

I love that you have your own sort of Hall of Fame or MVP photos in your office.

[Coach Anderson goes around the room, pointing at photos.] NCAA Champion; NCAA Champion; 2013 World Champ team; He was on the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic team. All the pictures on here, there’s some significance to something that they did, either at the highest end of the collegiate level or as an Olympian.

So it’s not just about getting on the record board, but getting a photo in Coach’s office?

Getting your photo in here is hard. It’s a tough one to get a picture in here.

Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.