Wednesday , March 15, 2017 - 11:27 AM
For 48 years, Coach Chick Hislop took his no-nonsense approach to coaching and built his home-grown athletes into first-class runners and first-class people, first at Ben Lomond High School for 10 years, then with Weber State’s Track and Field and Cross Country programs.
He produced 46 NCAA All-Americans and coached seven Big Sky Conference cross country championship teams and 93 individual Big Sky champions.
Now, six years into retirement, he’s written a book — a collection of 15 stories about the outstanding athletes he coached throughout the years, how they shaped him as a coach and a person, and how their running stories apply to the broader spectrum of life.
His new self-published book, “On Track for a Life of Excellence” has already sold out his first printing of 700 books, mostly by word of mouth.
“When I retired, it was one of my goals to write some type of a book about some of the qualities that I’ve seen developing young men and in my athletes,” Hislop said. “So I kind of put some stories together at that time, and then I just put it on the shelf and didn’t do anything with it for about six years.”
Hislop said that over the years he would get asked to speak at various church meetings or local firesides and other events, and his wife, Diane, would gently remind him to use the stories.
“Diane would always tell me, ‘Don’t preach. Tell stories. You can tell good stories, but you’re not a very good preacher,’” he said.
So when he was asked to teach on overcoming adversity, he thought of a track story. Or when he was asked to speak on setting goals, he remembered a cross country athlete’s story.
“Almost every athlete that I’ve ever coached, I’ve got a story to tell about them. A couple of them can’t be, or shouldn’t be, printed,” he said, laughing. “I’ve only got 15 stories in there, but I’ve got 150 more.”
One of his former athletes, Ken Richardson, said he was grateful for the impact Hislop had on his life, helping him go from a mediocre high school runner to a nationally ranked steeplechaser. Richardson’s story is featured in the chapter, “One’s Attitude Depends on One’s Attitude.”
“He’s impacted so many people in such a positive way,” Richardson said on his thoughts after reading the book. “It motivated me to want to be a better person. It’s really a book for people to read and be inspired about life and what they can do in their own life to try and be more successful.”
Hislop said the stories in his book were told many times, but the written forms sat on the shelf or stayed in his brain until May 2016. While coaching one of his former college athletes, Brad Barton, to master’s records, he asked Barton, a book writer and motivational speaker, to help him put the book together.
Barton said when Hislop began coaching him again five years ago, he didn’t charge him a fee, telling him that he could pay him later.
“Last May Hislop said, ‘I‘ve been thinking about what I’m going to charge you for coaching.’ And I did a great big gulp,” Barton said. “Hislop said, ‘Your fee is for you to help me finish my book.’ So I put him on to my editor and speech coach, Thomas Cantrell, and my two coaches got together and created something really wonderful.
“In his mind, Coach Hislop is a fortunate bystander, but really he is this incredible catalyst, an incredible coach and master teacher, who is really a master student. I think that’s why he is such a master teacher. If you ask him ‘What are you, a coach or a student?’ He wouldn’t even hesitate. Easily, he’d say, ‘Oh, I’m a student,’” Barton said.
Hislop’s stories of Utahns achieving success, often beyond what Hislop even thought possible, are the kind of stories that can motivate readers to rethink their possibilities and goals in life. It’s an engaging and fast read, which pulls the reader into the vivid details of the individual stories, but then brings them out to the universal truths that sports can teach.
Hislop said he hopes the book will inspire readers to be better people in more than just running.
“I’ve always felt that track is a little slice of the pie of life, and what you do in track can go out into life, into the characteristics that you can develop,” Hislop said. “That’s how life is. It’s not one big thing; to me it’s little parts, little pieces that come together that make life what it is. You can’t predict them, but you can help them by doing the right things, and you can direct and put yourself in the direction you want to go.”
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