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5 questions: An interview with Mark Robison

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BYU track coach Mark Robison has helped the Cougars maintain two decades of dominance.

BYU track coach Mark Robison has helped the Cougars maintain two decades of dominance.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

In his sixth year as head coach of the BYU men's track team, Mark Robison led the Cougars to another Mountain West Conference outdoor championship last weekend in Laramie, Wyo., and earned coach-of-the-year honors. In his 21 seasons overall at BYU, the Cougars have captured 19 indoor championships and 18 outdoor titles. He is the son of legendary coach Clarence Robison, who guided the BYU track program for 40 years. This week, he sat down with Jeff Call to talk about this year's team and the joys and challenges of his job.

Q: Your team won the outdoor championship in dominating fashion. What were some of the highlights from the weekend?

A: Our goal is to always win the conference, no matter what, and we had some outstanding performances. Blaine Baker set an all-time conference meet record in the javelin and had his lifetime-best mark. All-America Kyle Perry scored more points than any other male athlete in the conference. He won the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 1,500-meters. Bryan Payne won the 400-meters. Daniel Lawson was first in the shot put and had a lifetime-best. Stephan Shay won the 10,000-meters in what was a really exciting race. For the most part, the kids did an outstanding job.

Q: What influence did your father have on your coaching career?

A: Every coach has mentors you try to emulate. Obviously, the greatest one in my life was my father. He did everything athletically and in the coaching profession I could ever dream of. There are a lot of things I try to do like him. One of his greatest attributes was the way he treated other people. He always used to say, 'Treat people like you're going to need a favor from them, because you probably will tomorrow.' That's the way dad treated people. Everybody who knew my father respected him and liked him. Part of his legacy is how many people who he coached at BYU who have gone on to coaching. There's an incredible amount of his former athletes who are coaching.

Q: What's the best part of your job?

A: Working with the athletes, no question about it. Not only the things on the field, but helping them through challenges, whether it's academics, or life challenges or overcoming mistakes. I see myself almost in a parenting role, with these kids the age of my kids. What I really like is seeing them face their challenges in competition. You can learn a lot about these kids and what their future looks like. This program is not about the coaches. It's about preparing these young men the best we can and letting them shine.

Q: What are some of your challenges?

A: These kids don't get much recognition. That's a challenge. If you go into track and field thinking you're going to get recognition or get a big payoff someday, that's not going to happen. They know their career is to get a degree and go into a profession. The NCAA allows 12.6 grant-in-aids, and we have 60 athletes, with 40 on scholarship. We break it up into tiny pieces. The kids love what they do. With the amount of time and effort they put in, it's very satisfying, because there's probably only one guy on the team who gets close to a full scholarship.

Q: How has collegiate track changed over the years?

A: Over time, we've done things that have hurt track and field. The one bad thing about track and field, and it's one thing we're trying to address right now, is that people don't watch track meets because they're so long. Our only purpose in all of these meets is to get qualified for the NCAAs and regionals. What was the score? Who won the meet? We don't know. One of the things that is happening right now is to have more scored events. Track and field is an exciting sport that has a great upside. But we've gotten ourselves in situations where we've made it hard for people to come and enjoy, because it's too long. We're trying to get away from always having invitationals and get more scored meets so that we can put something in the (newspaper) and say, 'There was a meet and here's the score.' People want to know what the score is. Nobody would go to a basketball game if you didn't keep score.