#115: The Art of the Turnaround with Coach Kimberly Henry
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito, your host on today’s episode with a great guest today, Coach Kimberly Henry, who is the coach of the Holly Springs High School cross-country team, very successful team with a really great story of a turnaround. It is a pleasure to have you here, Kimberly.
Kimberly: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
John: Yeah. I love having guests on who have an inspiring story and who are great leaders. I heard probably I’m going to say I heard your name four months ago, maybe, even more, five, six months ago, told as you got to have Kimberly. And she’s got great leadership skills and wow, she’s done great things for the team. So you come very highly recommended.
Kimberly: I appreciate that.
John: But to put the pressure on it. So maybe just start. I know you’ve done a lot, and I’d love to start to talk a little bit about running and your coaching and leadership with that. But first of all, how did you get into cross-country? You’ve got kind of, I think, a pretty cool story about that, too.
Kimberly: So my personal experience with being introduced to running was in middle school, and I was very tall and lanky and super uncoordinated. And my eighth-grade gym teacher, Mr. Holmgren, had taken one look at me during I think it was like the presidential fitness test thing back in the eighties. And he said, yeah, you should probably go ahead and run for our cross-country team. And I know it’s because I’m tall, but I was way too uncoordinated for typical stereotypical tall girl things like basketball, and I was terrible at those things, and I thought it sounded amazing. Never mind the fact that I also apparently thought that that meant we were going to run across the country. And that seemed reasonable in my mind. But that clearly is not what cross-country is. But I went for it and despite not having a clue what I was doing, I was good at it. And when you see success early, it’s encouraging. So I finally found kind of my thing. And on top of all that, I found friends. Like my friend, my friend group that I met in that eighth-grade cross-country team became my friend group throughout high school. And they also continued on cross country. And we have a lot of success. And we were actually third in the state my sophomore year of high school, so.
John: Well, that’s great. So you was something that, is it safe to say you were kind of bit by the bug right from the beginning when you started running, or did it take a little time to warm up?
Kimberly: I think I was clueless. Honestly, I didn’t have anything else going on. Like a lot of my friends had started soccer or were doing other things, and I didn’t really have a whole lot going on. I read a lot. I know. I don’t know what you did in the 80s. I don’t remember. But we
just had a lot of fun and running with friends was fun. And I didn’t think of it as work. It was my time with my friends. So I and I guess I kind of still follow that philosophy. Now, as an adult runner, I like to run with my friends. I like that’s my stress relief. That’s my therapy. That’s everything. Everything is going on. Gets aired out with my running buddies.
John: Yeah. Wow, that’s great. It’s kind of your personal time to decompress and just build, you know, spend time with the people that you love. It’s interesting. I look at and a lot of people look at running like, wow, that’s a chore. It’s like this painful thing. And you, who’s passionate about it. That’s your joy time. That sounds like.
Kimberly: Yeah. I always say that I have never finished a run and regretted going on it. I’ve had days, lots and lots of days where I feel like oh I don’t want to go because it’s cold, it’s rainy, whatever. But I’m always happy once I step into my shoes and take that first step out the door, the first step is the hardest. And then after that, it all just falls into place.
John: How do you do that? I mean, and I’m looking for my own personal benefit as well as others. Those days where you just don’t want to do it. Now, running to me is a lot harder than some other things, like other forms of exercise. I’ve wanted to get out there and run. It just takes so much for me to do that. How do you get yourself to do it? What’s your advice to somebody who just wants to do it but doesn’t want to do it and never actually gets out there to do it?
Kimberly: So my biggest piece of advice is to get a friend to go with you. It’s accountability. If I know somebody is waiting on me over at Womble that we are going to go ahead and run, then I’m not going to bail on. If I’m running by myself, I can find a million excuses as to why I’m not going to go, but having somebody waiting on me? That’ll get me out the door every time I don’t want to let people down.
John: That’s so true. I feel the exact same way I’ve worked out for most of my life and I’ve worked out by myself, I probably skip way too many workouts. I have a partner now who I know six a.m. he’s going to be pulling up or I’m going to be pulling up. And you can’t say no, you can’t not do it. They’re going to be waiting there for you. Yeah, that’s great. So how did you then progress from running, which takes a lot of leading yourself to then coaching? At what point did you start to think about that and say, hey, you know what, I think I can offer something to other people.
Kimberly: So I signed my daughter up for the Alice Springs Parks and Rec track and field program, and anybody who’s ever signed their kid up for something through Parks and Rec knows the question that’s getting ready to be asked is, are you interested in coaching? And I was like, well, sure, not having a clue. And went out and. Coached that season by the seat of my pants, I had no idea what I was doing and yet had a great time, I just loved being around kids. And so at that point, I decided if I’m going to do this, I want to have some
knowledge from the back, like I can draw on my own training and my own running. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing any harm like that. Hold medical like first, do no harm. So I went ahead and I signed up for a USA track and field coaching program and it was a two-day thing over at UNC Greensboro. And I got certified. And so I felt like I had this good base of knowledge. I coached that from 2011 through 2013. In 2012, my son was getting ready to go into seventh grade at Carnage Middle School in Raleigh. And I was really excited because in Wake County, sixth graders don’t get to participate in sports. And he was a baseball player. He was a runner. And I was like, fabulous. He gets to start to represent his school. Well, Carnage is a magnet school and they don’t have a baseball program. So I was like, OK, well, that stinks. But he has his own travel baseball team. So that’s fine. What about cross-country? And I looked and they didn’t have that either. I was like, that’s weird. Kimberly:But they had track and field. OK, so then I started looking at his base school. I was kind of stalking their website and I’m looking at the sports that they offer because sometimes the base schools offer sports at the middle school that the magnet schools don’t offer. And I noticed that they didn’t have cross-country either. So I did a deep dive into a bunch of the middle schools and nobody had cross-country. And I kept thinking, how are you going to sucker these kids into, like, doing this really tough sport that there are no cheerleaders at? How are we going to get these people hooked onto long-distance running if we’re not getting them when they’re not too cool to start it? So at that point, because I had already had a relationship with the town of Alice Springs Parks and Rec Department, I approached them and said, hey, I am interested in some, I don’t know, somehow getting a cross country program for like the same age group that your track and field program picks. And they said that sounds like a great idea. You want to head it up? And I was like, OK, I guess that sounds, I can do that.
Kimberly:So that’s how the coaching part started. But then a couple of weeks into that first season, the local high school, Alice Springs High School, had just hired a new coach over there, Scott Myers, and he took one look at his team that he inherited and it was huge and went to the administration and said, I can’t do what I need to do by myself, because in Wake County, cross-country is a one coach sport for both boys and girls. They all run under one coach. And so they said, go find yourself another coach. And because he had been working with the town, trying to create a cross-country course, he kind of floated the idea, hey, do you know of anybody? And they said, actually, we do. And so that’s how I got hooked up with Scott Myers. He and I talked on the phone for quite a bit of time and he was like, yeah, I want you working with our team. And so the rest is history. We’ve been together ever since 2012.
John: So that began a major, major turnaround. And I love stories about turnarounds, whether it’s sports or business. And I just love the concept because that’s all leadership. I mean, really developing the right team and everything. I would talk about a whole bunch of stuff. But what was that like in 2012? That’s when you began working with Scott. What did you step into? What was that situation? That was the starting point for you.
Kimberly: So we had a really large team. And what we inherited was a program that didn’t have a lot of expectations attached to it. It was a program that a lot of kids came out for who were fantastic and they were wonderful human beings, but they really weren’t in it to compete. They were in it as an extracurricular activity that could put on their college application. And excuse me, there were no set expectations for attendance. Like people just
kind of came and went as they pleased that if they didn’t feel like going to practice, they didn’t feel the need to let us know. We had no idea where they were and which was a safety issue as well. And so we started realizing that we needed to set some basic expectations and help people accountable. And so when you have expectations of accountability built into a program, people rise to the occasion. Those who want to be there for the right reasons make that commitment. And that’s what we found once we said basic things. You have to come to the practice if you are injured, you need to let us know you can’t just take off and do your own thing. People started buying into like, hey, they’re serious. They’re with us for the long haul. Like, they are really interested in our well-being and becoming more than just an after school activity.
John: Yeah. Did you find you got some pushback at first, though?
Kimberly: For sure? We had a lot of pushback at first. Surprisingly enough, from a lot of parents who were used to the old, I guess a non-culture is also a culture, but they didn’t appreciate that their kid was being called out and we’re being held accountable. And that was frustrating. And we had to have several meetings with the administration.
John: Because our kids never do anything wrong. I mean, that’s not my kid.
Kimberly: We were very fortunate because our administration had our back. It was a process and it still is a process, every year something happens, a pandemic happens and expectations have to change. But in the beginning, it was not only just the attendance issue, but we had. Less than stellar expectations for our own team going into meets. So how cross-country works is that on weekends there are invitational meets where you’ll get schools from all over the area. Sometimes the country, depending on how big those meets are, we’ll have 50 plus teams out there. And because we were new to the program and we did not know any better, we entered ourselves into meets that were very close by. And so WakeMed Soccer can carry hosts like national level meets. And so we were entered into several of those and really quickly realized that that’s not where we should be starting because we would finish, if not dead, last in the bottom five of 50 plus teams. Well, that’s not a fun way to know, run a program.
John: Do you think that in that case, do people start? Because I know when you’re part of a team that’s not used to winning and in that case really used to being at the bottom, does it become almost like this, almost the expectation that, OK, we’re going to go to this meeting, we’re not going to do well? Was it that kind of attitude, almost like they weren’t surprised, or what happens?
Kimberly: I think that’s one of the reasons why people were surprised that we had expectations to show up. Because if you are consistently performing at the bottom, what’s the point like? Why do I have to come if I can just run on my own and tell you the workout, which they aren’t doing, what does it matter? We’re not going to do well anyway. And so when we realized that that was not really where we should be at that point, we really shifted our focus to smaller meets and more rural meets where we felt like we had a shot. Not necessarily to win, but to see progress and to see us against people who were more like us.
Kimberly: We were consistently in 2012, we were racing against our own area teams, not only in the regular season like dual meets, but also in these invitations. And these were like
really high caliber teams. These were teams that were winning the state. These were teams that were going on and representing nationally at the cross country at nationals. And it can beat you down after a while. So we started going to these smaller meets and we would have some individual success where we’d have a kid who finished in the top three or we had a team that finished in the top three. And so. Success breeds success, so people started buying in like, OK, we can do this, let’s just manage our expectations and then gradually raise them. So what ended up happening is we were going to these smaller meet’s doing well and we kind of adopted this philosophy that once we won one of those meets, we dropped it from our schedule. The next year moved on. So that’s what we did. And by 2016, we had dropped most of those smaller meets because we were winning them and it wasn’t providing enough competition anymore. They served their purpose. We were super grateful that we had that opportunity. But if you. Kind of like the opposite of when you go to those big meets and you finish dead last and you’re like, what’s the point when you go to a meet, a smaller meet and you actually blow everybody out of the water? What’s the point? You’re not getting any better then, so you have to raise your expectations.
John: There’s so much that I wanted to talk to you about because you brought so many great points in that. A couple of things. One is, you know, when I think a lot of leaders and I know a lot of leaders and I was one in my career several times to take over an organization that was struggling to try and turn it around. And I think a lot of leaders struggle with one of the points that you made is, OK, you are setting expectations of a winning team with a team that’s been used to losing. So that natural reaction is, OK, why are we doing all this? What’s the point? How important is that? I mean, and how would you coach other leaders on how to do that or what message to give to the team around that? I mean, what I’m sure something else that goes with that to make that really stick.
Kimberly: For sure. So, again, it’s the managed expectations, you can go from being at the bottom and have a lot of success moving up two or three spots if you set that expectation. To a manageable level, then it’s something that people can actually reach for and they don’t think it’s impossible if we were to say we’re at the bottom, we’re going to win the state next year, nobody’s buying into that. You have to get by and you have to prove to people that, yes, you can. You can do this. OK, so what we did that 2012, Scott had set the expectation we’re going to our goal is to be in the top four of everything because at the time the top four people or teams at the regional meet make it to the state meet. And so his whole philosophy at first, again, not knowing really what we were walking into was we want to go to the state. That’s our ultimate goal. We were nowhere and we weren’t even in the top four in our conference. We were at the bottom of our conference. So we had to change that goal to something more attainable. OK, we want to be in the top half of our conference. How about that? And so I will never forget the first year. I can’t remember which one it was when we. We’re not only in the top half of our conference, but we were the top half of our region, we were nowhere near qualifying for the state meet, but we were like tenth in the region. Our kids and families just jumped out of their skin like excited and something that just kind of looked around like, why are they so excited about 10th? And we were like, we’ve never been in the top half. This is so exciting.
Kimberly: And one of the really great coaches of our area came up to us and said, I got to tell you, he’s like, I am so excited for you guys. Like the reaction that your kids just had being tense. I wish my kids would have that, even though they were second in the region that they
were just going like and whatever. Yeah. Second, he’s like they bought in like they’re ready to go. You guys are going to be a force. And it was one of those moments where I was like, yeah, we are awesome.
John: And that and I’m sure that permeates the whole team. They feel that way. How important is it that you made that decision to quickly, you know, pivot early when you wanted to get them into those smaller conferences, that or smaller meets where they had a better chance of doing well and they got some victories. How important is that, creating a kind of a taste of victory for a team that has not been used to having them?
Kimberly: I can’t even begin to tell you how important that is. It’s overwhelmingly essential because if you don’t ever feel success, you lose hope for ever having success. So some days, success is showing up, right? So some days, like you and I talked about the days where you just don’t want to step out the door, if you can show up and do the best you can that day, you need to be able to say, I did the best I could that day and that was a win. So in some days, it used to be more than that. Somebody that needs to be OK, we are going to go out and we are going to do something really well within a race. I’m going to have a better finishing kick and focus on that. Focus on something where you can have success or you can call it a win. And as we got better and started tasting more success within those smaller meets, the kids started having higher expectations for themselves in practice. And when you have higher expectations and practice and you start having success there and you’re hitting all your pace times, you can walk into a meet and say, I’ve done all the work that hay’s in the barn, I’ve done it all. This is just my victory lap, at this point. I’m going to go out and do the very best I can and then. They don’t even surprise themselves anymore. They expect it of themselves, they expect that they’re going to do well and then it just kind of snowballs from there.
John: That’s amazing. I love that. And, you know, I’m a big believer. Winning and success in general is a habit. It’s an expectation. It’s just, you get used to it. And to give someone that feeling of what that is like for somebody who has not had it is game changing. Life changing. What about the time, the moment where you start to see as the leader that the leadership of the team or the organization is not just coming from you, but it’s now starting to come from the kids leading each other. Tell me about that moment and what does that start to do?
Kimberly: That’s the greatest moment, actually, when the kids start to take ownership over the team and it’s and it can be little things. So we have, not in the pandemic, but we typically have pasta parties and the kids really encourage the underclassmen. So. You remember in high school, a freshman boy in a senior boy, it’s a whole different world. I mean, you’ve got babies and men who are competing on the same team and watching these older kids, kids, young men really reach out to the younger folks and draw them in and encourage them. And it becomes this family. So that’s one way that the kids start taking ownership and leadership. But so throughout this pandemic, throughout the summer, when we didn’t even know if we were going to have a season, our seniors really stepped up and said, we know we can’t have team practices. Coaches can’t be there, they’re not allowed. But we’re going to put together a training plan. And we had quite a few of our seniors who reached out and said, I’m not willing to give up this summer. Tell me what to do. I’m going to organize something with the kids and we’re going to hold each other accountable.
Kimberly:And that was tear inducing. I was just so excited that they realized that they put in so much work for four years that if we had even a chance at having a season, that they were going to be ready and they were going to be sure that their teammates were ready and they
were going to make sure that those freshmen who weren’t getting the typical freshman year orientation, welcome to the team. Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah stuff. They were still going to do that for them. They reached out to them. They had Zoom meetings with each other. They got together, they ran, they played sand volleyball. They did things, everything they could to make this team still the family that they wanted and needed it to be. And that has made all the difference. Watching them come in this fall, when we were finally when we were finally told you guys are having a season and they were ready, Scott and I had very little to do with that other than probably setting them up initially for these are our expectations. Those kids took those expectations and ran with it. They did not let one single thing slide.
John: They have so much pride for what has been developed. And it almost becomes a self policing environment of standards of high standards and expectations.
Kimberly: They are the first to call one another out to somebody who slept in. Yeah. They’d give them a hard time. My daughter’s on the team and she’s not the most serious of the runners on the team. But watching her go out there and it’s six o’clock in the morning, you know, in the before. So once school started and she was online and didn’t have class because she’s a senior. So she doesn’t have class first and second block. So she didn’t have class to like 10 something. She was getting up and meeting her friends at six o’clock in the morning and getting her run in because her friends had class early and they were holding her accountable. And I love that. I’m like and she got up and she did it and yeah, they were policing one another. She actually came home one day and said, oh, my friend Lona, we were waiting for a really long time. And I said, well, what happened? Is she OK? And she said, Oh yes. She said she overslept. We’re going to give her hack for that. And I was like, OK, yeah, you do that.
John: That is great. That’s when, you know, you’ve done so much right. And you also create this sense of discipline, of self discipline. I mean, my nephew is Gavin Draper. I see it from his end. I mean, that guy is out running at times of the day and weather conditions that I’m like, dude, I’m in awe. I mean, it’s unbelievable. And it’s not always with other people. Sometimes it’s by himself. You know, as we were talking about, it’s easier when you do have other people. Not that it’s easy, but it’s easier. But when you’re by yourself and you’re pushing yourself, so what I’ve observed is from the other side of it and seeing this this great kid who’s now grown into this man and this athlete and this just a whole different person, I see the effects of what you’ve done, the leadership and the culture that you’ve developed and how it’s impacted his life. That’s gotta make you feel amazing when you see, you know, these kids that are starting to go down a road that is really impressive and probably would not have happened had you not had a big impact.
Kimberly: It’s one of the best things like at the end of every senior year, every season we have a senior day. We have not had ours just yet because of Covid. But there’s celebration and it’s after a meet. Lots of treats and fun things, balloons, pictures, et cetera, and then there we go. How many years ago it started, but we were cleaning up from the meet and one of the parents came up to me and said, hey, could you say something about these seniors? And I was like, I guess nothing planned. I had no idea this was going to happen. And it was a
fairly small senior class. So I just took a couple minutes and spoke about each of the seniors. And it kind of has become this thing now that everybody expects, which is a little high pressure for me. From the past, I guess, at least four years, five years, maybe it has gone and become like a two hour presentation where so I know when the kids come in freshman year, I’m already kind of taking notes on them. So I have stories to tell and and whatnot, watching these kids, from freshman year to senior year, how much they grow and change, and the fact that I’m able to look back on that as I’m writing this senior speech and appreciate their growth not only as runners, but just generally as people, I think they’re really, truly good humans. I love that beyond running beyond the competition or whatever. I love the fact that I have the opportunity to get to know these people. And they’re really great people. Anybody who comes out and runs in the dead of summer sets six, seven o’clock in the morning every day when everybody else is sleeping. And you are fabulous humans. I just have the utmost respect.
John: Yeah, well, I will say that in these sports that are really mentally or physically challenging running is a really both of those mentally and physically. And it does take so much discipline. So I give a lot of credit to anybody who’s that committed. And the cool thing is, I think back to coaches that I had when I was in school that had a lifelong impact on me. You know, here I am almost 50, and I can look back, you know, 30 plus years ago to even tiny interactions that shaped my whole life. And the coach had an impact. That’s got to make you feel good. When you look at some of the students that you had eight years ago that are now in college or graduated college, do you keep in touch with them or do you kind of follow their career, their life?
Kimberly: I do, actually. And social media is great for that. Social media has had its own ills, but for that, it is fantastic. So I do follow a lot of them on Twitter and Instagram, Facebook, the older they get, the more they are interested in Facebook, which is interesting to me, but it’s very cool. And I’ll have them reach out to me and say, hey, I was watching my split and watching how the teams were doing. I am so excited and I love seeing what they are doing with their lives where they end up in the country. It’s very, very cool. Very cool.
John: That’s amazing. And now you’ve taken this team that, again, was, you know, filled with great kids, great intentions, but not used to winning and was bottom in 2012, you know, finishing last and meets to now. You’ve had multiple state qualifiers. The team is an entirely different team. You know, the culture. What would you describe the culture? I mean, what is that? What is important is that? And what is what would somebody stepping into the team right now observe?
Kimberly: The culture is family. We are very much what we call ourselves a cross-country family. We have our ups and downs, as any family does. But at the center of it all, we truly love each other. And every one of those kids knows that we are as a coaching staff, we are there for them. And more than just running, I write more college recommendations than most even teachers do. I don’t teach at the high school, so I’m not somebody who sees them in any other aspect. But the fact that these kids are asking me to write about them through this one lens, I think I take as a great honor that they are asking that of me. So family and pride. There’s a lot of prideful people. It’s not just getting to where it used to be, where you where the spirit, where stuff and you’re like whatever Alice Springs cross-country people are now really proud to put that on and people will stop them. I’ve had people who have told me like,
oh, I saw one of your kids over at Costco. And I said, Oh, Holly Springs cross-country. My friend is a coach there, and they will have a conversation in the middle of Costco. And this just this level of pride, they wear their stuff out. They are very proud of it. They want to shout from the rooftops that they’re part of this team. And I want to shout from the rooftops that they are part of this team, too, because I think they’re amazing.
John: That is incredible. And congrats. I know you won Coach of the Year, which is an unbelievable accomplishment. What was that like? What was that moment like when you found out?
Kimberly: So, yeah, that was 2016. And our kids had just finished racing. Our boys finished third and girls finished second. Just a couple of points out of first place. It was the best that our teams had done up to that point. And we had four girls who place all conference, two guys who were all conference. So I was taking pictures for our team Twitter account because nothing was official until it’s on Twitter, according to the kids of our all conference runners. And at that point, I’m hearing like over the loudspeaker, I’m hearing this like phrases that are being thrown out and they’re saying that they need the Alice Springs coaches at the finish shoot. And I was like, oh, my gosh, what happened? Who got DQ? Who is not? That was our mistake for all. Conference honors. Whose heart do I have to break and tell them if they were out of the conference because they got DQ? I was just like my heart was in my throat. It was awful. And I’m walking over and I’m hearing Holly Springs and I’m hearing Girls Coach of the Year and I’m hearing my name and Scott’s name. And who am I? What’s going on? I don’t understand what’s happening. Who do I have to tell is not all conference anymore.
Kimberly:And then I realize at this point that these weren’t these phrases aren’t just random phrases being thrown out. They are all being said in succession. Girls, Coach of the Year, Holly Springs, Kimberly Henry, Scott Myers. And suddenly, like the entire team of the parents, it’s this wall of purple coming at us and they are tackling us, like hugging us. And it’s just kind of dawning on me that we’re coaches of the year? I don’t understand what’s happening. And I’m horrible about compliments. I do not take them well. I’m working on it. I promise. I’m trying to teach the kids to take compliments better than I do. And people would say, like, congratulations. And I remember my reaction was, this is ridiculous. And what I should have been saying is thank you. But it really came down honestly to the parents, they’re huge. The kids are huge. They all bought into what we were preaching. They bought into the program that we were developing. And without their support and without their buy in, there are no coaches of the year. It’s not just us. Like, we can set the standards, but they have to be able to buy into it. And once they did, all these great things started happening.
John: That’s amazing. Well, that gives a lot of reinforcement, everything that you’re doing. And I would imagine on one end it makes it easier to keep going and keep pushing and keep pushing. But it also makes it harder because I’ve seen a lot of organizations, businesses, teams, whatever, that they’ve been at the top, they’ve turned things around and then things start to slip again. Standards or expectations start to slip. And it’s a slow degradation almost. And then it’s like one of these. Wow, how do we get here? You know, how do you prevent that from happening and keep people pushing and motivating? Or maybe if it did happen at some point, how did you get it back again?
Kimberly: It’s a really good question. So we are still on the upswing for us. So I can’t say that I have any experience with already being at the top. We are getting there. We are always moving forward. But one of the things I would like to think that we do constantly is challenging ourselves for the next thing or something. So, Scott, he’s kind of like our big idea guy. I’m the detail person. I make sure that whatever his big idea is, is doable by breaking it down into smaller chunks. And he is very big on having a theme for the year. And so that kind of this year, again, in a pandemic and not knowing what our season was going to look like, not knowing if we were going to even have a championship meet, which is tomorrow, not knowing if we were going to have a regional meet, which is next week or a statement the following week is his idea for a theme. This year was one heart. And we were going to approach everything as within our family feel. We are going to do this as one heart. We are going to have one goal to keep us all healthy, to keep us safe, and if we do that, we have won this year.
Kimberly:Now, we had a little extra little goal in there that we had, and it was we wanted to win this championship. We’ve never done that before. That is a huge goal for us. We are in a very tough conference and our girls this regular season actually went undefeated. So they are regular season champions. So they have hit goal one. But now we’ve got this championship meet, which is kind of an invitational meet for our whole conference. Our goal had been to win that regular season just in case our season was going to get shut down. And so now, OK, we’ve had step one. Now we’re going to step two, which is we are going tomorrow. We are going to win. Our boys, I think, are going to make a lot of noise tomorrow. I don’t know if they’ll win or not, but I think that they are going to be better than what their regular season record shows, so. Making sure that we, how do I say this, focus on the things that we know, we can do. The things we can control, that’s how we are going to make sure that we don’t backslide, we can focus on showing up, we can focus on supporting one another. We can focus on working to the best of our ability and we will see success.
John: That is such great advice, focusing on what you can control. Because I think people get and especially now, you know, this last year with covid, it’s been very easy to get pulled and pushed and stretched in different directions and lose sight of the things you can control and get overly focused on the things you can’t. But I love that perspective. I mean, a lot of it sounds like to keep that team moving forward. You’ve no pun intended, but you have to be
chasing something. There’s got to be that next goal. I see leaders sometimes that forget that that OK, I’ve seen leaders that have brought an organization right to the top and then they forget you’ve still got to keep growing. And that’s the way that you lose ultimately great people as if they don’t feel like they’re growing in an organization themselves or part of the organization, then they’re going to want to find another place that they do or they’re not going to be as committed where they are. So I think that’s so spot on. So what do you see? What’s the vision? I mean, if you look out a couple of years, what do you see things being at that point?
Kimberly: I am really excited about our future. Our town is incredible as far as support of running as the sport in general. We have a town park here called Subfarm and that’s where our home cross-country is. They’ve been wonderful with us and letting us create a cross-country course there. We have a very young girls team, we have a bunch of current freshmen right now who are actually at the top of our program, so watching them grow and develop is going to be fun, our boys. So what happens in cross-country is that, as we talked
about, freshmen voices, senior boys, babies to men, I can never tell you as a freshman what boys are going to be good as seniors because puberty does crazy things to boys. They just become super powerful. And it’s amazing. Our boys, I think the standards have been set. Our current crop of. Especially junior and senior boys have bought into everything that we have said, and they are the ones who are really training those underclassmen. So I have great faith in what our boy’s side is going to do in the future in perpetuity. They are going to keep this program of expectations and excellence going. I love that. Our girl’s side? I have no idea what is going to happen other than they are really, really good and I have this gut feeling that we’re going to see really, really amazing things happen with them.
Kimberly: And somebody asked me about two years ago, how long do you think that you’re going to coach, because like I said, my daughter is a senior. My son’s in college, so I’m done with having kids in the schools. How long are you going to coach? And I said, as long as I’m
still having fun. And I’m still having fun, every day that I go out there, I come home and I’m just a lighter, happier person. I just enjoy being around these kids and their youthfulness, they keep me young, even though I feel super old sometimes when I’m out there because they’ll have conversations. I don’t understand a word of whatever slang that they are saying at that moment and I’ll try to do it now, like, no, you can’t say that. And I’m like, OK, I’m very excited for the future of this team and I’m excited that I do plan on being there for the long haul. As long as I’m having fun, I’m going to be out there and these kids make everyday fun. Don’t get me wrong, they can frustrate the heck out of me sometimes, too. But yeah, for the most part, they’re really cool humans. And I like being around them all.
John: That is great. And your whole life has been now involved in helping people do things they wouldn’t have been able to do without your help. I think, you know, helping impact people positively. And I also know that you’re not just coaching runners, but it’s also helping them with all the things that they need. I understand you own Pace Yourself, is that right? On Main Street?
Kimberly: Yes, we are. My husband and I are part owners. There’s like ten families that are owners. But yes, we are part of that and very proud of that because it’s I’m so glad that the people who kind of laid the foundation for that asked us to come on and that we jumped at the chance.
John: That’s great. Well, that’s terrific. Well, you’ve done so much. I am honored to have you. I know we’re running short on time here, but it’s been a thrill to hear about everything. What you’ve got an audience here of people from all walks of life that I know are inspired by your story and maybe just wondering, you know, going into 2021, you know, looking for those words of wisdom or that advice, what would you give to them?
Kimberly:I don’t know how to be succinct with this, I am someone who I need to be outside. I’m a person who has realized throughout this pandemic that if I am inside and don’t see the light of day, I am not a happy person. And so what I have found is that even in the hardest of
times, I have to find my happy place and my happy place is outside. So wherever you are, happy place is, whatever makes you tick, do it. Go out and find it and do it because you are not going to be any good to yourself or anybody else if you can’t find some joy in every day. And that’s part of me. With coaching those kids, I did not realize how difficult it was. I didn’t realize how hard the pandemic was affecting me until I went back to my first practice and I
saw those kids all at the same, even though they had masks on, even though I had my mask on. I just remember standing there crying because I was so happy to see that. Oh, my gosh, I’m getting all teary. I was so happy to see them again, being outside and being with those people. Made everything OK. So whatever brings you joy, whatever you need to make sure that you are OK, do it.
John: Excellent. I love that. Well, that is great. Words of wisdom to wrap up on. You get me choked up, too, but it has been a pleasure. Honestly, this has been extremely helpful. And I think just again, a great inspiring story. And you’ve undoubtedly been a fantastic leader and
maybe even more so than you realize because your leadership lasts a lifetime for these kids. So that’s tremendous. I hope you join us again sometime again down the road and we can talk about that. You know, two years from now what’s happened or a year from now, what’s happened. That’ll be pretty cool.
Kimberly: That’ll be great.
John: Thank you all for joining us today on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. We’re here with Coach Kimberly Henry, coach of the Holly Springs cross-country team, coach of the year recipient in 2016 with an unbelievable turnaround story, great leadership, also owner of Pace Yourself in downtown Holly Springs. Make sure you like, subscribe. Share this episode. Give me your comments. Give me your thoughts. I’ll always love your thoughts on future episodes, future guests, and of course, go down below. Give that five-star review and your comments there are appreciated as well. Thanks for joining. Have a great day. We’ll see you next time.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Once again, that’s email@example.com. Thanks! Lead on!