Inspiring Coaches Finalist Larry Buffington

Gayville-Volin High School - Gayville, S.D.

Number of years coaching: 15 years in track, 10 in cross country.

At a glance: An Inspiring Coach is always able to give inspiration and advice when it counts most. In fact, Coach Larry Buffington of Gayville-Volin High School in Gayville, S.D., is known for it; his nuggets of wisdom are known as “Buffisms” on his track and cross country teams. In his more than 30 years of coaching, Coach Buffington has created a community of runners in and around Gayville-Volin; from inspiring kids in elementary school to take up running to rallying the community to build a new track for his runners, Coach Buffington has what it takes to be an Inspiring Coach.


What advice does Coach Buffington give his athletes?
I believe a coach can only inspire and advise an athlete after having developed a relationship of caring and trust. You have to find out what motivates each athlete and also what hurdles they think are keeping them from achieving their goals. As a coach, I try to help our athletes remove those hurdles; it might be as simple as finding rides home for them after practice or getting shoes donated if their family cannot afford them. Once your athletes know you care about them, inspiration and advice are more readily received. Many times that inspiration centers around what our “team theme” for the season is. For example, two years ago, our girls cross country team chose a verse from Romans 5 as their theme: “Endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” If one of them was struggling, I would talk about how overcoming whatever situation they are encountering, whether in training, the classroom, or at home is what produces character and that they will not be disappointed if they continue to give their best effort. Bringing it back to what they had chosen for inspiration proved to be motivating.
I am also known for what my athletes over the years have referred to as "Buffisms." In other words, one-liners that I use a lot when I am coaching. The team gave me the following as their favorites:
"A bad day will become a good day when you get out and run just to hear the gravel under your feet."
"A bad day is a good day when you spend it with your teammates."
"It only hurts when you take your eyes off the finish line."
"Focus on the prize, not the price."

What makes Coach Buffington Run Happy?
Running from corner to corner during a track event or across the course during a cross country meet to cheer on our athletes makes me Run Happy. Training runs also make me Run Happy because they are an example of doing what it takes "even when no one is watching!"

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