Inspiring Coaches Finalist Melissa Thomas

Manchester Valley High School - Manchester, MD

Number of years coaching: 4 years coaching Cross Country.

At a glance: Coach Melissa Thomas is the epitome of Run Happy. She comes to practice each day full of energy, a huge smile on her face, jumping around and sharing the joy of running with her team. She makes each individual athlete feel special and that just seeing them was the highlight of her day. Her enthusiasm towards the sport encourages her athletes to share their love of the run. Through her own personal struggles and triumphs, Coach Thomas consistently promotes strength and perseverance. She leads by example and makes her athletes feel like they can be strong through anything that may come their way.


What piece of advice does Coach Thomas give an athlete having a bad day to inspire them?
When we start practice, I call it "defunk" time. Our warm up and yoga are all a good way for me to see where my athletes are emotionally and mentally from their day. If an athlete is having a bad day because of school, I get to listen along with the team and together we pose solutions. I offer hugs and a laugh and remind them that running is a great sport for working out your issues.

If it seems that a runner is having a bad day running, I try to remind them that it is never as bad as they see it. I also am a runner and train, so I have lots of training stories about the runs that go badly and I try to relate them to the athlete. I also talk to them a lot about the physiology of running and we try to diagnose why they are feeling that way. I don’t like to leave kids with empty compliments, but I often tell them that they are awesome and but then I give them a specific reason why. I think every kid needs to know and feel that they have something special and runners ALWAYS do!

What makes Coach Thomas Run Happy?
A brisk early morning, miles of open road, my running buddy – Elizabeth Foyle, my iPod playing low to drown out the fatigue in my legs!

I found my love of running distance after having my first child about 10 years ago. There is no therapy greater than hitting the pavement and knowing that in the next hour or two, you will either defeat or be defeated by hills and valleys, but the best part is that tomorrow you can come out again and ask for a rematch!

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