Worcester Technical High School empowers youth through the run
The coach of this 2022 Brooks Booster Club grant recipient breaks down cultural barriers with food and inspires student athletes to love the sport for life.
Coach Jerry Snay has been an athlete for most of his life, joining track and field in high school but finding a groove as an offensive tackle, eventually playing Division I college football.
His early foray into track caught back up with him during mandatory training runs in the army. Coach Jerry claims he held the record for coming in last in his battalion for every PT run, which could range from anywhere from four to 12 miles.
“It may not have been pretty, but I always finished.”
That attitude carries over into his coaching philosophy for the Worcester Tech Eagles track and field team, a recipient of a 2022 Brooks Booster Club grant.
“I have never cut a kid from a program, and I still won’t. I will ask a student athlete to leave, but I have zero performance cuts. I don’t believe in it,” he explains. Coach Snay understands how crucial a team environment can be for individual athletes.
We caught up with Coach Jerry to chat about Worcester Technical High School, what brings his athletes together, and how youth can find inspiration in the run.
Brooks: Tell us about Worcester Technical High School and the Eagles track and field team.
Coach Jerry: We are a vocational and technical school. Our student population is just over 1,500 students. We define the student body as 70% high-needs and 65% low income. All of our students qualify for free meals. Our student body population is extremely diverse — we have 70 different languages spoken in our school, and 55% of our population’s first language is not English. On my team alone, there are currently 14 different languages spoken.
Brooks: How do you coach for 14 different languages?
Coach Jerry: There can be lots of culture shock for our students, so I like to pair up any new athlete with someone that has a similar cultural background. But I think it’s also important to promote their differences. We do that through food. We host different meals where people bring in dishes from their cultures, and we all sample and share. Food is a great unifier, and I love to eat. But in the end, sharing their culture and their family’s food makes the kids happy and proud. It’s also important for me to identify veteran kids, leaders that will take new students under their wings.
Brooks: How many athletes do you coach?
Coach Jerry: When I started in 2015, our team had just 12 kids. We are well over a hundred now. Before COVID, right before we shut down and went remote, we were up to 120. Once we got back to in-person learning, we were at 90 athletes. But we’re getting our numbers back up — right now we have 59 athletes in cross country, and 101 for indoor and outdoor track and field.
Brooks: What is it about running that’s so great for your students?
Coach Jerry: I think back to my experience as a college coach — when you are a student athlete you have to maintain good grades. We make you a better student by teaching you time management. We have a homework centre, and our athletes are required to put in at least 45 minutes of study. Plus, of course there are the physical and mental health benefits of the run. Your body is meant to move. When you exercise, you’re going to feel better, your body systems will work properly, and you will lower your stress levels. When you are on a team, it teaches you to practice goal-setting, and this is so important for our kids.
Brooks: What is your coaching philosophy?
Coach Jerry: In this particular sport, I teach my kids that it’s something you can do for the rest of your life. You don’t have to be good at it. But doing this now, at this age, means you set a foundation for good health for the rest of your life. I still compete in the masters division in shot put and discus. I have kids say “Wow, Coach! I can’t believe you can still do this.” Being a part of this community now means you have something there for you later on in life too.
About the Brooks Booster Club
Since 2015, the program has helped 129 schools and 5,500 young runners across the U.S. with more than $1.8 million in cash and gear donations. Each school recipient gets enough training shoes, racing shoes, uniforms, and warm-up apparel for a 30-person team, plus $2,000 to help with expenses.
Photos by Justin Britton