When the time came to transition to another profession, he was ready. He had begun preparing for a move to coaching while still in college by studying training techniques. “I saw the impact that Coach (Clarence) Robison had and the good things he was able to do as a coach,” says Eyestone. “I knew that was something I wanted to do.”
He won an NCAA post-graduate scholarship and the NCAA Top Six Award, another scholarship awarded to the top six scholar athletes. He used the scholarships to earn a master’s degree in exercise science, augmenting the knowledge he was collecting as an athlete to prepare for coaching. Throughout his running career, he picked the brains of coaches and runners for training information, not only to aid his own training, but to aid his coaching career.
“He still does that,” says All-American Jared Ward. “I’ve watched him talk to other coaches and I’ve seen a lot of coaches talking to him. He is one who gleans everything he can from others, but he’s also willing to give to everyone as well.”
Eyestone had the advantage of training under highly successful coaches — Robison, James and Pat Shane. In the latter stages of his running career, he took his first coaching job as an assistant at Weber State under Chick Hislop, another masterful distance coach, before being hired 2½ years later as BYU’s head coach for cross-country and distance coach for track and field. Then last summer he was appointed to oversee the entire track and field program as well as men’s cross-country.
“One of my strengths is helping athletes define goals they are capable of accomplishing and helping them establish traditions that reinforce the attainment of those goals,” says Eyestone. “Ultimately, that’s why I’ve been put in this position.”
Eyestone, a relaxed man with a dry wit and a ready sense of humor, has brought his own style and talents to coaching. A longtime guitar player, he sometimes brings his guitar on team road trips and occasionally plays and sings for his athletes. At the end of every season he writes and then performs a humorous song at the team awards banquet that chronicles the season’s memorable moments and includes something about every athlete.
“Those are treasures,” says Ward. “I have copies of those songs from my freshman year. He performs the song and then hands out the lyrics.”
Eyestone has established what he hopes will become team traditions. The various groups of athletes train at various times, but they all come together one day a week — men and women — to run a team lap and then “celebrate, communicate and motivate.” If an athlete produced a performance the previous week that cracks the top 10 of his event on the school’s all-time record board — which hangs high on a wall in the field house — the team gathers for “the ladder ceremony.” A ladder is placed under the record board and the athlete climbs to the board as the team chants “Ladder! Ladder!” to remove the 10th athlete on the list and to place his name where it belongs on the list. The coach talks about the athlete whose name was knocked out of the top 10 and then about the athlete whose name has now attained top-10 status.
“It’s all about creating traditions, opportunities and motivation,” says Eyestone. “It’s something the other athletes can shoot for. They want to climb the ladder and get their name up there.”
Eyestone sits down with each of his runners at the start of the year to discuss a training plan. While many coaches produce one-size-fits-all training plans, his are tailored, as much as possible, to an athlete’s weaknesses and strengths.
“He is quite mindful of each runner and what’s best for him, all the way to the 30th runner,” says Ward. “He pays attention to everyone. He is confident that what he gives you will work. He’s done most of it himself and he’s got years of experience coaching. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t work and what works at different times of the season.”
Says Kotter, “Everyone loves Coach Eyestone. He is definitely an athletes’ coach and very approachable. He knows all his athletes well.”
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