“Okay gang. Nice and easy. Nothin’ too crazy.” If those words sound familiar to you, you may have spent some time circling a track with NOVA Coach Jerry Alexander keeping a careful eye on your progress. As the coach for the Northern Virginia Running Club (NOVA), Alexander has spent more than his fair share of hours watching athletes race around that loop, and his role as trainer, mentor, and voice of reason has helped NOVA to become the team it is today.
Alexander joined NOVA in 2006, following several years in college coaching. He had built an impressive roster of success stories over those years, but once Alexander decided to take on the runners of NOVA, he realized he had to make some changes in how he approached his athletes. He says his greatest challenge in coaching club teams is helping his athletes to balance their running with the rest of their lives. “The athletes I coach all work full time, or are in school full time, and many of them have families,” he said. “It’s very difficult for them to find the time to train properly and meet their other responsibilities. They all take the running very, very seriously, and make many sacrifices to maximize their performance, but ultimately other things in their lives have to take precedence.”
Alexander’s philosophy about coaching is tailored to each individual runner. “I’ve learned over the years that coaching is not a one-size-fits-all proposition,” he said. “My view is that the opposite is true–a training plan that may be appropriate for some runners is absolutely not appropriate for others.” Coach Jerry is experienced enough to know that a realistic assessment of each athlete’s strengths and weaknesses greatly increases his or her chances for success.
Coaching at NOVA, while fulfilling, is not Alexander’s only responsibility. He is also the head coach of the Pacers Running/ Georgetown Running Club (GRC) New Balance, an elite club based in Bethesda MD, composed of former collegiate stars and runners with experience competing at the national level.
Because of his two distinct yet complementary coaching roles, Alexander can view his goals as a coach as two-fold. ”I truly enjoy working with the elite athletes at GRC, and I’m honored that they trust me to guide their training. But I also really enjoy coaching NOVA. It’s truly a pleasure to see athletes improve, and I take great satisfaction from seeing NOVA runners meet and exceed their goals. As long as an athlete is willing to work hard and train seriously, I’m going to do my best to coach her, no matter her skill level.”
In his abundant spare time between coaching two track clubs and answering several dozen to several hundred coaching emails per day (often hitting the reply button within minutes), Alexander works in his real job as a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice.