From national champion to coach

Ameliese Baehr-Ross

David Thompson has been the head women’s cross country and track coach for almost seventeen years. Thompson was a three time national champion in college in track and field. He started coaching at North Central College. He decided he wanted to finish up and get his masters degree, which made his eligibility for track over. Wanting to continue track, he became a student coach his fifth year. This was his first experience with coaching.
Moving into the Quad Cities, he contacted Augustana and got hired. In his first coaching job at North Central, he really just observed and did minimal tasks. But coming to Augustana introduced him to a whole new world of opportunities and responsibility. 
I was responsible for an event group where I had to write workouts. Fred Whiteside just kind of turned me loose [and said] ‘hey this is your group, you’re a three time national champion, I trust you know what you’re doing. So just go for it.’ It was at Augustana that people were looking to me to make the decisions because I was coaching my own different event group,” Thompson said.  
The systems and coaching style that he has brought into Augustana’s athletics have really shaped and bettered the teams as a whole. Because of this, his 2018-19 cross country squad finished third in the CCIW and 20th in the nation indoors. In 2019-20, his cross country squad placed sixth at the CCIW Championships. His track & field group placed fifth at the CCIW Indoor Championships before it was cancelled due to COVID. 
He has a specific coaching style that emphasizes the athletes and the experience that they will get through his program. 
 “I’m not an outcome driven coach, meaning it’s never about how far you throw, it’s never about how far you jump, it’s never about how fast you run. For me, it’s about making sure everybody has a positive experience and making sure that you’re a better person when you leave the program than when you enter,” Thompson said.  
Sofia Wajner, a junior on the track and field team, says that Thompson’s coaching has had a positive impact on her running as well as in her life.
He’s understanding when it comes to school and outside stresses. We can easily communicate and he’ll alter the practices or the workouts depending on how stressed out we might be, which helps us all compete better because we are both physically and mentally able to compete,” Wajner said. 

Sylvia Harvin, a sophomore on the varsity track and field team, agrees that Thompson’s coaching is like nothing she has ever experienced before. 

Yes, his coaching style is very different from what I had in high school, but I like it because one thing he emphasizes a lot  is the individual. He’ll go and make a plan and if you’re feeling tight that day, or each athlete is different, so we might tweak it based on people he knows struggles with certain lifts,” Harvin said. 
Coaching is something that inspires Thompson and he continues to do his best to encourage and inspire athletes at Augustana to help them further their athletic and academic careers.
“The best thing about coaching is looking at the joy that they have on their face, because behind the scenes, you see everything that’s gone into that. I live for those moments,” Thompson said.