The Providence College head coach has quietly created a stable of world beaters with his old-school approach.
Ask any of the thousands of athletes Ray Treacy’s coached in the past 26 years to describe their coach and they will most likely use the same two words: consistency and simplicity.
Of all the elite coaches out there, only Treacy has been able to help three non-African women break 15:00 in the 5,000 meters. Once a three-time All-American at Providence College, where he now coaches, the Irish born Treacy has been involved in the school’s running program for nearly three decades. During that time, he has mentored a staggering number of top-tier athletes: 134 All-Americans, 11 NCAA individual champions, 142 Big East individual champions and 13 Olympians. What’s the secret behind Treacy’s success?
New Zealand-born marathoner Kim Smith, one of Treacy’s Olympians, says her coach values getting his athletes to the start line of races healthy above all else. A believer in a fixed two-week schedule, Treacy doesn’t like to overcomplicate things. “He would rather have me under trained than over trained,” said Smith, who has been with Treacy for a decade. “A lot of college coaches don’t look out for your long-term development, but Ray has always made sure I’ve progressed each year.”
Another of Treacy’s athletes, the American record holder in the 5,000m, Molly Huddle, agrees. She says Treacy’s strength is not “overcooking” his runners, meaning he favors adequate recovery over pushing athletes to the edge. “We don’t want to be running too fast too early,” Huddle said. “That’s a sure way to get hurt.”
Treacy’s love affair with running began when he was a young boy in Ireland. He was an Irish national junior champion and a member of his country’s cross-country team. While at Providence College, Treacy was the university’s cross-country team captain during his junior and senior years.
Treacy currently lives in Warwick, R.I., with his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Michael and Liam. The 1982 graduate of Providence College likes to describe his coaching style as “old school.”
“I don’t like to say that any one person influenced me,” he said. “I have taken a lot from the great coaches like [Arthur] Lydiard or even Jack Daniels, but in the end, I coach based on experience.
I’ve observed many runners over the years and have concluded that a coach has to apply their own philosophies to every situation.”
COACH TREACY’S TRAINING ADVICE
Like most coaches, Treacy believes an athlete’s training should be customized to his individual needs. However, there are three key tenets that make up Treacy’s philosophy:
•CONSISTENT, INJURY-FREE TRAINING: Treacy believes runners who are able to stay healthy and put in consistent training will be able to realize their full potential eventually. “The primary duty of a coach is to keep the athlete healthy,” he said. “The longer they’re injury-free, the better they’ll get over time.”
•CAUTION WITH ILLNESS: If one of his runners shows up to practice sick, Treacy tells them not to come back for three days. Treacy believes that most athletes lose their common sense when they get sick. “The better they are [at thier sport], the more they worry about missing days, but it’s better to miss days than to be sick for weeks,” Treacy said.
•NO JUNK MILES: Though Treacy considers the mileage-loving Arthur Lydiard one of his influences, he still doesn’t believe in runs with no purpose. “You have to go at a particular pace on a particular day,” Treacy maintained. “The long run is part of the equation, but I don’t believe in lots of really slow mileage.”
This piece first appeared in the April 2012 issue of Competitor magazine.