17 National Championships, 15 times runner up, “Coach of the Century” are just some of the accomplishments that Al Carius has made. Al sits on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches along with Wooden, Rockne, and Bear Bryant and he is still grinding away. Al is a small-town guy that is humble and has his midwest roots firmly planted in the ground. Al values your word, work ethic, family, and being part of something bigger than yourself. But make no mistake, the jovial, always smiling, glass half-full guy lives to compete and compete he does with a career that spans 5 decades as head of the Men’s Cross Country Team at North Central College.
But as competitive as Al is, it’s the family atmosphere and the relationships that he has made along the way of his legendary coaching career that he is the proudest of. If I had to describe Al’s coaching philosophy and personality, from what I read he’s a lot like John Wooden. He’s made such an extraordinary impact on so many young men’s lives that it’s not even possible for me to put into words.
A Bump In The Road
In the fall, I got word that Al hit a bump in the road with his health. While he and I hadn’t talked in a few years I knew that I needed to reach out to him. I wanted to remind him of the importance of strength training, that he needed to run less, and that he needed to get himself into a calorie surplus so his reserves were full.
On a Monday in September I called him. In this first phone call he reminded me why he is who he is - it’s not what he said, it was the energy in his voice, it was his attitude, I knew he was smiling the whole time while we were talking. You see Al learned a long time ago if you control the six inches between your ears with a winner’s attitude and inner ability of dealing with adversity you can just about conquer any obstacle.
What happened next is something I didn’t see coming. He and I began speaking weekly, rarely about health or the team. Our conversations have become about life. I sort of feel like I’m in an AP life class and these chats have become more important than any actual class that I’ve taken. The week of Christmas he and I had the best conversation to date, we talked about what it takes to make it in life. I told him I thought it was about outworking your competitors, your emotional intelligence, and taking risks.
He agreed and then said I’ll raise you. Success is much less about IQ and much more about your ability to deal with adversity. He credited his success to getting knocked down to the ground and having the ability to get right back up. “If you get knocked down 10 times you get up 11.” Easier said than done but always such a great reminder.
Al stands at 5’9” and a buck forty, in no way a physically intimidating man. But the tenacity that this man has shown in a career and life is something that very few people will ever reach and is somewhat mind blowing. He is a 1 percenter and I have a direct access, how lucky I am!!
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