Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

Davis Loves Helping the Yellowjackets Reach Their Potential

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Bob Davis has made a big impact in the East Haven track program by working with the Yellowjackets’ jumpers, throwers, and hurdlers since 1998. Photo courtesy of Bob Davis

Bob Davis has made a big impact in the East Haven track program by working with the Yellowjackets’ jumpers, throwers, and hurdlers since 1998. (Photo courtesy of Bob Davis)

Bob Davis has played a key role in the success of the East Haven track and field program for the past 23 years. Since 1998, Bob has helped coach numerous jumpers, throwers, and hurdlers with the Yellowjackets, and he’s enjoyed seeing them reach their full potential.

Bob met East Haven girls’ outdoor track Head Coach Rusty Dunne when the two of them were students at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in 1975. After coaching at a few different schools, Bob decided to step down as a head coach after 1997 in order to spend more time with his children. The next year, Coach Dunne asked Bob to come work with the Easties, and Bob has been a fixture in the program ever since.

“I’ve worked with a lot of athletes. What I like about East Haven is that they run a real good program,” says Bob. “I know when I go to East Haven, I’m not wasting my time. Every minute is maximized. It has been over 20 years, and the kids really seem to respond.”

Bob’s role with East Haven track is to work with athletes who compete in the technical events. Bob feels that coaches can sometimes forget how important the technical events are. He wants he the athletes who compete in those events to realize just how good they can be.

“I’ve known Rusty for a long time. I run a series of clinics for Rusty and East Haven. I work mostly on the technical events. Those events sometimes get neglected by coaches. In order to win championships, you win through technical events and relays,” Bob says. “Whatever God-given ability those athletes have, I try to maximize it. I’m drill and technique focused. I try to teach them more than coach them.”

This spring, the East Haven girls’ outdoor track team had an outstanding season that saw the Yellowjackets go 5-0 and then win the SCC West Sectional title, after which they finished fourth at the SCC Championship and sixth in the Class MM State Championship. Between the boys’ and girls’ teams, East Haven sent six athletes to compete at the State Open.

Bob says that the Yellowjackets’ track program has always been full of motivated athletes, and he commends the efforts of both Dunne and boys’ outdoor Head Coach Jim Vicario.

“They’re all motivated. When they come to me, they come ready to work. That’s my joy, that’s my reward. They understand the concept of team. The boys and the girls all buy into the team concept,” Bob says. “Rusty and Jim do a phenomenal job. I just complement what they do. It works for me, it works for them. It’s a pleasure working at East Haven.”

Growing up, Bob competed in track and field through middle school and into high school in his hometown of Bloomfield. Following high school, Bob attended SCSU and joined the men’s track team as a jumper and hurdler. As a senior, he was named a captain.

During his time at SCSU, Bob’s coaches were Jim Barber and Wil Wright. Bob still meets with Barber and feels that having him as a coach benefited him for when it was his time to helm a program.

“A lot of my motivation in track comes from Wil Wright and Jim Barber,” says Bob, who lives in Hamden. “I see Coach Barber two or three times a month. He’s my mentor. A lot of the things I’ve learned came from him.”

Bob took his first coaching job as an assistant at Eli Whitney Technical High School in 1980 and became head coach the next year, holding that role until 1986. For the next three years, Bob was a coach at Albertus Magnus College. Then in 1990, Bob became head coach of the boys’ track program at Hillhouse High School, where he stayed until 1997.

In his time at Hillhouse, Bob guided his teams to six state championships, along with first-place finishes at the State Open in both indoor and outdoor seasons in 1997. No matter where he was coaching, Bob learned a lot about proper preparation and how each minute at every practice was significant.

“It taught me the importance of preparation. John Wooden had a book and talked about making every minute count in practice. Once the practice started, every minute counted,” Bob says of the legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach. “Everything was scripted. I learned so much about planning and prepping, so you’re maximizing your time.”

Dunne has been a head coach in the East Haven outdoor track program since 1993. Knowing Bob and seeing his success at Hillhouse, Dunne not only asked him to lend a hand a few years later, but began modeling the program after him. Through the years, Dunne has seen Bob become a valued member of the Yellowjackets’ family who all of the team’s athletes look up to.

“When I took over the program at East Haven, Bob was the head coach of the tremendously successful one at Hillhouse. We tried to model his program from his warm-up workouts to emphasizing technical events,” says Dunne. “We’ve become known for our great tradition of hurdlers, multi-sport athletes, jumpers, and throwers. It’s not an accident it has been with Bob Davis. He’s a great teacher and a great man. The kids love to be coached by him.”

In addition to his work with East Haven, Bob is the SCC’s coordinator for indoor track and runs all of the meets held at Floyd Little Athletic Center. He also helps out the jumpers at Career, Hillhouse, and Wilbur Cross and, on top of that, is a certified yoga instructor.

As he continues on with the East Haven track program, Bob feels thankful to have been involved in a sport that he loves for so many years.

“I’m very grateful. I love it and I enjoy it. Some of the athletes are phenomenal. I’ve been very fortunate,” says Bob. “My joy is watching kids develop. I enjoy the sport. It gets me out of the house. I’m around something I love to do.”


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