After 54 years of coaching, Joe Shields was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame on June 26. This year the annual event was held in Sioux Fall, South Dakota.
“I would coach for as long as I was alive if people were willing to let me do it. One of things I recognized for a long time is that I get as much, if not more, joy and pleasure out of the day to day working with kids in practices as I do the meets. In 54 years, I have never had a day I dreaded going to a practice. I feel very fortunate I have had this opportunity. Not everyone gets to do a job they like this much,” said Shields who has a contract for assistant coach for track and field at West Grand next year. As a retiree, he looks forward to being able to continue his work with students and often substitutes in addition to his coaching duties.
Shields began his teaching and coaching career in Buena Vista in 1963 where he assisted with football and track and was the head coach for basketball. Four years later, Shields began teaching sciences for 7th and 8th graders at West Grand and was an assistant coach for basketball and track. He later became a head coach for both of these. At this time, he also began working on his masters for guidance counseling. He became the sole guidance counselor for West Grand’s students K-12th for ten years. In 1980, he took the reins as principal at the West Grand High School and retired as principal in 1996 and returned as a part-time counselor. During this 55 years, he coached continually as the head coach or assistant coach every year except for the year 2016.
Even though Shields coached different sports at high school and middle school, track and field predominated over his five decades of coaching.
Sheilds was a distance runner in college and shows some surprise that his specialty became jumping events.
“When Cheryl Brown became the head coach for the girls track and field, we started splitting things up into specialties for us… I now focus on horizontal jumps – triple jump, long jump, the two hurdle events and the high jump.” Before this Shields focused on the pole vault and often held training practices over the summer for pole vaulters. “I also work with girls as much as boys,” Shields noted changes in coaching over the years.
In terms of stats for his head coaching years for boys track and field, Shields says he was blessed to work with talented athletes. He outlines it to the best of his knowledge as: 28 league championships, 18 regional meet championships, in the top three at state eight times, three team state championships, one state runner -up and four times in third. He notes that the regional meet championship changed about ten years ago and it no longer exists, but before that time it was composed of over 20 northwestern schools and extended to Mancas and encompassed most of the western state and was very competitive.
In addition he quoted, “I coached 32 boys that were individual or relay state champions… We’ve had six different classification state records from the boys.” Of those state classifications only Tyson Parrot’s high jump still stands, but Bill Culbreath’s pole vault record stood from 1984-2016. Other state record holders were Chris Gallegos in the 1600 meter dash, Travis Matney in the 800 meter dash, and Shawn Scholl in the pole vault.
“93 and 94 were back to back state champions, and there were a lot of kids on those teams that did something. For West Grand boys, Clay Schake scored the all-time most points in his career in state meets when he was a sophomore, junior and senior,”
Shields emphasizes that sports is an extension of the whole academic program and every year he spends times recruiting kids into the program. Once they are there, he strives to coaches every kid regardless of their ability and to give them every opportunity.
He also imparts to kids to relax and focus on their technique and what they have to get done in competitions. I tell them, “When you go to the line… know in your own heart that you are as good as anyone else and you have worked hard enough to get the job done…”
“I think coaches have to be good teachers and good communicators. These are things I strived for…” said Shields who says some of his best experiences have been coaching kids who may never win at a meet but continually get better and never give up.
This philosophy also led him to be honored by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2000 as a finalist for Coach of the Year. Shields was also recognized in 1994 as the Colorado Boy’s Track Coach of the Year and was inducted into the Colorado Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001 and was named 2008 Colorado State Track and Cross-Country Official of the year. It is with this impressive record that inspired the high school facility to be named for him and the Joe Shields Invitational Track Meet to carry his namesake.
This year, Shields was accompanied to the induction by his wife, Sue, his daughter Jamie and his grandson and his family. He was also honored to be accompanied by fellow coaches Chris and Cheryl Brown.
Chris Brown was honored as a finalist for the Coach of the Year for football. The Coach of the Year award recognizes those with longevity of the coach and the overall win-loss record. Brown is currently holding the record for all time football wins in the state with over 300 wins during his 42 years of coaching.
In 2008, he was also inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Coach Brown says he always hopes he has has a positive influence on the lives of his players and enjoys being around the kids and seeing them grow and develop.