The master, the motivator

Sep 222003
Authors: Joshua Pilkington

A brisk wind chills the air as the small crowd gathers together

toeing the line. The sun has risen, but its rays don’t shine thanks

to the clouds that impede their luster. There he stands in front of

his troops, his four-corned hat pulled down to his eyes conjuring

up images of Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry, as he gives a few words

of advice: “Just go out fast and relaxed,” he says with a smile.

“Anything from 53:30 to 55 minutes is fine.” And with that he sends

them on their way, 22 men and women wreaking havoc on the county

roads of Fort Collins for the space of seven to 10 miles. This is

what he does, what he loves to do. With the passion of a

10-year-old at Disneyland he follows his athletes on their trek,

shouting out their splits at each mile mark, always smiling, giving

out words of encouragement.

“There is nothing better than watching this team run,” he says

with a smile as broad as the Mississippi. “I love to watch them run

as a team.”

He is a different breed of a coach, a dying breed if you will –

one that is often not found at Division I schools, but more suited

for Division II athletic programs. This is because his duties are

not limited to the 25 or so athletes he coaches and trains in the

fall for CSU cross country, but to the 70-80 men and women he

coaches and trains into the winter and spring as the head track and

field coach. True he has his assistants to help him along the way,

but in no sector of the Mountain West Conference, or at any other

Division I-A athletic program of note, does one head coach take on

the duties of both men’s and women’s track and field and cross

country teams. But, as said before, this is what he loves to do.

His door is always open for his athletes – be they top recruits or

walk-ons – and his years of knowledge he offers to each liberally,

without the slightest discrimination. “He tells it like it is,”

says Austin Vigil one of his most talented pupils.

“Anytime I ask him what time he thinks I can run (in a race) or

what place I can finish, he’s always within one or two places and a

few seconds.”

But what else can be expected from a man who has spent a good

part of his years training some of the best the nation has to

offer. At one point he was the only coach in the nation to have

coached at three Division I track and field programs and taken each

to the NCAA Championships in track and field.

He has the ability to make good athletes great, great athletes

superb and superb athletes champions. All while asking only one

thing from everyone: “I have no problem with anyone being on this

team, as long as they are willing to work.”

He is Del Hessel, a teacher, a motivator and a friend to all

those who have the privilege of falling into his good graces.





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