A Few Minutes

Gary Droze takes it all in stride Gary Droze: Ahead of the Pack
Track Coach Shows That Running is Fun

By Jessica Stasiw

Known as a taskmaster, motivator and caring coach, Gary Droze continues to inspire athletes and the not-so-athletic alike.

Honored twice as Big Bend Coach of the Year, in 1999 and 2000, he consistently sets new standards for greatness in the lives of young runners.

“His contributions are at the forefront of running and coaching,” said Tom Perkins, president of Tallahassee’s Gulf Winds Track Club. “He truly cares about the kids. Whether it’s the superstar of the team or a kid trying to find himself or herself, he tries to help everyone find their own success.”

For non-athletes, Droze teaches a beginning running class during the school year at Maclay School, where he serves as a physical education teacher and coaches the runners on Maclay’s high school teams for track, cross-country and girls’ weightlifting. A track record of 18 state championships, 21 regional titles and 34 district titles in boys’ track is a testament to Droze’s success in motivating young people.

For the newly initiated, running may be tedious, but Droze tells neophyte runners not to give up.

“First, find somebody to get yourself motivated to run, and give it at least three weeks; that’s how long it takes to get into the habit of it,” he said. Perseverance will pay off, he added, with an activity that can be continued for the rest of one’s life.

Ever since his time in the Air Force Academy, Droze said he has believed running should be more of a habit than watching television. In his summer camp, Summer Mornings Include Running Fitness (SMIRF), Droze uses activities such as relay races, Ultimate Frisbee and icy treats to keep kids interested in exercise.

“Being active helps kids be happier about their bodies, and it’s a great stress release,” he said. Droze has a personal drive to keep kids unglued from sofas year round to keep them healthy and happy. He uses his biweekly column on running in the Tallahassee Democrat as another way to share his knowledge of the sport.

At the age of 45, Droze sets a good example for his young students. His recent racing accomplishments include an overall third-place finish in the Male Masters Race (ages 40 and over), held in 2005 in Asheville, N.C.

Through Gulf Winds Track Club, Droze has helped set up a running program – and made a lasting impression on the people around him.

“When he goes to say something, everyone stops to listen. He is a very valuable asset to the running community,” Perkins said.

With weekly “fun” track meets, Droze proves that one can replicate the hilarity of a T-ball game by watching kids ages 5 and under compete on the track.

“My goal is to get kids to at least have an interest in sports,” he said.

Although Droze and his wife, Victoria, have no children, he said he feels that they “have about 100 kids part time.”

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