Paisley track and field coach retires

After 39 years of coaching track and field and spending the last 22 years coaching at Paisley High School, Mark Douglas has retired to focus his attention on his new gun smithing business where he will be working on vintage guns.

Douglas began his track and field career at North Douglas High School in Drain. He was inspired by his brother, who was state champion, to be on the track team. In high school Douglas participated in most track and field events, and began to specialize when he want to Lane Community College in Eugene before going to Oregon State University (OSU) to earn a degree in exercise psychology, where he was on the track and field team for triple jump.

Even before he attended OSU Douglas was volunteering his time to help coach his high school team, and since he was close enough to his alma mater while at OSU he continued to be a volunteer assistant coach working to help train the next generation of track and field athletes.

“I knew in high school I wanted to be a track coach. I read up everything on technique and training that I could while I was in high school and college,” said Douglas.

In his final year at OSU he was a volunteer assistant coach for the team, teaching the underclassman who were just starting their track and field career at the collegiate level.

After graduating from OSU, Douglas got a job at a wood products company in the Springfield area. His future wife was also living in the Springfield area, and she grew up in Paisley. While working for the wood products company Douglas began a fitness and safety program for the workers. Within a year Douglas was the general manager of the company.

In the mid-1990s he and his wife moved to her hometown of Paisley, where Douglas had a job at a local lumber company, something that he was familiar with growing up in Drain, which still has a couple of sawmills operating.

When Douglas and his wife settled in Paisley, the local school — Paisley High School — had suspended its track and field program to institute a baseball program. Over the years the school has had a fairly dominant 1A basketball program, but was looking for a sporting event for students to take part in the spring. This was just before the Paisley School District would open its dorms and begin attracting international students. The vast majority of the students were still from local areas, with some students coming from other parts of Oregon.

After a couple of lackluster years of the baseball program the Paisley School District decided to switch from baseball to restart its track and field program. Douglas was in the community but did not apply for the track and field coach position in 1999.

“I had a lot of experience coaching and I wanted to work to build championships and not just give the students something to do in the spring,” said Douglas.

At the time he began his coaching career at Paisley, the school began attracting international students, which is one of the reasons the doors of the Paisley School District have been able to remain open, as the population locally has been in a steady decline.

“Generally, the international students who come out for track and field have no experience,” said Douglas.

He said a couple of them have had distance running experience and one student from Australia had experience in track and field.

“I was able to take a discipline that takes multiple years to perfect and turn students into successful athletes,” said Douglas.

Most international students only spend one year attending Paisley before heading back home, and Douglas said many of them join track and field clubs back home. Several students have gone on to collegiate track and field careers.

“I have worked to create a culture of success and highlight individuals as leaders. Over the years I have seen the local students help to coach their international counterparts,” said Douglas.

While he and his assistant, Tony Cardoza, spend a lot of time working with the international students, Douglas said the local students do not feel the international students are a burden to the team. He said there are a lot of students who could be track and field coaches themselves.

Over the years, despite not having a regulation size track — or even a paved track — Douglas has been able to turn Paisley into a perennial contender in the 1A track and field state championships. Oftentimes the Paisley team sends several athletes to the state championships and someone generally places. Oftentimes students are running hurdles in the grass, and the track is shorter than it should be, all things the Paisley students have to overcome.

“I take that student who might not have a lot of confidence in themselves and I can see that confidence grow,” said Douglas.

Even though he is stepping away, and will miss seeing the development and growth of the students, Douglas said he will offer whatever help the new track and field coach at Paisley High School asks of him.

Douglas plans to remain in the area working on his new business, working on restoring vintage firearms, and had some words of advice for whoever comes after him.

“The advice I have for the next coach is that they should really focus on building the confidence in the kids and tell them that anything is possible rather than just focusing on the X’s and O’s,” said Douglas. “It has been a pleasure and honor to be a part of the Paisley track program and I will miss it.”

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