In the summer of 2005, my co-producer Brady Hallongren and I set out to capture the essence of coaching legend, Joe Newton. I’ve known of Mr. Newton since I was in the fourth grade. A classmate was running in Coach Newton’s summer program and he would always share his stories about this force of nature who was inspiring hundreds of men all summer long.
In high school, Mr. Newton was my teacher and my first real-life example of what a true leader is. He is able to walk a fine line between hardline disciplinarian and loving father figure. One moment he will be yelling and cussing out an athlete at the top of his lungs, and in the next, be patting him on the back and making him feel like a champion.
This project was especially personal for me since I have been teaching high school for the last four years. While working at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, I have been exposed to some of the most competitive academic scholars in the country. Making this film was an opportunity for me to reflect back on my own high school years. I wanted to hone my skills as a teacher – to learn the techniques that make the great ones great.
This year, York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois had the largest team in the history of the school. In this day of iPods, cell phones, and the Internet, anyone who can inspire 220+ teenagers to run up to 20 miles a day must have an extraordinary and essential gift to share with young people. Mr. Newton imparts life lessons that transcend all disciplines – business, sports, the arts, education. He espouses the discipline of being a stellar human being, always striving to do the absolute best one can do—whatever one happens to be doing:
• Always do your best
• Show up on time
• Treat the little guy that always comes in last as well as you treat the best guy
• Show tender loving care to your athletes every day
• Believe in the team
Joe Newton is an integral part of the community of Elmhurst. He has created his own “village” within the larger one of the town itself. THE LONG GREEN LINE creates leaders among its ranks. Some young men lead with their voices, some with their legs and lungs, but it is always a perpetual model of leadership.
My journey back to my formative years has been incredibly rewarding by allowing me to investigate what it truly takes to be a success – in coaching, in running, and in life.