Laddie Lawrence continues as one of Staples’ most loved coaches

Laddie Lawrence continues as one of Staples' most loved coaches

Renee Weisz

Within the depths of the testosterone-filled boys’ locker room hallway, and surrounded by nearly 30 FCIAC title awards, sits one of Staples’ most beloved members: boys’ track coach, Laddie Lawrence.

Lawrence could barely begin a sentence before Greg Fisher ’15, a long jump and triple jumper, popped his head in to say “Laddie, I love you.” Lawrence chuckled at this typical remark. “I love the man to death. He is one of the most influential people in my entire life,” Fisher said later.

Although he began coaching in 1969, Lawrence has called the Staples track home since he was a freshman in 1960. In his senior year, he was a captain and state champion with a 400 meter time of 49 seconds flat. Lawrence went on to run at Southern Arkansas on a full track scholarship, and has most recently been inducted into the National High School Coaches Association National Hall of Fame. He plans to continue coaching Staples track for as long as possible.

Yet, it’s clear that Lawrence’s multiple achievements tell only a small part of his story as a coach.

Many members agree that it’s his devoted attitude towards the entire team that earns him so much respect. “Laddie cares about every kid’s performance. Regardless if they’re a national champion or can barely run a mile, he wants you to succeed just as bad as you do,” Victor Kolbin ’14, former team member and current runner for Penn State Behrend, said.

Beyond the track,  Lawrence retired from teaching health and physical education in the Bridgeport schools two-and-a-half years ago.

Even more than his impact on the Staples team, he introduced the sophomore year gym class, exercise science, to the Staples curriculum. Exercise science is a class which not only “teaches kids to participate [in exercise] but educates them as to why it is important,” Lawrence said.

Since retiring from his teaching job, Lawrence feels he has more energy in the afternoons and more time to focus solely on the track team. “I like my mornings now they’re very leisurely,” he said, though joking that his idea of leisurely is “getting up when I want to, which is usually between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.”

Included in these relaxing mornings is reading books on every US president, one of Lawrence’s bucket list items, and planning a novel he hopes to someday write. The novel will include a compilation of motivational track stories he tells before every large meet and lessons he’s learned throughout his life.

Lawrence’s motivational speeches are recognized by his athletes and fellow coaches as a signature aspect of his character.

“Part of the reason his inspirational speeches are so legendary is that he only gives them at big meets. It’s not like everyday at practice he’s like ‘you know in 1973 someone ran a lap really fast,” girls’ head coach Amanda Morgan said with a laugh “You know it’s a big deal if Laddie’s gonna stop the bus,” she continued.

Morgan also ran track at Staples for three seasons, all four of her years in high school, and has long valued his coaching advice and genuine compassion towards the team.

For Fisher, Lawrence made the difference in motivating him to qualify at an invitational and beat his personal record by over two feet. “A couple days before the meet, I said to Laddie, ‘There really isn’t a reason for me to go to this meet. I’m not even gonna get a measurement.”  He turned around and said, ‘You gotta change your attitude.  It’s time you have a big jump, because even though you don’t think you have a 37 foot jump in you, I do.’ I jumped 38 feet and nine inches that meet,” Fisher said. “He’s a great coach and an even better friend and I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do next year [when I’m graduated],” he continued.

Graduating Captain Oliver Hickson ’15 also expressed his sadness at saying goodbye to such an inspirational coach. “Laddie is the most dedicated person I’ve met. He has given his entire life to Staples cross country and track,” he said. “Staples could not be luckier to have him.”