Harvey has passion for helping young athletes
When most individuals reach retirement age, they settle for a life of leisure, playing golf, laying in a hammock and watching the grass grow as the sun goes up and down every day.
This is definitely not the path that Bill Harvey, a longtime track coach, chose when he moved to Lake Tahoe in 1999 after decades of coaching and teaching.
Harvey assists with the Whittell High School track team and currently provides a regular, strenuous workout routine for between six and eight school athletes. He volunteers his time and expertise with no monetary compensation, only the satisfaction of helping young athletes excel in their individual sports.
Harvey’s return to coaching happened a bit by chance. He “kicked back” for a few years, helped coach a few of his nieces but felt he needed to be more involved in athletics.
“After a few years of retirement, I wanted to get back into helping athletes train,” Harvey said. “I saw a picture of Kelly (Karmann) in the Tahoe Tribune on a Thursday throwing the discus. I could tell she was strong, and an athlete, but her technique was bad. I contacted her that Friday, then drove to Winnemucca on Saturday to a meet to begin her training.”
Thanks to Harvey’s tutelage, Karmann went on to win the state high jump and discus in 2006 and shot put in 2007. Karmann will be heading off to Cornell University within a few weeks on a volleyball scholarship.
“Through Kelly, I met and started working with Jessica (Woods), who had never done the triple jump before,” Harvey said. “She ended up winning state in that event, set numerous Whittell and state track records and graduated as one of the best athletes in school history.”
Currently, Harvey trains WHS athletes Hannah Daly, who qualified for the Junior Olympic under 15 soccer team this past spring as a goalie; her sister Natalie, a three-sport athlete; Shannon Marshall, who will be competing in a Junior Olympic National meet this weekend in the high jump; and Lauren Andrew, a member of last year’s state championship volleyball team.
“It is remarkable how much talent there is at such a small school,” Harvey said. “There are so many advantages of going to a small school, I want to take away the disadvantages by giving them the training to compete with athletes from larger schools.”
Much of his training involves weightlifting, something that was foreign to female athletes until recently. He stresses plyometric exercises that use body weight and momentum. Through a routine of lifting, stretching and running, the girls obtain optimum performances.
“All athletes want to attain more power, which comes from a combination of speed and strength,” he said. “Believe it or not, the best overall jumpers are Olympic weightlifters. There may be individual basketball or volleyball players who can jump higher, but as a group it is the lifters.”
Harvey’s passion for track started at the early age of 4.
“My dad was a track man and high jump official in Southern California. One Saturday, he planned on going to a track meet, but my mom told him to take me, or stay home. I came back from that meet wide-eyed and have loved the sport ever since.”
“When I was 8, I would mow our lawn in a track pattern, and we would have meets in front of our house. We would throw rocks for the shot put, hurl weight plates for the discus and throw a bamboo stick with a rock on the end for the javelin. For high jump, we would jump over a folding lawn chair into a pit full of grass clippings and an old mattress. The sprints had to go into the neighbor’s yard, but they didn’t mind.”
In high school, he excelled in shot put but also dabbled in other events. His track career continued at Occidental University in Eagle Rock, Calif., where he participated in both the shot and discus.
After college, Harvey coached track, as well as football and basketball at Bell High School in Florida, then moved on to Boca Raton High School, where his track team won the state championship.
Harvey joined the Air Force, where he continued to coach for the military, as well as with Trinity College in San Antonio.
After his stint in the military, it was back home to Occidental, where he was head track coach at the college from 1979 until 1999. During that period, his teams won 44 conference championships and produced 16 national champions, 199 All-Americans and five national records.
His parents owned property in Tahoe, so he naturally wanted to settle here once his coaching days were over.
Since arriving, Harvey has been instrumental in upgrading the facilities at Whittell.
“We’ve been able to get five new pieces of equipment in the weight room, thanks to the generosity of Ray Sidney’s donation, Rob Robison and others,” Harvey said. “We were able to put in a top-notch shot put ring and get new mats for training indoors.”
Harvey’s involvement in athletics goes beyond putting athletes through a rigorous training regiment. He currently throws the shot put competitively and will be participating in the nationals in Maine next month in the 60-65 year-old-age bracket. From there, it’s off to Riccone, Italy, for the World Championships.
“There should be about 50 people entered, from 20 countries at that meet,” he said. “It will be fun to compete against the Germans, who are usually huge. They usually call me the skinny guy.”
For Harvey, the satisfaction of working with young athletes and seeing them succeed makes the time and effort worth it.
“I like the opportunity to be a provider and to give these kids a chance to excel. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such a great group of kids.”
The athletes who benefit from his training, all feel fortunate to have someone so willing to give his expertise to help them achieve their athletic goals. For the rest, Bill Harvey is an inspiration of how giving back to young people in the community can help fulfill a person’s life in their retirement years.