There is a different feeling around the indoor track building this year. Assistant coach David Kaiser — in his first year with Michigan as the field coach — stresses the idea of track and field being a team sport. Kaiser is a proven winner, having coached many All-Americans and conference champions while working at many schools, including Purdue, DePaul and Kansas.
Although individual accolades are great for the team, Kaiser’s goal is to coach his team to a Big Ten championship. He attempts to instill a team attitude in a sport where results are dependent on individual events.
“We must unite 45 individuals into a team that are all doing something different,” Kaiser said. “Our challenge is to get everybody to understand their roles.”
The team is divided into distance runners, sprinters and field athletes. And this division makes it difficult to achieve a team identity.
“An individual winning their event does not mean the team will win,” sophomore triple-jumper Mike Whitehead said. “An individual cannot win the title. You must do it as a team.”
For the field athletes, realizing this team identity proves more difficult because of the diversity of events. Kaiser builds team unity by training the jumpers, throwers and pole-vaulters together.
“When you sweat together, bleed together and hurt together, it brings your group closer together,” Kaiser said.
Even though the season has not started yet, the athletes notice a difference between this year’s and last year’s squad.
“Last year, we had team unity issues on the team, but the lines that separated us are beginning to melt,“ Whitehead said. “It doesn’t matter what event you are competing in, you need the support and admiration of your teammates.”
Kaiser wouldn’t specify about the specific issues, but said, if the team wants to accomplish its goal of winning a Big Ten championship, it must not rely on just a handful of athletes.
“You are not going to win a conference championship with two or three superstars.” Kaiser said. “We need the rest of our team to attain that championship level to complement the superstars.”
The Wolverines hope to improve upon last year’s sixth-place finish at the Big Ten tournament. The athletes see the application of Kaiser’s coaching method as a step towards improving their place in the Big Ten.
“The addition of Kaiser to the program has had a positive effect on the team,” Whitehead said. “I expect big things this year.”
The hope is that the impact of Kaiser’s efforts to create a team feeling on the team will be apparent when the team participates in the season opening meet. The Wolverines host the Jack Harvey Invitational on Saturday at the Indoor Track Building.