Coach Spotlight: Northwest Nazarene's John Spatz
Now in his 17th year at Northwest Nazarene, John Spatz came to Nampa after 14 years as head coach at Eastern Oregon.
Now in his 17th year at Northwest Nazarene, John Spatz came to Nampa after 14 years as head coach at Eastern Oregon.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Part of a regular series.

Throughout the year, uses this space to profile conference student-athletes, coaches, and administrators. Collectively, it is these individuals who make the GNAC one of the top NCAA Division II athletic conferences in the nation.

Name: John Spatz
Sport: Cross Country and Track & Field
School: Northwest Nazarene
Spokane, Wash.

Colleges Attended & Degrees: Spokane Community College, University of Nebraska Omaha, Eastern Washington University (Undergraduate, Education), University Of Idaho (Graduate, Recreation)

Why Did You Become A Coach: Once my college running career came to an end, it just seemed like a natural extension of staying involved in a sport that I love. I had some great coaches growing up in Spokane that had a big influence on my life. Eventually, track rose to the top and seemed like a path that I could take to get to college. Along the way, there were also a few coaches that didn't have a positive influence on me. But this was an important part of developing as an athlete and then later as a coach.

Who Has Influenced You The Most As A Coach - Either As An Inspiration, A Mentor, Or Philosophically: At University High School coaches like Bill Clift, Bill Ames, Bob Barbero and Marv Ainsworth were outstanding teachers and coaches. Bill Ames was also my track coach during that time. Thankfully he saw in me something that was worth developing and invested in me, helping me learn many valuable lessons along the way. Today he is still a close friend and he will always be my coach. He has influenced a very large group of students over his years in the Spokane Valley. The numbers are endless. I can't thank him enough.

During my two years at Spokane Community College, I had the privilege of being coached by John Buck and then Duane Hartman. When Coach Buck told you to run or jump, believe me, you did just that. With Coach Hartman, you always knew how much he cared about you and that made you want to perform for him. We had some incredible teams those two years, winning the conference title. The second year the conference title meet was perhaps the greatest meet I have ever been a part of. I will never forget that group of coaches and my teammates.

Biggest Obstacle Overcome As A Coach: There are the obvious ones that I think a number of program and coaches have to face things like budgets, scholarships, fundraising and money for assistant coaches, so it's just something that's part of the job of any head coach. For me, it took perhaps 10 years or more to not be too obsessed with winning at all costs, pushing students and coaches too hard and losing those relationships. Winning has its place in college athletics, but I have learned to live in the moment and to value the relationship with coaches and student-athletes. For most of our students, college goes by in the blink of an eye and I don't want them to miss the value of being on a team and having great friends around them and coaches that care about them beyond athletics.

What Does Division II Mean To You: I love Division II because it's highly competitive with great teams in both the GNAC and on the national level. If you finish anywhere in the top-three in the conference you have accomplished something amazing. At the national level, it's just crazy to even make the championships. It's just a big deal. I think sometimes we become so used to this that we forget how awesome Division II really is.

Extracurricular Activities: Hunting, fishing, snowboarding, climbing, biking, reading and camping.

Best Advice You’d Give To Student-Athletes: Get involved on your campus. Get out and make friends outside of sports. Listen to your professors and coaches. There is a reason we are older than you. We have already learned all the things you need to know to be successful, so listen up and pay attention. Remember that you don't know it all yet, so be coachable and get ready for life after college.

If You Could Spend The Day With One Person (Past Or Present), Who Would It Be (And Why): Abraham Lincoln. His life was somewhat complicated. He wasn't always successful. He struggled and failed more than he succeeded. He had big ups and big downs in his life and yet he found a way to turn things and himself around. He accomplished things that everyone else said were impossible. He combined with an unshakable faith. He was one of greatest citizens in this country.

Favorite Sports Team: The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s. Four Super Bowl wins, the “iron curtain,” the terrible towel, the “Immaculate Reception,” Bradshaw, Franco, Rocke, Swann, Chuck Noll. Plus Bradshaw set the Louisiana State High School javelin record of 244 feet, 11 inches.

Favorite Athlete: Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympic 400-meter champion in 1924 where he set the world record. He refused to run his heats of the 100 meter that were scheduled for a Sunday. He became an Olympic champion in what was not his regular event. His running was simply an extension of himself. He lived his life in service to others.

Most Memorable Sports-Related Moment: The feeling of accomplishment when a student-athlete performs at a level they have never reached before and seeing the joy and satisfaction of all that they have done to reach that point. No matter the circumstance or the setting, they can always be proud of that moment and look forward to the future with hope and the knowledge that all things are possible.