Laura Schmitt retires after 34 years of coaching track and field, cross country

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Laura Schmitt retires after 34 years of coaching track and field, cross country

Bennett Vasquez

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It is the end of an era for the cross country and track and field programs at Redwood as head coach, Laura Schmitt, is retiring from coaching after this season. Since 1987, Schmitt has groomed some of the best runners from Redwood to pursue their love for the sport in high school and at the collegiate level.

Laura ran track as a student at Redwood and after graduating in 1982 and went on to run at the University of California, Berkeley. While she was going to graduate school at Berkeley, she began coaching for Redwood, kickstarting her career. After coaching her son for her first few years as a coach, she realized how much she appreciated the opportunity to work with kids and watch them grow into successful athletes.

“I love [the job] so much and I love working with kids. They come in and aren’t guns-a-blazing, [they] aren’t necessarily perfect. I like developing with kids, particularly the boys who come in and have a billion different things on their plate. And slowly, we develop and nurture a relationship, figure out each other, figure out … how they respond and how they are motivated. Not everyone is motivated in the same way,” Laura said.

Connecting with her athletes is Laura’s own motivation, and she looks forward to spending time with them at practice every day. The day-to-day experience of coaching will be the hardest for Laura to leave behind, as she is used to seeing her athletes for two hours and five days a week.

“The daily connection for how many decades I’ve been coming here every single day will certainly be a void. I am in contact with all my graduates, so I have that … I’m looking forward to [seeing] the kids who I’ve coached progressing,” Laura said.

Her son, Jake Schmitt, believes that Laura’s coaching stems from her being a mother, as she is always able to connect and look after her players.

“By her being an amazing mother figure and also showing that she can be a strong coach that has goals of winning. It’s a pretty powerful model for kids to see and for athletes to feel safe to express themselves and also safe to push themselves,” Jake said.

Laura’s long career at Redwood has led her to be able to teach hundreds of athletes and even sometimes their kids.

“She has created a multigenerational family within Redwood track and field. And we have parents on our team, parents of graduates who I’m sure some of the best memories are from their kids’ high school careers relate to something that happened on the track,” Jake said.

Over the past few years, Laura has mentored Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year, senior Liam Anderson. Before Anderson came to Redwood, he knew that Laura was a phenomenal coach and one of the best in the sport.

“I think in terms of dedication, she’s unmatched. I mean, there’s nobody else who spends the amount of time that she does working, not just with us directly, but in our workouts and all the time that goes in behind the scenes, traveling all over the country with me and with other athletes. Just the pure dedication of her time and her energy is incredible,” Anderson said.

Anderson has developed a close relationship with Laura, just like many other athletes on the team who look up to her. For many of her athletes, she is seen as more than an instructor.

“I think everybody looks to her as a mentor and as a friend and as a coach as well, but she really is so much more than that,” Anderson said.

Laura has created a legacy as a coach at Redwood, one that will carry on as her athletes progress through high school and onto the collegiate and professional level, carrying her inspiration and dedication with them. To continue her involvement with the community, Laura will begin working at her treadmill studio, Thoroughbred, through which she will start coaching adults, and plans to continue her high school summer program to stay connected with students.