September 2015: Coach Tupper leads by example one stide at a time

Dr. Rob Tupper transitioned from athletic parent to coach in 2005 and has led his team to three TCIS championships. His love for the sport started with the coaching of his sons, former Collegiate cross country champions Ian ’08 and Devin ’11. It was Ian who pursued his father to coach the cross country team because of his success of coaching him and his brother to win within multiple sporting competitions. Under Coach Tupper leadership’s, our cross country team advanced from being second-to-last to runner-ups within his first year of coaching. Overall, five students have gone on to run at Division I colleges. “I motivate students to be the very best that they can be; and in whatever they do, to do it well.” 

What does it mean to you to be coach of the month? 
It is not about me - the fact that a cross country coach is being recognized as coach of the month is great.  Cross country is a sport where most of the student body, faculty and staff have never been or will never go to a meet; so for a member of the sport to be recognized is important.  The amount of time and training distance runners do, mile after mile, is not completely comprehended by the average person.  Top runners train: guys 60-65 miles per week; and woman 50-55 miles per week.  The statics that I was given years ago were that only 10 percent of the world population can do what distance runners do every day. 

Aside from your coaching responsibilities, what else do you help with at Collegiate? 
As a podiatric surgeon who has been in private practice in Norfolk for 24 years, I don’t have a lot of time left over in an average day to help out. What I do is behind the scene and everyone I come in contact with I tell our family's story, which is both of my sons went to Collegiate and I feel that the school did an outstanding job preparing them to go onto very tough academic schools (Davidson College and Furman University). As an unofficial ambassador of the school, I feel that is a very important message to get out into the Tidewater community.

How did you get involved in coaching?
It started 12 years ago with my eldest son Ian's freshman year cross country season.  At the end of his cross country season that year, the coach at that time announced that he was no longer going to coach.  He did this at the end of the TCIS meet.  He came up to me after the meet and in front of my son asked if I wanted to take over the team.  He knew that I was a runner and had been working with my son on the side during the entire season. I told him, that I would love to help out but being a head coach would take too much time.  On the ride home Ian convinced me to take on the task (who went on and ran Division I for Davidson and broke their 3,000-meter steeplechase record his junior year).  I then stayed coach because of my youngest son, Devin.  Who during his senior year went on to be MVP for the TCIS track meet; he anchored and won the 4x800 meter relay (we were in third place when he got the baton) won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter.  Devin then went on to run Division I for Furman.

Now here we are 12 years later with one year runner up for TCIS, then three TCIS championships,  one state runner up (in Division I) beat out by Fork Union that year and having five runners go on to become Division I runners. Numerous runners go on to run club for their college and the biggest thrill of all is to see young men and women running about town that I have coached; knowing that I have passed on my love and addiction for running.   

What is your goal for the team this season?
For the runners to have an exciting year! For them to also come to know what the running community has to offer them for a lifelong healthy lifestyle and to continue to shave time off their personal record time and for them to achieve their personal goals.

What lesson do you strive to impart on your students and players?
That they can incorporate running into their life and the discipline and personal dedication it takes to be a good runner is the same discipline and personal dedication it takes to be successful in academics - you get out of it what you put into it.  If you don’t get a new PR at the meet, the only one responsible for that is the person in the mirror.   The same hold true in academics, if don’t get a good grade on the exam - you didn't study enough. The whole accomplishment rides on their shoulders. If you earnestly do the work you will get the faster time and if you earnestly study you will get good grades. 

Is there a piece of advice that you were given that you try to impart on your athletes? Focus on a task, work hard and set goals. They can achieve whatever they want in life.  Don’t let anyone tell them they can’t and don’t ever tell themselves they can’t - throw the word “can’t” out of their vocabulary.

Something that people may not know about you? 
Other than I’m demanding – probably a lot. I came to Tidewater directly out of residency and entered into the Navy.  After deployment in war zone with the First Marine expeditionary force in 1990-91, I left the military and went into private practice where I have been since. I’m currently the president of a very busy practice that I developed along with the help of my fantastic partners at the Norfolk Foot and Ankle Group.  I’m a lifelong runner of 44 years and feel that running is a sport that you can do for many years, it keeps you healthy and you can enjoy doing anywhere in the world.  I have run the streets of London and all over the English country side, Singapore and the city of Bangkok, just to name a few.  All I ever need is my running shorts and shoes.  Lastly that my wife, Karen, of 30 years still puts up with me and my addiction of running.