Pitching a healthy pattern for coach
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By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
Like children, assembly lines, and all those "Law & Order" shows, University of Hawai'i head softball coach Bob Coolen thrives on routine.
Coolen, 48, figures the pattern of his daily life hasn't really changed since he was an adolescent growing up in Brockton, Mass. For 35 years, it's been get up, go to school, practice, come home, sleep, repeat.
It's a life pattern that has served Coolen well, from his years as a standout prep athlete in Brockton, Mass., through his undergraduate years at Wesleyan University, where he starred in baseball, football and swimming, to a collegiate coaching career in which he has notched more than 600 victories.
Coolen wakes at 5 a.m., spends a quiet hour reading the newspaper, then wakes his family and gets going with his day. He gets his workouts three times as week as his team practices, running, pitching batting practice, and grinding his way through the same upper-body weight regimen that he's used for 20 years.
After practice, he has dinner with his family, reads to his kids and hits the sack by 10 p.m.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
"It's a good pace and lifestyle," Coolen says. "When I reflect back, I've never really known another time frame."
After graduating from Brockton High School in 1976, Coolen turned down an appointment to the Naval Academy ("much to my father's chagrin," he says) to attend Wesleyan, where his athletic opportunities were better.
For four years, Coolen was a standout pitcher on the baseball team, and he played slotback and special teams in football. He also spent two years on the swim team, competing in 50-, 100- and 200-meter sprint events and medley relays.
"That's where the shoulders came from," Coolen says.
Knowing that he'd need a master's degree to pursue his dream of being a Division I head coach, Coolen moved on to Boston University, where he would earn a master's in human movement.
While at Boston, Coolen worked as a lifeguard on Cape Cod and continued to play baseball. Determined not to let his conditioning lapse, he toted his weights to the beach and set up a weight room in the lifeguard shack.
"I figured that if I ran and lifted weights and kept my body in shape, I'd be OK," he says. "I wouldn't be dragging if I pitched three times a week."
Coolen went 72-93 in four years as the head coach of Bentley before joining then-UH head coach Rayla Allison's staff as an assistant coach in 1990.
He took over as head coach two years later. Under his focused, consistent approach, the program has evolved into a national power and, befitting his success, Coolen stands as the program's all-time winningest coach.
For Coolen, success grows from consistency, repetition and the development of strength and character they afford.
It's an ideal Coolen tries to embody for class after class of young, talented women.
Coolen sets the 8-minute-per-mile pace during the team's practice runs. During batting practice, he throws 500 to 700 pitches, using efficient, refined mechanics to avoid repetition injury.
In the weight room, the coach works his chest with bench presses, incline presses and dumbbell flies. His shoulder workout includes the seated military press, lat pulldowns and dumbbell pullovers from the supine position. He also does flies for his trapezius muscles, and curls and rowing for his biceps and triceps.
On weekends, Coolen likes to take long walks with wife Nanci. It's their time to talk and catch up.
Coolen doesn't swim as much these days, but with his daughter Demi now swimming for Punahou and Nanci swimming in community events and eyeing some upcoming biathlons, Coolen figures a return to the water is likely. He plans on taking part in next year's Turkey Swim.
"It's a great lifestyle, and it's necessary," he says. "My players stay the same age, 18 to 22, and I've got to keep up with them. I have to let them see that I can still, run, pitch and throw. Once I can't do that, it'll be time to hang up the spikes."
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.