Working an overnight shift isn’t easy on the body or the mind. It can take a toll on you.
Rod White did just that for 33 years just so he could pursue his passion: Coaching track and field along with cross country.
In addition to coaching all three seasons, the Old Town High School coach also established the youth track program in Old Town and remains involved with that.
“It amazes me. He coaches all year long,” said longtime track official Mary Cady, who noted that it is rare to find someone who is willing to coach year-round. “It is what he loves to do.”
White’s remarkable dedication to the sport was rewarded recently when he learned that he had been named the National Federation of State High School Associations Coach of the Year for girls outdoor track for the 2019 season.
It was the first time an Old Town High School coach has earned a national coaching honor.
White was meant to be honored at the first track meet of the season, but spring sports were canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be recognized by a national organization is pretty special. I really appreciate it,” the 66-year-old White said.
He worked overnight delivering mail at the University of Maine for 18 years before leaving to stock shelves at the Bangor Walmart for 15 more years before retiring four years ago.
“If you stay in one place long enough, you’re bound to get something,” quipped White, who was surprised by the honor.
White began coaching at Old Town in 1983 as an assistant under Bill Leithiser and became the head coach of the indoor track program for the 1987-1988 season. He took over the outdoor program the following year.
He also coached cross country under Dana Maxim before taking over the head coaching job in 1995.
“He is all about his student-athletes,” Maxim said. “He coached both of our daughters [Hilary and Kelsey] and had nothing but their best interests in mind as well as all the other athletes.”
“He has done a fantastic job at Old Town,” said former longtime Brewer High indoor and outdoor track coach Dave Jeffrey. “He is incredibly dedicated.
“To work all night and then coach during the day is incredible.”
White guided his teams to two Class B track state championships and 12 regional titles. The 1990 girls team and the 1994 boys squad won state indoor championships.
“I love coaching kids,” White said. “I want to teach them and help them improve. But I also want them to enjoy it so we put some fun things in there so it isn’t all business.”
Cady said White has earned the admiration of his athletes and officials for his thoughtful and deliberate approach.
“I have learned so much from him. I will call Rod for advice and for his thoughts on things,” Cady said.
White’s focus is helping his athletes reach their potential and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
He also loves coaching the younger kids in the summer program. He has guided some kids in the Old Town program from age 4 through high school.
Hilary Maxim is among those who benefitted from extensive guidance from White.
“High school was an important time for me, running-wise, and I wouldn’t have had the success I had without him,” Maxim said.
She was an all-state and All-New England distance runner who won state championships in cross country, indoor track (mile) and outdoor track (1,600 meters, 3,200) and has been inducted into the Old Town Sports Hall of Fame.
“He had a way of inspiring all of us. He kept us motivated. We wanted to do well for him,” the 2008 Old Town graduate said.
Jeffrey said White is the kind of coach who battles for his kids.
“He sees the overall picture. He sees what needs to be done. He makes sure his kids get the right things,” Jeffrey said.
White, an Old Town Sports Hall of Fame member, has reached the point where he is coaching sons and daughters of athletes he previously worked with.
“When I start coaching their grandkids, I’ve probably been there too long,” White joked.
He has actually had the pleasure of coaching his own granddaughters, Audree O’Meara and Mallie O’Meara, and will coach Mallie again next season.
White is an Old Town native but lived in southern Maine from grades 7-12 and was a distance runner at Portland High School. He returned to Old Town, attended the University of Maine for a year and half, and coached Little League baseball for 13 years.
One summer, the folks at the Old Town YMCA asked if he would be interested in coaching track and field. He has been at it ever since.
White said coaching has changed over the years and it is important to be adaptable.
“You have to adjust. You can’t coach the way you did 30 years ago. The kids are different,” he said.
White has no plans to retire from coaching and said he would love to coach another 13 years to reach the 50-year plateau.
“God willing,” said White, who has been blessed with the support of Robin, his wife of 45 years. They are the proud parents of three daughters [Michelle, Jessica and Rachel] and have six grandchildren.