Former GCHS runner pens book to encourage athletes
By Albert J. Countryman Jr.
Gloucester City News
country and track star at Gloucester Catholic High School years ago, Jack Heath
has written a new book, “Positive Splits,” to encourage runners and highlight some
great athletic achievements over the years.
As an elite athlete for the Rams during his high school years, Jack was coached by the legendary Browning Ross. Jack’s first book was entitled, “Browning Ross: Father of American Distance Running.”
Phil Anastasia of the Philadelphia Inquirer is quoted on the back cover of Jack’s new book. “Positive Splits is a must-read for South Jersey Runners and fans of running. There are great tips from coaches and compelling stories of local athletes.”
There are many inspirational chapters in the book—from sprinters to marathoners, from Olympians to average runners—and the theme is “the power of running to inspire and to make a positive difference in our lives,” Jack wrote.
“I think running is a lifetime sport and offers a good blueprint for a successful life. No matter where the runner starts, they can improve,” Jack said last week in an interview with the Gloucester City News. “Through consistent work, and setting goals they can surpass limits and run times that they never thought possible. And they can have fun doing it.
“Running is a fair sport. The watch determines your success objectively. Hard work pays off and people can see the results of their hard work. That encourages more hard work,” Jack said.
“I was extremely fortunate to have a great mentor and coach at Gloucester Catholic in Browning Ross, the track and cross country coach. He was an Olympian, and also a modest person with a great sense of humor,” Jack said.
He was a great role model for being an athlete and working hard, and also for coaching and being a caring father. He saw things in me before I saw them in myself as an athlete and later as a coach. He invited me to coach with him while I was still running in college (Rowan University). I wasn’t sure I could coach and I’m still coaching decades later.
As a coach hopefully I can have a fraction of the positive influence he had on me with some runners I coach. The best way I thought I could pay him back was to keep coaching in his footsteps, and to write about him and the influence he had on so many,” Jack said.
“I think a good coach cares about the athlete’s well-being is positive, motivates, is a teacher, listens and communicates with his or her athlete’s, knows the science and technique of the sport, and accepts the athlete’s input, and can help the athlete progress.” Jack said.
“The athlete has to know how much you care, before they care how much you know. Many young athletic careers end early because the boy or girl encounters a lousy coach. Research shows 12 as the average age when many athletes give up their sport—before they ever got the chance to progress to their potential.
“A good coach is important because they help the athlete learn about the sport, improve and enjoy the sport. Like Louis Tewanima and Browning Ross, they show the athlete what is possible.
An even smaller percentage of coaches are mentors. I think a good mentor provides guidance and sets a good example above and beyond just coaching them in the sport. Mentors have a positive influence on the athlete and their future and are also good role models,” he said.
Tewanima was a Native American from the Hopi tribe who shocked the world during the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden by winning the gold medal in the 10,000 meters. According to Jack’s book, Tewanima ”spent the rest of his life after the Olympics inspiring young Hopi runners, herding sheep, and growing crops.”
There is also a chapter about Erin Donohue Livecchi of Haddonfield, who qualified for the 2008 Olympics.
Positive Splits is a fascinating book about running, and is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com: