COACH: You are the most successful high school coach in America
with a resume that includes 66–and possibly 67 or 68 by the time this
interview is published–state championships in boy’s and
girl’s cross-country, girl’s basketball, and boy’s and
girl’s track and field. You also coached boy’s basketball for
eight years. In addition, in 2000 you were inducted into the National
Federation of State High School Associations’ Coaches Hall of Fame.
What has been your recipe for success?
HOULE: I really preach the journey. I try and tell them at the
beginning of the season that this is a chapter in your book of life. We
just want to make it as happy and as pleasant as we possibly can. That
doesn’t mean that it has to end in a state championship. What it
means are the friendships you gain on the team, the hard times, and the
My whole ideal is that I don’t want the kids to be
All-Americans on the court or the track and a pinhead at home. I ask
them if they made their beds when they come to practice. I make sure
that my assistants and I tell them that we love them every day after
practice. And I make sure to tell them to tell their parents that they
love them and to thank them for providing the opportunities that they
have. My late mom, Bev, never let my brothers and sisters or myself
leave the house without telling us she loved us. She also wanted us to
be good and mind our teachers every single day.
I don’t have any magical offenses or defenses or any magic
dust I sprinkle on the track. All I want is for my players to think it
is a great opportunity to play for Mountain View. And make the most of
COACH: Coaching cross-country/track definitely runs in the Houle
family. Your eldest brother, Mark, coaches high school in Minnesota.
Your brother, Kirk, and son, Davy, are both coaches at Mountain View.
Brothers Scott and John coached at neighboring Orem High before moving
on to Utah State; brother Eric heads the track program at Southern Utah
University; and your brother-in-law, Chip Lake, is the former head coach
at Snow Canyon High in Utah and now coaches high school basketball and
track in Arizona. Even your daughter, Starre, is taking a coaching class
at Utah State. How do you explain that common bond?
HOULE: I don’t know. People ask us that all the time. My dad
was a biochemist. He wasn’t a coach. My mom was a stay-at-home mom.
I guess it all started when my brother, Mark, returned from military
service in Vietnam. He went into coaching and teaching because I told
him how much I loved it. I coached my younger brothers and when they
went to college, they got the coaching bug. We’ll sit around during
Thanksgiving and Christmas and say, “How did we all get here?”
Everybody just loves it.
COACH: You have been coaching on the scholastic level for 27 years,
including 24 at Mountain View. How have you been able to maintain your
consistency for nearly three decades, especially with the evolution of
the student-athlete during that period and all the diversions available
to them today?
HOULE: Athletes are changing. In our day, when we played, you were
given salt tablets and water was a weakness during football practice.
That’s totally different from what we do now. Now you have to deal
with the Xbox and Play Station. Kids can stay home and build a football
player and be that football player on their TV screen.
I gave a talk at a big business conference and I said, “You
sell a product and you make money doing that, and that’s awesome.
But try selling to 14-and 15-year-olds that, for cross-country, they
have to run 10 to 15 miles a day and they’re going to enjoy it. You
have to be a pretty good salesman to do that.” To be a coach today,
you have to stay up on things and you better evolve. It starts with
going to the junior highs’ and trying to talk kids into running
when coaches use running as a punishment. You have to teach them that it
isn’t a punishment.
My mind changes from being a cross-country coach to being a
basketball coach. Basketball players are not prima donnas, but they have
a different thought process than cross-country runners. You have to get
them to believe in the cause, get them to believe in what we are trying
to accomplish. Nowadays, it isn’t the [George] Patton way. It
isn’t yelling and screaming. It is getting them to see a vision and
letting them know they are part of that vision. You also have to let
each player know that they are the cogs and without them it doesn’t
work. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the 100th kid on your
COACH: How would you describe your coaching philosophy? Does it
vary from sport to sport or does it carry the same message?
HOULE: It carries the same message but it also varies from sport to
sport. How I coach track is different from how I coach basketball. I
have an assistant, Steve Rivelli, who has been with me for almost 20
years. He said, “Dave, I’ve noticed that you are more strict
in basketball than you are in track.” But you have to be. Track is
a team sport but it is also an individual sport. At the end of the year
you have a multitude of things to deal with on a track team. The seniors
are getting senioritis. The juniors and sophomores have already played
football, basketball, wrestling, or whatever. At the end of the year
everyone is tired.
When I [George], no one is late to practice. It starts
right on time. But with track, I’ll give them a week off from
basketball to recover or get it out of their system. If you are as
strict on a track team as you are on a football or basketball team, you
are going to lose kids. I make sure I coach track with a lot of
enthusiasm and let the kids know they are important.
COACH: What are your thoughts about ‘specialization’ on
the high school level?
HOULE: I think a kid should experience and enjoy as much as they
can in high school. I had Leif Arrhenius who set national records in the
hammer throw and discus, but he also played football. Then he said,
“Coach, I just want to work on the disc.” I have a girl who
wants to play college basketball and she is a volleyball player. I face
that all the time. But I try to get them to enjoy their high school
years with other coaches and other sports. I think that’s why our
school has done so well because we share athletes.
COACH: What sport, aside from the three that you currently coach,
intrigues you the most from a teaching aspect and why?
HOULE: I’ve always admired wrestling because of how hard those
kids work and what they give out. I always think about those kids during
Christmas and Thanksgiving because they have to watch their weight while
we go and gorge ourselves. And how hard they actually work for those
nine minutes that they wrestle.
Football intrigues me because of all the different skills. It
reminds me of track. You have to know the blocking schemes. You have to
know the different defenses you are going to face. You have to know how
to coach the receivers, while someone else is coaching the quarterbacks,
and someone else is coaching the running backs. Then there’s the
offensive line. Someone has to coach the center because it all begins
with the snap of the ball. To work on all of that detail and actually
have it come together really intrigues me–having teenagers all on the
COACH: Performance-enhancing drugs have been a huge sports story in
the wake of the steroid scandal in professional baseball. Do you believe
in testing on the high school level?
HOULE: Yes. I think steroids are prevalent in every state,
including ours. There are a kids who you can tell are on steroids. You
just don’t blow up like that. I am a big fan of the records that
Babe Ruth and Roger Maris set. But if you’ve used steroids to break
those records, personally I don’t think they should count. We, as
coaches, have all gone through the periods when creatine and supplements
were big. But I am at the point where I wish they would do random
testing on the high school level because that’s where we are most
vulnerable. They see their heroes doing it and then they do it. In the
end, it’s not worth it. And nobody can tell you that it is when you
lose that person.
COACH: Tell us about your childhood? Where were you born? Where did
you grow up?
HOULE: I was born in Honolulu, HI. My dad, Martin, was in the Navy.
Then we lived in Bozeman, MT for eight years. But I grew up on an Army
base in Dugway, UT. You had to have your garbage cans out at a certain
time and after they were collected, they had to be back in your yard
within 30 minutes. It was a strict environment. Some people think
that’s how I became so regimented. You could be in the middle of a
Little League game and if it was time for the flag to come down, the
cannon would go off and all the cars had to pull over on the side of the
road. The games would stop and you would stand at attention.
I came from a family of 11. We lived in a three-bedroom home with
one bathroom. Now imagine trying to get ready for school with five
sisters who have to curl their hair and put their makeup on and you only
have one sink, one outlet, and one shower? So you learn to adjust and
adapt. That’s how I learned to deal with girls.
COACH: Where did you attend high school and college? What sports
did you play?
HOULE: I went to Dugway High. In the center of the Army base, there
was a high school and elementary school. You had to have a military ID
to enter the base. There were armed guards at the gate. When schools
used to come and play us they had to get off the bus so it could be
searched. I played football, cross-country, basketball, track, and
baseball. It was a small school of 180 students so you participated in
whatever sport was going on at the time.
I started off at Dixie College in St. George, UT, where I played
football and ran track. I was a kicker and receiver. I couldn’t
catch a cold but I was pretty good at field goals and extra points. Then
I went on to Southern Utah in Cedar City and ran track and
cross-country. That’s where all of my brothers, except for Mark,
went to college.
COACH: When did you decide to become a coach? Have you ever
entertained the idea of coaching on the collegiate level?
HOULE: I remember when I was a little boy back in the ninth grade
and I was sitting in the coach’s office. I picked up a copy of
Scholastic Coach magazine and wondered, “How cool would it be to be
in this magazine?” Now, I am in it. I still have that issue to this
day. Matter of fact, I looked at it a couple of months ago. I knew I was
never a good enough athlete but I used to dream of winning just one
state championship as a coach.
There isn’t enough money on this planet that I would do
anything else. When I was 13-years-old, my dad, who was president of the
local Little League, gave me a team to coach because the sergeant who
was supposed to coach the team was shipped out. I spent that night
writing and rewriting their names and positions and numbers on my
notepad until it looked perfect. From that day on, that’s what I
knew I wanted to do in life. My high school coach, George Bruce, gave me
the 7th and 8th grade boy’s basketball team to coach when I was a
senior. And I absolutely loved it.
I have been offered the head positions at different universities
every year. It comes to this: We sit down as a family and vote. If my
wife and kids want me to coach college, I will. Now with my kids grown
up and going into coaching and my wife and I having an empty nest, I am
entertaining possible coaching jobs.
COACH: Who has had the most influence on your coaching career?
HOULE: Right now, in my life, the one who makes the most difference
is my wife, Laura. She keeps my head above water and helps me continue
to coach. I’ve known my wife since we were in second grade. We got
married after one year of college. She knows me. The person you love
inspires a lot of things that you do. And she inspired me.
My football coach at Dugway, Coach Bruce, who is still there, had a
tremendous influence on why I went into coaching. He’s been
coaching for 41 years. He’s the winningest boy’s basketball
coach in the state. Obviously, my mom and dad instilled my philosophy of
caring for the kids I coach. I also learned from them the importance of
doing charity work and community service. I never coach a team that
doesn’t provide some sort of community service.
And my track coach at Southern Utah, Dr. Steve Lunt, gave me his
time every day and answered my questions about all the track events and
workouts. He was an incredible resource.
COACH: What are some of the things you have incorporated into your
programs at Mountain View to keep the athletes interested and focused?
HOULE: I sat my son and daughter down all throughout their careers,
and even to this day, and bounce things off of them. And I ask them,
“From your perspective, in today’s world, what will make
practice or games or what I tell kids most effective? How can I relate
to the kids?” Starre would tell me things like, “Dad, girls
are very self-conscious. No matter how skinny they are, they like to
wear baggy shorts.” Or Davy would say, “Dad, you should start
every practice with a joke.” I love to talk to my kids who are in
touch with kids about coaching kids.
COACH: What is the state of high school cross-country and track and
field in the U.S.?
HOULE: It goes on a rollercoaster a little bit. But I think
it’s alive and well. I think that more and more kids are getting
involved. I see it in our state. Over the last 10-15 years,
cross-country has grown in Utah and I’d like to think that Mountain
View had something to do with that. At some schools, they’re
getting as many kids out for cross-country as they do for football. That
used to be unheard of. I’ve had more than 180 kids come out for our
cross-country team. At Orem High they had 60. In the city of Orem alone
there are almost 300 kids participating in cross-country. That’s
awesome. When you go to the nationals in Oregon and see the Alan
Webb’s and those kinds of kids, it’s a good feeling.
Kids need to get outside more and not become the best Xbox player
in the city. I remember when the Presidential Fitness Award patch was
the coolest thing to get. They hardly push that anymore.
COACH: What events have been the strong points of the Mountain View
cross-country and track and field teams during your tenure?
HOULE: In track and field it’s definitely been distance. There
have been years we have won the state track championship because of the
mile and two-mile. That’s not to demean what we have done in the
weights and field events. One thing in your program has to be strong.
And every year we have a chance because of our distance events. In
cross-country, our strength is in our numbers.
COACH: Do you incorporate any special training sessions to keep
your athletes in peak condition? We would think that the elevation in
Utah has helped.
HOULE: Our advantage is the altitude. We do hill training and a lot
of it. I am also a believer in speed and agility training such as
plyometrics. The disadvantage is the weather. In California and Texas
you can sprint year-round. That’s why their sprinters are so good.
But in Utah you’re going to have, at best, six good months to
sprint without the chance of pulling a muscle because it is so cold. I
also preach to our kids to eat three good meals a day and drink plenty
COACH: How has the role of a high school coach changed since you
began your career? Would you agree it has become more challenging?
HOULE: In some ways it hasn’t changed and that is because kids
look at their coaches as the closest thing to a parent they have. So we,
as coaches, have a responsibility to make sure those kids see you in a
role that someday they would aspire to be. But it’s also gotten
tougher because in today’s world you have to be a doctor, a
psychologist, a psychiatrist, a mother and father, you’ve got to
know when to be tough and when to coddle, and you have to make sure to
be a good listener because there will be times when you will be the only
person they talk to. You have to have your kids’ best interests at
heart. You have the power to create great people if you approach it the
No one can love coaching more than me. They can love coaching as
much. I go to bed thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it.
THE HOULE FILE
Overall Current Coaching Record 1185-96 (93%) *
(24 years at Mountain View High School, UT; 2 yrs. Carbon High, UT;
1 yr. Milford High, UT)
Girl’s Basketball: 372-36
Girl’s Track: 249-16
Girl’s Cross-Country: 221-11
Boy’s Cross-Country: 207-18
Boy’s Track: 120-15
All-Star, All-American Games: 16-0
66 State Championships (1977-2004) *
Girl’s Track: 17
Girl’s Cross-Country: 16
Boy’s Track: 11
Girl’s Basketball: 11
Boy’s Cross-Country: 10
Editor’s Note: Houle has an opportunity to capture his 67th
and 68th State title following the Mountain View boy’s and
girl’s track season, which was still ongoing at the time of this
* as of March 29, 2005.