A man for all seasons: Dave Houle of Mountain View High School in Orem, UT, has built a winning legacy based on a love for coaching and his players.


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

good times.

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

that opportunity.

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

cross-country team.

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

same page.


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

of fluids.

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

right way.

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.


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.