by Caleb Mathena
Toby Schwarz has been selected as the Whitworthian’s coach of the year.
It has been 20 years since Whitworth track made the decision to hire Toby Schwarz, a young coach out of Pullman high school.
Schwarz began his track career at Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma, Washington where he ran the 800m and 4x400m relay. After graduation, he was presented with opportunities to continue competing but instead chose to join his brothers at Washington State University and pursued his master’s in athletic administration with the hopes of becoming a high school athletic director.
During that time, he was notified that Pullman High School was hiring track coaches.
That led to a four-year stretch at Pullman as the assistant track coach until, in a similar turn of events, Schwarz found out about an opening for a coaching position at a small Division III school in Spokane that he had never heard of.
“My mentor professor at WSU, he was a graduate of Whitworth and he said, ‘Hey, Whitworth’s hiring a new track coach.’ And I said, ‘What’s Whitworth?’… I guess I never really asked him where he went to school. And so I applied and so did 54 other people nationwide,” Schwarz said.
Seventy-four All-Americans later, it is apparent that Schwarz has turned Whitworth track into a powerhouse program, but more than that, he has created a family of hard-working athletes and caring coaches who strive for perfection in everything they do.
“There’s a verse in the Bible, Matthew 5:48, that says ‘Be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.’ Now the problem with most people’s understanding of that verse is that they think it means that we need to be perfect, that we need to not make mistakes, be flawless,” Schwarz said. “But really what that verse refers to is being mature and complete as our Heavenly Father is mature and complete. God is complete and he wants us to be as well, but he understands it’s a process.”
Coaching nine athletes to outdoor national titles, leading the men’s and women’s teams to 12 combined NWC championships since 2001 and managing to get 75 percent of one’s athletes to qualify for conference 10 seasons in a row are accomplishments you might think to see on a DI track squad’s résumé. Schwarz has done all of that and more partly by creating a team-first culture with a perfect effort mentality.
The effect of that drive to be ‘perfect’ in one’s own capacity reaches far beyond the track. The goal is to change lives, and it certainly seems as though it is working.
“A theme that encompasses all of what Toby teaches us is this idea of control,” sophomore sprinter J.R. Woolley said. “He tells us that in sports, as in life, there are things you can control and things that you can’t and that we must focus on what we can control in order to be successful.”
Junior pole-vaulter Everett Kleven said his favorite aspect of Schwarz’ coaching style is “his emphasis on team. It’s the single biggest reason he is successful as a track coach. Every time he writes the word, he capitalizes it so as to further exaggerate the importance.”
Good thing Schwarz has no intention of leaving.
“If I had aspirations of going somewhere else, I would’ve left a long time ago” Schwarz said. “I’ve had opportunities to go coach other places, but I’ve chosen not to take them because I don’t look at the grass as being greener somewhere else. I could go to a DI school, somewhere that has nicer facilities, but that doesn’t make those programs any better. I love Whitworth.”