At Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Il., and as a track standout at Illinois State University, Trent Richards was known for exceeding the apparent limits of his stature. At only 5’7″ he jumped 6’7″ in college high jump, twelve full inches over his own head.
That’s motivation in a nutshell. Richards went on to coach the sports of baseball, track and cross country in the region around St. Charles, Illinois. In the early 1970s he helped create the St. Charles Track Club. The summer program attracted the region’s top athletes in both boys and girls track. Many won state and a few even went on to win national AAU championships.
Richards was ahead of his time in development of progressive coaching techniques. He earned his Master’s Degree in Physical Educatiobn and Sports Medicine from Illinois State. And long before it has became popularized by physical therapy and sports training experts, many of his athletes trained using plyometrics for base strength and injury prevention. His coaching days in St. Charles produced numerous All State athletes in cross country and track.
In the early 1980s Richards was at the forefront of another movement sweeping the health care field. He formed a company called One On One Fitness to coach and counsel employees, corporate executives and athletes. These included CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and advertising agencies in Chicago. His collaboration with a leading sports podiatrist led to the growing field injury diagnosis through bio-mechanical analysis.
With an active mind and entrepreneurial spirit, Richards expanded his interests into the fields of marketing where he provided innovative counsel to golf courses and other companies in the Chicago market. His contributions to the FunBrain website helped grow and define the online market for interactive education.
In the last few years, the Roselle, IL. resident has become certified in coaching energy modalities. These include Cranial Sacral Therapy and Watsu (warm water therapy) as alternative health strategies for adults to reduce stress and pain. That insight is helping Richards in his own life as well, having learned this year that he has a form of cancer that requires chemotherapy. He is meeting the challenge in his typically concentrated way, working through the exhaustion after chemo to get back to the things he loves. Many of his former athletes have joined an informal support group to meet up with Richards and encourage him in his cancer journey. It’s rather like the support he’s given out all those years is coming back in his time of need.
Yet it’s also true that Richards continues coaching prep athletes. One of these is a distance running prospect named Ruthie Rosenkranz from Lake Zurich (IL) high school. On weekends they meet at an indoor track in Palatine. Richards prescribes workouts and guides her through a year-round program designed to build strength and speed.
The day’s workout is mapped for four 800 meter repeats at 6:00 mile pace. Ruthie nails the splits on every lap within a second or two. Her stride is smart and efficient. Richards gets her to pump her arms more in the final laps and to keep them in line during the earlier pace work.
When the workout is through and Ruthie is cooling down, her mother observes that her daughter has a work ethic that she applies to everything she undertakes. “She’s studying to become a nurse,” Karen Rosenkranz notes. “She’s looking at Illinois State University because they have a really great program there.”
Of course ISU happens to be the alma mater of her coach Trent Richards. Their meeting happened by chance last year and it has worked out well for Ruthie to have such solid guidance going into her senior year in track. “Lake Zurich has a lot of girls out for track,” she enthuses. “So it helps to train to compete for spots on the team.”
Her mother loves the commitment shown by her daughter. But it’s really not about pressure in athletics so much as preparation for life. “She works really hard on her studies at night, during the week.”
With track starting just a few days after the January workout, Ruthie feels confident of a good start to the season. But first, there’s one more thing she wants to do. “Coach, can I do another half? I want to learn to run when I’m tired.”
And off she goes, hitting the splits yet again. Finally in the last lap the fatigue starts to show a little. Her knees drop a touch. Yet she’s picked up the pace.
“She’s great, isn’t she?” enthuses her coach. It’s always been his pleasure to help athletes improve. Through all the changes and challenges faced in his life, that’s the constant that Trent Richards values most. Seeing kids improve.