My Coach

Coach Jim Boughton
Coach

The man in the picture above is Jim Boughton.  For the past couple of decades, he’s been a math teacher and cross country coach at Dubuque Senior High School.

I first met Coach Boughton when I was about ten or eleven years old, when my older brother Greg joined up with the cross country team.  Back then, he was just Mister Boughton but after seeing how he molded Greg into a runner, I had no doubt that I wanted him to be my coach. That came true when I entered High School.

He was an awesome coach.   He ran with us during workouts.  Even with 60+ guys on the team, he took the time to be with each of us and make sure we were feeling right or maybe adjusting our stride or pushing a little harder.  During the award ceremony at the end of each year, Coach could recite every runner’s time and where it happened without referring to notes.  He knew us all that well.

You know something?  It wasn’t until after I graduated High School that I discovered not everyone’s coach did the workout with their athletes.  To this day, I use that as a measure of how dedicated a coach is to his athletes.

Even though I graduated in ’93, Coach B hasn’t stopped coaching me.

About six or seven years ago, I was in a bit of a running slump.  I was putting one foot in front of the other, but I wasn’t making any progress.  I almost gave up on running.

I had to look backwards to see what was missing.  It all came down to the core basics : putting in the miles, proper eating, the mental mindset, the hard work.  Even hitting every water fountain you pass on race day.  In short, it was those things Coach B taught me as a teenager that I’d forgotten.

Remembering those lessons, I cut 26 minutes off my marathon PR.  I regularly place in my age group in races.   I have more medals hanging on my office wall than I ever have in my life.  I’m almost as fast now as I was when I was under his tutelage.  This brings me immense joy.

I think if I mentioned this to Coach, he’d just smile.   He has that way about him.

Last November, Coach Boughton suffered a seizure while teaching class.  Shortly afterward, he was diagnosed with brain tumor which led to brain cancer.   During his fight, he and my Mom spoke often.  She was fighting cancer as well and the two of them leaned on one another.  At times, he’d be the Coach.  Other times, he’d have to listen to her to get that extra little push.

Coach’s cancer is aggressive and chemotherapy is not working.  He may not see Fall and the next Cross Country season.  The team has been left in the hands of Paul Kilgore, one of my classmates and  a guy who will no doubt tell you he’s been molded in Coach’s image, just like so many of us.

Where I lack words, Dennis Healy can provide.  He was an English teacher at Senior as well as the Girl’s Cross Country coach.  He and Boughton had a great friendship that he wrote about in this article in the Telegraph Herald.

If you’re a runner or if you’re a writer or an artist or a teacher or whatever, you had someone that played a role in your life and molded you.   It might be a good time to let them know.

I hope Coach knows just how much all of his hard work and patience has meant to the hundreds or thousands of runners he’s coached over the past 20+ years.

I’m fairly certain he knows.   But I still want to tell him and I hope I can before he’s gone.

10 thoughts on “My Coach

  1. Fantastic Job Matt. Your words are true for so many of us. We are with you and always thinking of you Coach Boughton!!!

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  2. Summed him up incredibly well Matt. He’s proven to be more important in many many lives than he’ll probably ever really know.

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  3. I’m Jim’s niece in Michigan. In my life I can honestly say I’ve only gotten a chance to enjoy his company a handful of times. Reading this brought tears to my eyes! Even though I never get to see him, I know he’s a great man and I’m glad to read a perspective from a former student/athlete of his(I’m following the Boughton tradition and becoming a teacher). I’m so proud to be family. Thank you for the kind words.

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  4. As I read the article on Jim Boughton I could not help but recall that his Father, Jack, had the same influence on my life as a High School student and later as a colleague. I’ve learned since my husband’s diagnosis several years ago that cancer impacts the entire family. Our prayers go out to the entire Boughton family. Thanks to each of you for impacting the lives of so many children.
    May you experience God’s Grace and Unfailing love as you continue your journey.
    Yvonne Emlet & Family

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  5. Jim and I graduated together form high school. From your story about him I see that he has become a great coach and friend to many of his students. Jim and I ran track together and his Dad Jack Boughton was one of our coaches. From your description of Jim he learned a lot from his father. I will keep Jim and his family in my prayers and thoughts. Coaches always make the best teachers! Thanks Jim

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  6. Coach Boughton has been a great freind, mentor, and coach to many, and has certainly touched the hearts of everyone he knows. I am one of his current runners at Dubuque Senior, and cannot tell you enough how much an article like this means to me. Myself, and many other runners, are very close to Coach Boughton, and have visited him many times during his illness, and we are all trying to give him the love and support he needs. Thank you for publishing this article. Coach Boughton is a truly amazing man. He has many wild stories to tell, makes us laugh, work harder, and think about how we can improve as runners. But mostly, he has always been there for us, and he deeply cares for everybody on that team. He is always in our thoughts and prayers.

    God Bless,
    Mark Jamieson

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  7. I didn’t know Jim very well. Jack Boughton was my high school driver ed teacher, and in 1977 I went to work at the high school and worked with Jack until her retired. Jack was a great teacher and is still a wonderful man. I’m proud to know him.

    I know what they are feeling and going through now. My youngest sister died 14 years ago at age 50 with brain cancer. Like Jim the chemo didn’t work. My thoughts and prayers are with the Boughton family in their time of grief.

    Gail Ozment

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  8. I didn’t know Jim very well. Jack Boughton was my high school driver ed teacher, and in 1977 I went to work at the high school and worked with Jack until he retired. Jack was a great teacher and is still a wonderful man. I’m proud to know him.

    I know what they are feeling and going through now. My youngest sister died 14 years ago at age 50 with brain cancer. Like Jim the chemo didn’t work. My thoughts and prayers are with the Boughton family in their time of grief.

    Gail Ozment

    Like

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