God first. Family second. School third. Team fourth.
“You deal with your day in that order, you can’t go wrong,” said John Snoozy, head cross country and track coach at Lincoln Northeast High School.
Snoozy opens the first day of practice every year with this speech. He strives to live each day according to this priority list and encourages all of his athletes to do the same.
Launching his coaching career in 1981, Snoozy assumed the head position for David City’s junior high track team. Then, Snoozy became the head cross country, assistant wrestling, and head girls track coach at O’Neill. In 1987, Snoozy moved to Lovett, Texas for five years to coach girls basketball, boys wrestling, and boys and girls track. Finally, Snoozy landed in Lincoln; he coached at Culler Middle School in 1992 and Northeast in 1993. Today, he continues to coach cross country and track for the Rockets and teach science during the school day.
Snoozy hasn’t always been so passionate about running, despite his deep commitment to the sport today.
During his freshman year at Yankton High School in South Dakota, Snoozy held a chain marker at a JV football game as extra credit for his physical education class. Among the spectators at the game was Yankton’s cross country coach, who spotted Snoozy from the crowd and approached him during halftime.
“He kept bugging me about coming out for cross country,” Snoozy said. “I finally got mad at him and said, ‘Fine, I’ll go out for one week, and if I don’t like it, I’m going to quit, and you can’t ever talk to me again.’”
The trial week passed, and Snoozy decided to stay. God, grit, genuine enjoyment, and discovery of hidden talent would mark Snoozy’s next four years on the cross country team. In fact, as a senior, Snoozy became a standout athlete in South Dakota--so much so that younger runners in the state would approach him at meets, asking for advice.
Snoozy believed that these conversations were his first tastes of coaching.
After high school, Snoozy ran cross country and track for Midland College where he competed in three national cross country meets and one national track meet.
Additionally, Snoozy said that cross country saved his life; he became a solid Christian after becoming a solid runner.
“I started realizing that what I have was given [to] me, and when I don’t nourish it, it’s basically spitting in God’s face and disrespecting the gift that God saw,” Snoozy said.
Snoozy’s strong relationship with God directly translates to his coaching style at Northeast. In the past three years, Snoozy has read the Bible eight times, cover to cover, and he often uses Bible stories to motivate his athletes.
“The number one thing that has made me a better coach is handling on a Christian basis,” Snoozy said. “I don’t try to convert people, but I use the same morals and values.”
For instance, Snoozy compared the 40 days wandering in the desert story to a typical cross country season.
“You’ve run all summer, and you’re in great shape, but that first day of practice is still going to affect you,” Snoozy said. “The season is built to stress you a little bit to make you get better. And that’s what the wandering in the desert was. Before [they] were supposed to get to the promised land, God had to make sure the team was ready for the big reward, which [in our case] was the state championship.”
Also, Snoozy used Paul’s metaphor for the church--the body functions because of its parts--as a metaphor for a cross country team.
“Your seven top varsity runners, they have to believe in each other and draw strength from each other to make that team successful,” Snoozy said. “If you have one bad apple in there, that team may be good, but it won’t ever reach its top success.”
Before Snoozy retires, he wants to finish what he started back in 1981: sharing his God-given gift to the fullest.
“And then, when I do finally retire, my wife and I are going fishing,” Snoozy said.