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Tom Nolan Distinguished Coach Award

The Tom Nolan Distinguished Coach Award was established by the Louisiana Track and Field Coaches’ Association in 2018 to honor an outstanding coach from our association as well as honoring the legacy of our friend and coaching colleague, the late Tom Nolan, each year.  The Award recognizes a coach who is or has made a difference in the lives of the student-athletes under his/her tutelage.  While not excluding success in terms of winning and losing, it places greater emphasis on the positive influence he has had over his athletes, in athletics and life.

In establishing the criteria for this award, we had to look no further than the word that Tom Nolan’s coaching peers and athletes used to describe him:  Those words are:  “passion,” “dignity, excellence,”  genuine, “unselfish,”  “influence,” “integrity,” “courage,” “faithful,” and “character.”

2020

Pete Boudreaux – Catholic High School –

The recipient of this year’s Tom Nolan Distinguished Coach Award certainly fits that description.  Coach Pete Boudreaux of Catholic High School of Baton Rouge has been making a difference in the lives of his students and athletes for 51 years. Proving the adage that “Nice Guys Can Finish First,”  Pete’s teams have won an amazing 50 State Championships, 18 in Cross Country, 14 in Indoor Track and Field, and 18 Outdoor State Track Championships.  In 2017, Catholic High, Pete’s Alma Mater,  honored his legacy and success by dedicating the newly renovated track and field facility in his honor, the “Pete Boudreaux Track.”  Pete has been honored by his selection to the Catholic High and Grizzly Greats Hall of Fames, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the National High School Hall of Fame, and most importantly, the LTFCA Lifetime Achievement Award.  Through it all, he has maintained a humble, Christ-like,  demeanor.  He is always available to help, be it with a struggling athlete, or even an opposing coach, seeking to garner some tidbit of wisdom, with characteristic grace and compassion.  He has been the elder statesman for our track and cross country profession in Louisiana, representing us wisely, be it with LSU or the LHSAA.  When we don’t know what to do, the obvious solution is “Call Pete!”  His calm, wise counsel has helped guide our sports, particularly cross country from its infancy to the position it maintains today. His sphere of influence spreads beyond even his athletes, to the coaches who have coached with him, the coaches who have coached against him, and the athletes that these coaches have influenced.  As Gene Tullier, Catholic High President said, “ Pete has set the standard for coaches through humble service, personal attention, and genuine love of his students.  Thousands of student athletes and literally hundreds of coaches are much better for it.”  Pete’s Principal, Lisa Harvey said, “His contributions to the sport of Track and Field throughout Louisiana and the country are legendary.” 

Passion, Dignity, Excellence, Genuine, Unselfish, Influence, Integrity, Courage, Faithful, Character, Christian.    I know that Tom Nolan is smiling down on us today!  Coach Pete Boudreaux. 

2019

Eddie Cole – Episcopal High School –Coach Eddie Cole has had a long and varied career in Cross Country and Track and Field in the State of Louisiana.  After competing as a distance runner for LSU and 2 years of military service in the U.S. Army, he began his coaching career as a Graduate Assistant Track Coach at LSU from 1973-1976. During that time, he started the Cross Country program at University High School.  His Boys’ Teams won 3 Class A State Championships and his Girls’ team finished as State Runner Up in all classes in the inaugural Girls State Cross Country Meet in 1975. After completing his Master’s Degree at LSU, he accepted a position at E.D. White Catholic High School in Thibodaux and started his second cross country program. During his 32 year tenure there, the E.D. White boys and girls’ teams won  numerous State Championships in Cross Country. In 1978, he authored the LHSAA proposal which allowed Girls’ Track athletes to compete in the same events as Boys Track athletes.  In 2008, he accepted a position as Girls Track and Cross Country coach at Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge where he coached championship teams until his retirement in 2018. Eddie served as President of the LTFCA in 1995 and 1996 and began the Academic All State programs for Track and Cross Country  in 1996. The LTFCA recognized  over 2,500 athletes for their academic excellence until the LHSAA began their own Academic All State Cross Country and Track Programs. Coach Cole served as the Awards Chairman for the LTFCA from 2005 until his retirement in 2018. 

2018

Tom Nolan – Comeaux High School –
It is fitting that when the Louisiana Track and Field Coaches’ Association established the Tom Nolan Distinguished Coach Award in 2018, it decided to honor Tom Nolan as one of the Award’s first recipients. Tom was a fixture on the track and cross country scenes in southwest Louisiana for almost 30 years.  Sadly, Tom passed away in October 2007, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Although Tom is no longer with us, the legacy he established as a coach who made a difference in the lives of countless young people will continue for perpetuity. Some of Tom’s colleagues remembered Tom this way: “Everyone in life  has someone that touches them, that inspires them to be whatever it is they dream to be; every aspect of  his life was inspirational.”  Another recalled, “He lived for the kids  he taught and coached, he lived for his sport, he lived for God, and most of all, he lived………..” Towards the end of his illness, Tom wrote one last message to his friends and colleagues which maybe says it all.  “ I’ve run the good race, I’ve given my all. I’ve tried to be a good son, a good husband, a good teacher, friend, and coach. I’ve tried hard to follow Jesus through the gates. I hope I did all He wanted me to do. Thanks for everything everyone is doing and has done for me.”  The words that Tom’s coaching peers and athletes used to describe him became the criteria for the award established in his honor.  Those words are passion, dignity, excellence, genuine, unselfish, influence, integrity, courage, faithful, and character.  Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Tom were truly blessed and will never forget him.

Wally Smith – Holy Savior Menard High School –Coach Wally Smith turned to coaching as a 2nd career when he began coaching Boys and Girls Cross Country at Holy Savior Menard High School in 1985. The central Louisiana region and the state of Louisiana in general are better for it. Wally’s love of the sports of Cross Country and Track and Field are only surpassed by his love for his athletes, a love they reciprocate as shown by the way they have compete for him year and year out. Wally’s interest in his athletes beyond the playing field is  evident. He and his wife Becky have hosted a weekly Youth Prayer Meeting in their home since 1992.  Wally has truly “made a difference” in the lives of all the young people he has worked with. Here’s what some of Wally’s athletes had to say about him. “He is the most joyful, caring, and passionate person that I’ve ever met, and he’s inspired me on countless occasions when I’ve faced obstacles in my life.” Another recalled, “Coach Smith shaped me as a person, challenged me to push myself to be the best that I can be. He shaped my faith by sharing his whole life with our team of runner.”  “He cared about our personal success and development both in running and life. He took time to learn and know each one of us.”  Clearly Coach Wally Smith is a “difference  maker!”  When Coach Tom Nolan, who this award is named for, was near the end of his battle with cancer, Coach Smith’s Menard team designed a “Menard Loves Tom” shirt in Tom’s school’s colors, Comeaux High School, which they wore in the Comeaux Race.  After the race, the Menard runners gave their t shirts to the Comeaux runners in tribute to their coach.  It was a special moment for all who were there and is indicative of the “distinguished” career and impact of Coach Wally Smith.