Volume 93, Issue 25
Thursday, October 14, 1999
A Vigar-ous conversation
GOLDEN BOB VIGARS. Long time Western cross country coach and former track and field coach Bob Vigars is surrounded by his gold.
By Wes Brown
Twenty questions this week looks at Bob Vigars, head coach of Western's cross country team and retired coach of the Mustang track and field team.
Vigars grew up in the small town of St. Thomas, just South of London and it was on the playground where he first found his love of running. "I played a lot of different sports growing up, but playing tag when I was young really got me running. The best thing to develop is to avoid being 'it'," he said.
Long after his playground days, Vigars began his coaching career as an assistant basketball coach while completing his masters of physical education at California State University in Los Angeles. It wasn't until he arrived at Western, however, that he became involved in both track and field and cross country.
"I was young and full of energy when I came knocking on the door at Western. My dad had called me in California, where I had been going to school and living under immigrant status, to tell me about some job opportunities back home," Vigars said.
Endurance training is different from other forms of coaching and Vigars said he had to learn the physiology of the sport as well as how to train runners to peak at the right time of year.
"If you stand in an athletes way you can choke them by getting too involved. As a coach, I try and help them develop themselves completely. I look for a personality in my athletes someone who is talented, but also mentally tough," Vigars said.
Working with university students over the years has been Vigars' favourite part of his job and he said it has kept him young. "I've been locked into an 18-25 year-old age group for the last 30 years. These students are smart, they respect each other and offer a lot of support to one another."
Although Vigars has coached athletes who have become Olympians, he said a player's greatness isn't decided by looking at their best game or individual moment. "It's one thing to have a good season, having a lot of good seasons is completely different. It's all about consistency," he said.
Of all his awards, including a combined 14 national championships, Vigars said he finds it hard to pick a favourite moment over his more than three decades of coaching.
"It's hard to step back and reflect on memories when they are still happening. I have to admit, I've always liked the social side. We used to have some great parties on the bus coming home from meets," he said.
The closing of J.W. Little Memorial Stadium, the long time training ground for both track and cross country teams and the opening of Western's new stadium is something Vigars referred to as a "crying shame.
Vigars said he felt artificial turf is a terrible choice for the new surface. "[Athletics] is basically telling soccer, rugby, as well as the football guys that they don't care if they get hurt. That type of surface takes its toll on the athletes over time. If they aren't going with grass, get another turf in there that is safer and more useful," Vigars said.
Although his days of coaching Western's track and field team are over, he said he will continue to guide the cross country team for the next 10 years at Western.
"I'm looking forward to doing a better job with academics and teaching. I am retiring from track and field knowing that there has been quantum leaps within the sport," he said.
As a cross country coach, Vigars said he always tries to make the sport exciting. "I use drills to keep things fresh. One of my runners once said, 'the only thing wrong with cross country is the running.' There is a lot of different scenery around campus as well as around the London area that keeps things new," he said.
In the end, Vigars said the spirit of people having fun and the team enjoying their experiences are what bring him the most happiness. "In the end, it's great athletes who make great coaches."
Copyright © The Gazette 1999