Understated Excellence

The acclaim was nice and greatly appreciated.
It was never a motivator, though, or a measure of success.
Humble folks, you see, don’t need recognition or honors or the crowd’s applause or a pat on the back. Their intrinsic satisfaction comes from the knowledge that they’ve played the game as it should be played and contributed in some part, large or small, to the success of the team they represent.

Friends, meet Chris Peoples, who for the past four years has served as a sports performance coach at Collegiate.

A native of Reidsville, NC, a city of 15,000 located 30 minutes north of Greensboro and 30 minutes south of Danville, VA, Chris was an All-North State Conference selection in football (wide receiver), track (sprints and triple jump), and swimming (sprint freestyle and individual medley relay) at Reidsville Senior High School. He also found time to wrestle and play soccer and, no surprise here, was the recipient of the sportsmanship award in football.

He went on to Methodist University, a Division III signatory in Fayetteville, NC, where he narrowed his athletic focus to football and played wherever he was needed, mostly wide receiver, during his four seasons of eligibility which ended with the 2009 season.

During his tenure, he caught 99 passes (sixth in program history) for 1,310 yards (seventh) and eight touchdowns and as a junior and senior was an All-USA South Conference honorable mention selection.

With a B.S. in math in hand, he landed a job as a teacher and assistant football and track coach at Starmount High in Yadkin County, NC. It was there that he came to realize that his professional passion lay not so much with coaching a specific sport but in the realm of sports performance.

“That first year teaching,” he said, “I found myself researching strength and conditioning and training philosophies and exercises and ways to implement them. I was fresh out of college. I was done playing football. I wanted to continue to exercise and stay healthy and realized how much I enjoyed it.

“Then, I realized I could make a career out of it, so I researched how to become a strength coach. I wanted to give kids at the high school level something that I didn’t have. Ultimately, I wanted to help kids, one, achieve their athletic goals and, two, have a healthy lifestyle.”

After a year at Starmount, Chris headed to UNC-Greensboro, earned a B.S. in kinesiology with a concentration in sports leadership and gained invaluable practical, hands-on experience through internships at Wake Forest, N.C. State, and High Point University.

His next stop was West Forsyth High in Winston-Salem where he taught, coached football, and directed the strength and conditioning program for the football team.

“After that year,” he said, “this opportunity at Collegiate came knocking. When I saw the opportunity to be a full-time strength and conditioning coach at the high school level and also work with middle school, I jumped on it.”

So he moved his family – he and his wife Danielle have three children: Parker, now 11, Noah, 5, and Lauren 3 – to Richmond. Danielle is an elementary school teacher in Henrico County and has assisted with track at Collegiate.

In his time on North Mooreland Road and the Robins Campus, Chris has impressed with his knowledge base, collegiality, amiable, modest, and unfailingly polite manner, and encouraging, nurturing nature.

“Chris is good at a lot of things, but most importantly he values relationships,” said Collin McConaghy, Collegiate’s Summer Quest director and an assistant football coach who also works with sports performance. “As a strength coach, he’s not worried about ‘This is my program and we need to do things this way.’ He’s thinking about ‘How do I connect with coaches and kids, meet them where they are, and help them progress?’ He’s very intentional about what he does from a programming standpoint but, more importantly, from a relationship standpoint. He’s a very knowledgeable guy who’s always looking to get better and learn from others.”

Sports performance coaches labor long hours in the background, not just conducting workouts but planning and refining them. They stay abreast of the latest research and trends as they seek ways to give their athletes an edge. The good ones are motivators. They’re pied pipers of sorts who are happy to do their jobs but willing to stand outside the glow of the spotlight and watch those entrusted to their care excel.

That’s Chris’s style.  

“I actually prefer not to have the spotlight on me,” he said. “I enjoy the day-to-day work, the day-to-day grind, seeing the bigger picture. Hey, we’re training, and if we’re doing X, Y, Z to achieve that goal and we’re consistent, that compound interest is building up. I like being behind the scenes working with kids and going out and seeing them perform.”

So watching with quiet pride when an athlete takes the lessons learned under his tutelage to the arena or, better yet, to life is all the affirmation he needs.

“Yes, sir,” Chris added. “That’s the whole purpose of what I’m doing. I’m here to serve kids. When I see a kid in the off-season working hard, coming in training every day, being coachable, doing what I’m asking, even going above and beyond and I see that transition to success, that’s the ultimate satisfaction. It’s an awesome feeling, a very humbling feeling. I’m very thankful to be part of that and see a kid essentially achieve happiness.”
    ~Weldon Bradshaw