Lawrence track coach Jack Hood steps down after 21 years with program
After more than two decades with Lawrence High’s track and field program, head coach Jack Hood has decided to leave the coaching ranks.
Hood, who spent six years as an assistant and 15 as the head coach at LHS, announced his resignation this week. He will continue to teach history at the school.
Hood said he started thinking about stepping away from coaching last spring, when the track season was canceled by COVID-19 and he had more time for his family and his hobbies.
“The year off just taught me that there are other things that I could do,” Hood told the Journal-World. “I started to reevaluate and look at things. I just got to the point where I wanted to spend more time with my mother and take care of myself.”
“I kind of figured out that there’s other things I enjoy doing that aren’t track,” he added.
Hood first joined the LHS program as a throwing coach in 2001, and he became the head coach in 2007.
When he took over the program’s top job, he said he wanted to build a culture that encouraged more kids to try track in the spring, even if they competed in other sports too. He did manage to grow the program’s numbers; the Lions had about 80 athletes in his first year as head coach, but they fielded a team of 120 to 140 in the years that followed.
“I really worked to kind of build a culture where we had more kids out,” Hood said. “The more kids you have out, the better your depth is and you’re able to have more success.”
Hood also focused on bringing in more female athletes. When he first started, the LHS girls didn’t even have enough competitors to participate in all three relay races. But later on in Hood’s career, Lawrence’s track program sometimes had more girls than boys. The girls 4×400-meter relay team won four consecutive state titles under Hood, and the girls track program as a whole won back-to-back state titles in 2018 and 2019.
Hood was also named the Kansas Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in 2019.
“I’m lucky enough to get to coach the greatest kids in the state of Kansas,” Hood said. “It’s on the coaches and the expectations they have for the kids. I’m just a facilitator of all of that, just to make sure things keep running.”
Early in his career, while he was still an assistant, he got a glimpse of what the program could accomplish if it set its expectations high. In 2006, he watched the Lawrence boys win the state title by less than one full point.
“It was just magical to be a part of that,” Hood said. “It really taught me that the impossible is possible at Lawrence High School. You can set high expectations and dream big, and if you keep pushing the kids, they’ll live up to that.”
“I get tired of people telling Lawrence High kids what they can’t do,” Hood added. “I’d rather facilitate and help them do what they can. Be as active as they can in the school — whether it’s a cappella choir or band or other sports — I always wanted them (to get) as much out of that high school experience as they could.”