Jim Satterfield believes a key part of a coach’s success to back off their own competitive spirit, in order to find the key to their athlete’s own motivation and progress. Now, he’s letting go for good by retiring from Mt. Hood.
After four years as head coach of the Saints cross country team and two years as assistant coach prior to that, he felt 2018 was the right time to move on, joining his wife in retirement and moving to Bend, in central Oregon.
Satterfield leaves MHCC satisfied with his coaching career but most of all, happy for the joys coaching brought to him and the people he was able to work with.
“I loved working here. It’s maybe the most favorite job I ever had in my whole life,” he said. “You know, sometimes you have jobs you’re not so proud of, and this was the job I was always very proud to have. I loved working with the young men and women, loved working with the staff here at Mt. Hood.”
There is no official word on who will take Satterfield’s place but he has recommended Jake Campbell, who will help MHCC distance runners during track season this spring. Campbell, an Idaho State University graduate, has served as an assistant coach at Sam Barlow High School where he ran for four years.
Prior to coming to MHCC, Satterfield ran an insurance agency for 31 years, but he always carried a great passion for running.
He grew up in Seattle, where he inherited his drive partially from his dad, who was an incredible athlete himself. He got more inspiration from his junior high coach before competing at Nathan Hale High school in Seattle. He would move on to Washington State University in Pullman where he ran for two years before suffering a college career-ending injury, and then eventually started his coaching career at a Pullman middle school in 1972.
‘A better person’
Satterfield said he always took coaching very seriously and spent countless hours to help his athletes improve, sharing his wealth of knowledge of long-distance running. And the payoff flowed both directions, he noted.
Asked how coaching affected his life, Satterfield replied with emotion: “Coaching… has made me a better person.” After a moment to get himself together again, he continued, “I don’t think I would be the person I am today if it wasn’t for coaching. Trying to take that responsibility seriously… being a role model for your runners.
“I learned a lot from Matt Hart and Keith Maneval, who were the coaches here before me,” he said. “And I want to thank them, including (Saints Athletic Director) Kim Hyatt, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to coach here.”
Nearly 50 years of guiding runners has produced many great memories, Satterfield said. Asked to the name the best, he shared what pleased him most.
“How far someone came while they were under your guidance,” he answered. “I mean, the championships are great, and I’m a competitive guy, I like to win like most people in the sport do.
“But when you really work and get somebody to buy into your program and they get better and all of a sudden your team does better than other people expected them to do, that’s really fun,” he said with a huge smile. “Knowing that you helped someone reach their next level. That’s always rewarding.”
Caring for his ‘family’
Satterfield said he treated running and coaching with a family approach: He would stay on top of his runners, keeping them on track in their weekend runs, texting them during the day reminding them to log in their miles, asking how their classes were going, being worried and wondering why a particular athlete didn’t perform as he had hoped or why they couldn’t finish a particular workout.
If he could sum up his legacy for MHCC athletes and colleagues in a single word, Satterfield said he would use “caring – that I cared about them.”
After years of pouring heart and soul into the effort, what was the toughest thing about the job?
“Something always hard for me was trying to get somebody with a significant amount of talent to love the sport as much as you do,” he said. “Because you saw so much potential in them and then, for whatever reason, life circumstances or they were just not that into it, and you couldn’t turn them around.
“As a coach, you feel like you lost one there,” he said.
A coach’s advice
As he hangs up his stopwatch and whistle, Satterfield offered advice for those who wish to follow in his footsteps.
“Make sure you’re getting into coaching for the right reasons,” he said. “Some coaches were really good athletes and wanted to keep that going, that feeling of competition… but you have to let that go. It’s about helping other people find, keep or rediscover the love for the sport. It’s about making people better. It’s not always about winning.”
Satterfield said he is happy with his own life, having raised five “great” children with his wife, Leslie, who is ready to enjoy life in Bend. “We’re looking forward to running and hiking all of the trails,” he said, before mentioning fishing and playing golf with Leslie and perhaps even entering some tournaments.
A bass guitar player, he’s also looking forward to reconnecting with an old friend with whom he played music in three different bands over a 20-year period. “He just moved over there so we’re writing some songs up and we hope to do the little brewpub-coffee shop circuit over in central Oregon,” he said with a giggle.
There’s no looking back now, he added: “I love coaching and would’ve stayed here longer but I love my wife more, and she’s moving to Bend with or without me so, I’m going,” he said, laughing.