A constant state of ascension: How a cross country coach mentored me


To continue our blog series, we move on to our School-Based Mentor placed in 5 Routt County middle and elementary schools. Our School-Based Mentoring program is made up of nine full-time AmeriCorps volunteers, who dedicate ten months of service to our at-risk youth here in Routt County by providing in school one-to-one mentoring, in school and after school programming, as well as providing service learning opportunities to students.

Our first School-Based Mentor we will be highlighting is Nathan Allen. Nathan was PRC’s AmeriCorps VISTA Development Assistant last year, and decided to continue serving the youth of Routt County by becoming a School-Based Mentor at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Here is what Nathan had to say on his mentoring experience:

Often I think about the different opportunities and choices life gifts us. And how seemingly minute occurrences can send us down significantly different life paths. And how we often do not see those different paths until after they happen and we are where we are. After years of studying how to communicate story, I now live my life examining my story as well as others.

In story, there is a concept known as the inciting incident. It is something that alters a life path. Something that gets the character in a story to move. And change. I have had a few in my life; one was a person who I would consider one of the biggest influences on my life. While not an official mentor, he has been (and continues to be) a guiding light.

Jim Marshall was my high school cross country coach. Jim was an inciting incident in my life. Even though I have had multiple coaches competing collegiately and post-collegiately, when I say, “Coach,” he is who I am talking about. Jim has been a mentor and life-coach to me in multiple aspects.

Life-lessons (running/life metaphors) learned from the unofficial mentorship of Coach Jim Marshall:

  1. In both life and running, success is not guaranteed. It is those who continue to work, push and take chances who succeed.  Jim didn’t expect all of his athletes to be all-state athletes. A lot of us were. But he expected us to bring our best every single run. To push every single run. To not take a run for granted. And to be the best versions of ourselves. To him, running and life are meant to be a constant state of ascension.
  2. Fear can be a manipulative and debilitating emotion. It can keep us from hitting our full potential in life and running. It can inundate and overwhelm us to the point of paralysis. Or it can push us to some of our greatest accomplishments. One of Jim’s favorite things to tell us during a race (life) was to be brave.Nathan man-thigh
  3. We are meant to use our teammates. Despite what many think, cross country is very much a team sport. Especially the way Jim coached. He coached pack running. He coached strength came from the support of a pack. We ran together. We ran strong and had success because we used the support and attitudes of each other.
  4. Pain can shape us (for better or worse). Jim has gone through a lot of physical and emotional pain. He has taught us to embrace physical and emotional pain and allow it to make us stronger. When running and life give us pain (and it most certainly will), it can make us bitter or better. He taught us to choose better.

These four life lessons (and many others) were learned through the support, mentoring and coaching of Jim Marshall. These philosophies have guided my life and have made me largely who I am today. Moreover, the impact I have seen on my life has made me believe even more in a positive role model in a life, and has consequently led me to Partners in Routt County. I know firsthand how valuable support from a positive adult can be.

“He taught me to run high on my toes. I will always remember his words: run proud and remember you are alive.” – Brian Andreas

PRC is so lucky to have such a talented and passionate individual on our team such as Nathan. Thank you, Nathan, for dedicating yourself to another year of service here in the heart of Routt County.