Jarrett Slaven, who turned a track team that did not offer scholarships and only had walk-on runners into an NCAA team with multiple national championships, is looking forward to coaching another successful nationals.
Slaven has been coaching for over 40 years, including here at UT for the last 16 seasons. Aside from coaching, he was also a United States Probation Officer for nearly 25 years.
He attended Youngstown State University for his undergrad, majoring in education before going to the University of Florida for a master’s degree in physical education. He competed at the high school and collegiate level. During his time at UF, the Florida Track Club won two Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles.
He got interested in the idea of coaching very early on. “I really enjoyed my high school coach and the positive impact he had on my life,” Slaven said.
Slaven then coached high school at nearby Chamberlain High School for 12 years. While he was at Chamberlain, the team won four conference championships, a girl’s state championship and one year Slaven was nominated as the Hillsborough County Coach of the Year.
Slaven then moved to coaching college and post collegiate. He assumed the position of head coach for University of South Florida from 1978-1984. While he was at USF, the team won the Sun Belt Conference Championship four out of five times.
After 1984, Slaven started working coaching runners on an individual level, working with numerous Olympians.
In 1999, Slaven became the UT head coach. At the time it was a walk-on track team, but over the past decade Slaven has turned it into the heavily recruited team we know today, dominating the conference and regional championships.
When asked about what made Slaven decide to join the Spartans, “I heard there was an opportunity to coach at UT and I was about to retire and thought it would be fun to coach again,” Slaven said.
Slaven built the Spartans into the nationally ranked team they are today. Assistant Coach Dror Vaknin explained how Slaven was able to build this successful team.
“He did so with his positive attitude and extreme dedication to the sport of running,” Vakin said. He gets the most out of his athletes by making them believe they can run through anything. He loves to coach and loves to laugh. The women’s program would not have been to this level without him, at least not that fast.”
With his years of coaching and success, Slaven has many favorite aspects and memories. His most memorable time at UT was the moment the team qualified for the NCAA Nationals for the first time. Slaven said his favorite aspects of coaching for the Spartans are “spending time with the young athletes, working hard but having fun, in addition to working with all the other coaches.”
Slaven took many crucial steps to turn the track team into the force it is today. “We began to recruit some good athletes and this helped start a tradition. In addition, we had many excellent captains and leaders who motivated the team on a daily basis,” Slaven said.
Slaven has become one of the reasons why potential recruits will decide to join the Spartans. “A lot of people choose to run for Tampa because of a strong bond with Coach Slaven. He really tries to help every person on the team achieve their goals and he knows how to produce some fast and tough runners,” junior runner Chantalle Blundell said.
His love of the sport and the team is seen and appreciated by all. “Coach Slaven works individually with every single person on the team to ensure we’re all happy and healthy and doing what we need to do. He’s a great coach and it shows with all of the team’s success throughout the years,” said freshman Kayla Sullivan.
This season for the Spartans has proven to be successful thus far. There have been many personal records (PRS) and a few school records. With the much anticipated home meet, The Tampa Invitational, freshly under their belt, UT is looking forward to continuing their successful season.
After the Tampa Invitational, UT has two more meets before setting their eyes on the NCAA Championships, yet again, in May.
The Spartans will certainly depend on Coach Slaven to guide them to another victory at the NCAAs. “The team definitely owes a lot of our success to Coach Slaven. He’s so dedicated to both the sport and to us, and I know I’m personally becoming the best runner I can be thanks to him,” Sullivan said.
Erin Townsend can be reached at email@example.com