By Greg Gielczyk
FREMONT–Cliff Somers’ career as a teacher and coach at Fremont High School began in 1999.
Somers came to Fremont after coaching track at Aquinas College from 1997-98. There was one interruption in 2008 when he suffered a stroke in the middle of the year and was, for the most part, out of commission.
Once he regained some of his strength, and began his recovery, Somers just did some volunteer coaching for the next year or two. He had to take it easy as he continued down the road to recovery.
He later became an assistant coach, before eventually regaining the head coaching position in the 2015 or 2016 season. Somers, a 1990 graduate of Fremont, never did stop coaching the cross country team.
“When I had my stroke, my daughter (Kelsey) was maybe 7 and son (Conor) was then maybe about 5,” Somers said. “That next year I thought ‘Who knows what’s going to happen? I’m going to spend time with my kids.’
“But I just love coaching, I love being with the athletes,” Somers said. “Every year is a little bit different. Through the course of years, there are things you feel great about, and things where you feel you screwed up or could have done better. It doesn’t get old or stale, and after that year away from it, I just thought ‘I’m not going to be happy or satisfied at home.’ If you’re not satisfied with what’s going on in your life, you might not be that great to be around.”
Somers admits it was nice not to have to deal with all the managerial stuff that head coaches have to tackle, including paperwork, figuring out departure times, issuing uniforms and communicating with the parents.
Plus, he had full reign to handle the distance runners as he saw fit.
It’s said that age brings wisdom. Somers would agree.
“I’m a super competitive person, I love to win,” Somers said. “But, as I’ve gotten older, I started to change my definition of what winning was. How we try to define it with my teams is ‘Did you do the best you could today? And if you did, that was a win.’ How do you frame that in terms of competition?
“We want to compete against very good teams that push us to do our best,” he said. “I’d rather compete against somebody that is going to push me to my very best and lose, rather than win without any effort.”
Somers works primarily with the hurdlers and distance runners, while the girls’ coach works with the sprinters and long jumpers. Yet another coach works with the throwers, another with the high jumpers and another with the pole vaulters.
Fremont’s boys cross country teams have captured multiple state titles, runner-up finishes and a slew of conference championships over the years.
The girls cross country team has won regional and conference titles and earned top 10 finishes at the state level.
Once the meet arrives, Somers said, the coaching is over. The rest is up to the athletes.