Andrew Valmon understands how to compartmentalize a schedule. Coaching six different Maryland athletic teams the past seven years has ensured as much.
But even an expert could hardly prepare for the organizational nightmare Valmon has undertaken the past nine months.
Since learning in November that the Terps men's program was one of eight Maryland teams on the chopping block for budgetary concerns, the U.S. men's track and field coach's days have been a seemingly endless cycle of phone calls, practices and meetings. He has simultaneously coached the Terps, raised enough funds to temporarily save men's outdoor and prepared a revamped Team USA for the Olympics.
"Sometimes it feels like there weren't enough hours in the day," Valmon said from London last week.
Valmon, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400-meter relay, was named the men's coach for Team USA in February 2011. USATF officials hoped he could help U.S. track and field improve upon its disappointing showing (23 medals) in Beijing. They were also optimistic that he could help instill order in a program that has lacked communication and steady leadership in recent years.
Valmon's résumé spoke for itself. In addition to helping bring a once-overlooked Maryland track and field program nine All-America honors since 2003, he has more national-team experience than past U.S. coaches. He was an assistant coach at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, and served as head coach at the 2011 world indoor championships in Doha, Qatar.
"Being a former athlete himself, he knows what it took to be successful on a personal level," said Roland Desonier, an assistant track and field coach at Maryland. "He also knows what it takes to be successful encompassing a team."
Before Valmon could focus on retooling the winningest program in Olympic history, he had to make sure he'd have a men's team when he returned to College Park.
Last season, the 47-year-old was part coach and part fundraiser. He attended all team practices and meetings, while taking every possible opportunity to ask alumni and supporters for donations. Not wanting to slight his nearly 70 Terps athletes, Valmon made sure to complete all of his Olympic preparations by conference call in the evenings.
"Maryland track and field was definitely the primary focus for him," Terps sprinter John Davenport said. "Clearly being a USA coach is something that's a great honor, but at the end of the day, we were his team first."
It paid off. On July 1, the same day Team USA announced its final Olympic roster, the Maryland men's outdoor team earned a temporary reprieve by reaching the initial fundraising benchmark of $940,000. It was the only one of the eight proposed teams to avoid the first cut.
Since then, Valmon has been able to focus on his responsibilities to Team USA. He spent the final weeks before London facilitating regular discussions between USATF officials, athletes and personal coaches about relay policies and procedures. He said he is committed to setting a tone of accountability amongst the athletes, and that he strives to create a true team atmosphere.
Of course, that's no easy task considering the recent state of U.S. track and field.
After the program captured its fewest gold medals in 32 years in 2008, the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to decertify USATF over alleged mismanagement. Desperate for a culture change, USATF responded with a 69-page report lambasting coaches and athletes for unprofessionalism. It also detailed a lack of infrastructural control around the relays, which likely contributed to fumbled batons in both the men's and women's 4x100.
Valmon was hired to end those shortcomings, and to help Team USA achieve its announced goal of 30 medals.
But rather than focusing on the enormity of his responsibilities, he prefers to concentrate on day-to-day tasks. Since arriving in London, he's been at the practice track twice every day to help assist athletes who don't have personal coaches. He has also sat in numerous news conferences, answering questions about the future of U.S. track and field.
It's a taxing schedule, one that keeps him constantly moving. But amid the chaos, Valmon still finds time for himself. He works out on his own every morning before having breakfast. It's an opportunity to clear his mind, to try to find a sense of peace amid a hectic year filled with budget cuts and paperwork.
"Balance," Valmon said. "Balance is what I remind myself during my workouts."
And the balancing act won't end when the London Games conclude next Sunday. Valmon's Terps will need to raise another $940,000 by the end of the year if they hope to field a men's program next spring. The late-night conference calls may come to an end, but the long days divided between coaching and fundraising are far from over.
"I did not want to abandon this group, especially now that we have come this far to save the men," Valmon said. "So despite the uncertainty for much of the year about the men's team, my commitment to coaching at Maryland, coaching the women that I recruited to College Park, has not changed."
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