All Access with Tom Akers

Wednesday, December 9 2009


 

head track and field coach: Akers follows brother's path

Long-time coach epitome of success

Neil Schneider/Staff Reporter


Eastern head coach Tom Akers has led the Eastern men's and women's track field program since 1996. Akers is a graduate of Northern Iowa. (Jordan Boner/The Daily Eastern News)
Eastern head coach Tom Akers has led the Eastern men's and women's track field program since 1996. Akers is a graduate of Northern Iowa. (Jordan Boner/The Daily Eastern News)

When Tom Akers, Eastern head coach and director of track and field, was in junior high school he was a three-sport athlete. Akers enjoyed playing basketball, football and track and field, but it was his brother Steve who really got him interested in continuing to compete in track and field.

"Basically, I had a brother that was two years older then, and I just kind of followed in his footsteps," Akers said.

Akers said it really wasn't until his junior year in high school that he truly began to appreciate the competition that track and field can provide for an athlete.

"Something just sort of happened. Maybe it was just a maturity spurt," Akers said. "My performances began to get better and my times started dropping and I ended up being all-state as a junior. From there, things just started to take off."

After finishing high school, Akers once again found himself following in the footsteps of his older brother Steve, except this time Akers and his brother were both attending Iowa State.

Akers, entering his 14th year as Eastern's head coach of track and field, said while he felt like he was a strong competitor at ISU, he simply thought the school was a little too big for him, which resulted in Akers (and his brother Steve) transferring from ISU to Northern Iowa.

Akers' time at UNI is something he will never forget; as he was a two-time co-captain for the Panthers and set several school and conference record in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles.

Akers' conference record in the 110-meter hurdle stood for 17 years until it was broken in 1996. 

He was also an eight-time national qualifier who earned All-American honors in the 400 hurdles during the 1979 track and field season.

Despite achieving numerous track and field accomplishments, Akers knew he wanted to pursue teaching or coaching in track and field, but up to that point had not received any calls back about potential track and field jobs. 

That's when he received a phone call from former Eastern track and field head coach Neil Moore.

"I was out of school for a year and I was working for a small, Division III school, when Neil called," Akers said. "Coach Moore recognized my name from competing against his team in years past, and soon, I came to Eastern as an assistant coach."

During his first term (1983-1990) with Eastern's track and field program, Akers helped coach the Panthers to six indoor/outdoor Mid-Continent Conference Championships, as well as being responsible for the recruitment of Eastern's first NCAA Division I National Champion, Jim Maton of Shelbyville.

At the conclusion of the 1990 track and field season, Akers made the decision to leave Eastern and pursue a career in the department of exercise and sport sciences at the University of Arizona.

While he made the decision to go to UA because of financial growth for his family, Akers knew in the back of his mind that he wanted to return to coaching track and field at the college level. With Moore unable to coach for health reasons, Akers was quickly asked to come back to Eastern to serve as interim coach for the spring 1995 season of track and field.

Akers was then promoted to head coach of track and field at the beginning of the 1996 season.

Since returning to Eastern, Akers has led the men's and women's track and field program to 13 OVC Indoor Track Championships, while also winning 12 OVC Outdoor Championships.

Despite all the accolades and achievements Akers has earned as an athlete and as a coach, he attributes his success to one simple theory that he lives his life by: "There's no substitute for hard work."

"I try to teach my athletes that there are no substitutes for hard work. If you take care of business when you're away from the track, it allows you to know what you need to do when you get to the track," Akers said.

Neil Schneider can be reached at 581-7944 or jnschneider@eiu.edu.

Comments

O'GWednesday, December 9 :: 6:09:57 pm      
Coach TANKERS

helpingstineWednesday, December 9 :: 10:21:37 pm      
The man, the myth, the LEGEND...Coach Tankers!

schwinn89Friday, December 11 :: 1:10:34 pm      
"There's no substitute for hard work"....NEW 800 CREW T-SHIRT QUOTE!!!