It is all about building relationships and motivating kids to do their best for Bethel College track coach Sandy Banman. Two weeks ago, the rural Goessel native stepped into a new role as an assistant track coach at Bethel College, her Alma matter. She hopes to draw on more than 23 years experience as a successful Goessel High School coach in her new position.
“Being at Goessel so many years, it was easy to get to know kids and find what motivates them,” Banman said. “In this new situation, it will be more challenging, but I am hoping to figure it all out really quickly. Yes, this is coaching at a higher level, but these are still young adults, and I hope I can make a difference in their lives.”
Banman has many success stories to look back on and draw from high school to use in her new role leading sprinters and javelin throwers at the collegiate level. In 19 of the 23 years she coached track at Goessel High School, she took qualifying athletes to state track competitions. As a coach, she prepared, motivated, and encouraged many athletes to take their places on the state podium for top honors.
“State track was definitely always a highlight,” she said. “But you know, I was always very proud of all our kids because we had some outstanding boys and girls that were just tremendous competitors. They were gifted athletes who worked hard to achieve their goals.”
Banman hesitated to name names of those outstanding state-competitive athletes, preferring instead to focus on how competing in sports helps athletes learn life lessons, such as reward for hard work, perseverance through pain, the importance of setting goals, and reaching to do more than ever thought possible.
“One of my favorite memories of high school track is the tradition that developed with the runners of our 4x400 relay teams,” she said. “Before the race, the kids would come to me for the time that I wanted them to run their split in. I would use an ink pen and write it on their hand. In later years, the boys started asking for it to be written big on their forearm. This was a big deal for the kids. I also had to do it in their running order.”
Banman said this tradition was a big motivator because sometimes she wrote times that the runners did not think they could do.
“We were realistic, but pushing the edge,” she said. “I had faith they could do it, and more times than not, the real competitors often went out there and did it, just to prove to everyone they could. Then we were all ecstatic for them together.”
Banman, who also coached volleyball at Goessel High School for 16 years, said track season was just a very special time of year for her.
“The grass turns green, the sun comes out, it’s a signal of spring,” she said. “I get so excited about track season. It energizes me and I love to work with young people, try to help them be the best they can be.”
Even though track is more an individualized sport than team orientated, Banman said the team aspect is important to her.
“I like to develop camaraderie and support between the athletes,” she said. “It is fun to get to know each athlete and evaluate their strengths, and work to improve them, so as a team we all do well.”
Her favorite personal events include the open 400 and the 4x400 relay.
“I just love those,” she said. “It is so awesome to see entire track meets come down to those races and feel the excitement, especially with the 4x400.”
As a high school and college track competitor, Banman ran those races, as well as other relays and 800 races. She also long-jumped and high jumped as a member of the Bethel College track team in the early 80s.
As a high school coach, Banman earned a Co-Head Kansas High School Track Coach of the Year award in 2007, with former student-athlete turned coach, Vanessa Schroeder. Schroeder, and two other Banman-led track stars from Goessel, Jason Peters, and Craig Banman, also currently hold track-coaching positions, carrying on her legacy of motivation, understanding, and encouraging others.
Banman also works as an adapted physical education paraprofessional in the Newton school district with the Harvey County Special Education Cooperative. She uses movement and physical activities to help severely disabled or handicapped children develop strength and confidence in their own abilities. This is her seventh year in this position, to which she now adds coaching track at the North Newton college from 4 to 6 p.m. every weekday.
“No matter what age or level of ability, I love to work with kids,” she said. “It is fun to get to know them on an individual basis and see how we can work together to improve.”
As a college track coach, Banman hopes to use that same philosophy to build relationships and inspire her charges to reach for higher goals.
“My time is going to be pretty well divided between sprinters and javelin throwers,” she said. “But I love to see the excitement building as we see improvement, no matter what the sport.”
Banman and her husband, Steve, live north of Goessel and have two grown children: Allison of Austin, Texas, and Craig of Manhattan. They are members of Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church near Goessel, where Banman is active in youth leadership.