Track and field throws coach Craig Kinsley ’11 is no stranger to success: once a Brown track and field athlete himself, Kinsley won the outdoor track and field Ivy League Championships four times and the NCAA championships once, came in third at the U.S. championships, and set a school record in the javelin that still stands today. He went on to train professionally and competed at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Now, back at Brown as a coach, he’s bringing the program to new heights. Last spring the throws group scored 15 points on the men’s side and 20 on the women’s side at the outdoor Ivy League Championships, contributing to nearly 26 and 38 percent, respectively, of the track and field team’s total points despite representing less than 20 percent of the total team members.
Also last spring: under Kinsley, Erin McMeniman ’22 and Kegan Schroeter ’22 broke school records in the javelin and hammer throw and McMeniman competed at the NCAA outdoor national championships.
While his coaching style owes a lot to his experience at Brown, Kinsley says he places emphasis on an unexpected ingredient for success: fun.
“I want to see (my athletes) jogging and goofing on the warmup lap,” Kinsley says, joking that “we’re throwers, the jogging doesn’t matter, it just gets the heartrate up.
“We want maximum fun and maximum purpose at the same time.”
“It’s hard for people to strike a balance when they’re training; to have fun and to be really serious and really focused,” says Bryan Powlen ’10, Kinsley’s teammate at Brown. “I think a lot of (Kinsley’s) success is around doing both.”
Kinsley also aims to maximize working together. “I create a training plan that I think the weakest person on the team can do,” Kinsley says. “And I trust and I know that the strongest person on the team is going to push incredibly hard within that plan.”
Kevin Fairchild ’23, a javelin thrower under Kinsley, says that Kinsley’s training philosophy can be summarized by the phrase “work smarter, not harder.”
“A lot of coaches will grind you into a paste,” Fairchild says. “But (Kinsley is) very focused on recovery and technique.”
Fairchild describes a session where he and a teammate pushed themselves particularly hard. Kinsley pulled them aside afterward, according to Fairchild, and told them: “I have to put leashes on you guys. I have to reel you guys in.”
Coach Kinsley also helps athletes intrinsically better themselves, Fairchild says. “He boosts you by having you build your own confidence, which is something not a lot of coaches do.
He’ll say, “I can tell you all these things but you gotta believe it yourself.”
Kinsley’s favorite part of coaching? “I love that I get to yell at the top of my lungs,” he says—but “not just for the sake of yelling. You feel like doing that because you’re inspired by what the athletes are doing. Especially athletes that have struggled with doubting themselves or not believing that they’re good enough to compete at a certain level.
“When an athlete struggles and then they do something great, and they’re even surprised, that’s when everybody’s yelling and screaming,” Kinsley adds. “Those are the best moments.”