Coach, father-figure says goodbye after 33 years

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Catherine Gagulashvili culture editor

Howard Edelman’s office near the swim gym does not differ from other offices in size, shape or general structure. Yet, it has one distinct feature that all others lack: it is covered from floor to ceiling in pictures. Some dating as far back as his first year coaching in 1985, each photo in his office has a unique story to tell, one that Edelman can recall almost instantaneously. From his track team beating Hawthorne’s team for the first time in 10 years in 1990 to his son, Spencer (class of 2017), making it to CIF on his cross-country team, Edelman remembers nearly everything about every one of his pictures. Edelman has trouble recognizing his impact on other people. It wasn’t until recently, during his final year, when he learned the true impact he has had on others’ lives in his 33 years at Beverly.

Those who have had Edelman as a coach have found that he is always willing to go above and beyond in his responsibilities as a coach and in what he’ll do for his athletes. One athlete he impacted, in particular, is current English teacher Phil Chang. Chang decided to try out for the cross-country team his freshman year, never having run before because all his friends were doing it. When he showed up to practice on the first day of school in 1990, he was faced with the fact that the cross-country team had already been training for two weeks, and had already left for their first meet of the season. Nonetheless, he tried out for the team. He ran a fourth of a mile and asked Edelman, “How’d I do?” Edelman informed him that the cross-country team runs eight miles. Edelman pushed Chang to grow from a skinny, slow runner to a stronger, faster runner, who eventually became captain for both the cross-country and track teams his senior year.

“I didn’t like it at the time, but Coach Edelman gave me sorely needed discipline. I was really wild. I basically grew up without parents, because they were never home, they were off working or going to school. I just basically did whatever I wanted and Coach Edelman was one of the first people who was like, ‘You’re going to do it my way.’ And I was just like, ‘Whoa, it’s too much.’ But, he really disciplined me,” Chang said. “He gave me my first chances at leadership. Isn’t that what a dad usually does? Like when I think back to it, I’m like, ‘Wow, he was kind of like a father figure.’ At the time, I was like, ‘Damn, this guy’s a harda**.’ He would yell at me from time to time, if I did something stupid, but not in a demeaning way or anything, but the way coaches [do]. But at the same time, if I think back to like all the opportunities that led me here, you know, they were all things that he taught me.”

After Chang graduated from college, he came back to Beverly as an English teacher and as an assistant coach for Edelman. He accredits the skills he gained to his cross-country career and the perseverance and leadership Edelman instilled in him.

“The big lesson to be learned [from] Coach Edelman is: do what you do and you never know who you’re going to impact. Right? And it’ll be in such a positive and profound way, and you’ll never know. Hopefully, the people come back and tell them. I did tell him when I heard he was going to retire, so I went and told him [the role he played in my life], which, I hope that means something to him,” Chang said.

Coach Edelman, as the head coach of the cross-country and track teams, would run with his athletes. Yet, the summer before Chang’s freshman year, Edelman had broken his foot and couldn’t run with the team. So, throughout the season, he would follow the team in his car and encourage them to run faster. As his foot got better, he would bike with the team. Acts like this helped define Edelman as the kind of coach who would go above and beyond for his team. He has, to this day, not changed in the way he prioritizes the team.

“Well, I see him as sort of like a father. He’s always there, he’ll drive so many miles–50 miles to Estancia High School or Cerritos High School to watch just our relay team, like a 30-second race or a four-minute race, if it’s the four by four. He’s just such a great person, he’s such a mentor,” track captain senior Leticia Valle said.

Edelman’s coaching style, which Valle dubbed as using the “guts and glory” inside you, developed in his years as a cross-country and track runner in high school. He believed in pushing himself to the limit, and he translated that energy into what he expects of his athletes now.

“Every day at practice, always walk away from practice feeling like you’ve done more than your opponent might be doing that same day. So if I knew the next week I’d be running against Fairfax or Pali or Hamilton that week and I knew what they were doing or probably what they were doing in practice, I wanted to walk away from practice, always feeling like I did a little bit more than them,” Edelman said. “I figured if they’re running eight miles today, I’m running nine. So whenever we trained, [if] the coach said, ‘Run this edge from here to there: that’s five miles.’ [My buddies and I would say], ‘Why don’t we go this way, make it seven miles.’ I always try to add a little bit.”

At his time at Beverly, Edelman has served as a physical education teacher, a cross-country and track and field coach for the entire time, and this year took on the role of Athletic Director. He will miss coaching and being around throughout the cross country and track and field seasons and is considering coming back part-time to sub. All in all, Beverly has been a large chapter of his life, one that he is grateful for.

“I feel like it’s such a cliché, but thanks for the memories. I’m leaving this place with a lot of really special memories and it’s mostly because of the people, my colleagues, students, parents and administration. I’ve met a lot of great people who have been so inspiring and motivational,” Edelman said. “That’s what I think [are] the two main components for any championship. Whether it’s championship meaning your team winning or championship meaning we have great company, I always feel that those two components are huge inspiration and motivation when they come together. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve found my colleagues and my students to be very inspiring and motivating, and I think it’s been a two-way street.”

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