Huffins brings Olympic experience to track coaching staff
John Goodridge has been a head coach for seven years at Eastern Michigan University. Before coaching at EMU, he was the head track and field coach at Wake Forest University from 1984 to 1999.
In his tenure as an ACC coach for the Demon Deacons, Goodridge decided to take a chance on an athlete named Christopher Huffins and hired him in 1997.
“Wake Forest, my first job, was tough,” Huffins said. “I was nowhere near the coach I am now. I had the same energy, just not the same skill level.”Before starting his career in coaching, Huffins already had accomplishments under his belt as a collegiate and professional athlete. In college, Huffins made a name for himself by winning the 1993 NCAA Championship in the decathlon and for his participation in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, placing 10th.
In 1998 and 1999 during his tenure at Wake Forest, Chris won the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships decathlon, and in back-to-back years was a recipient of the John H. Bennett Award presented by USA Track & Field.
He also won the 1999 Pan Am Games for decathlon, and finished third in the World Championships.
“I look back at my career happily,” Huffins said. “I look at the journey and am blessed in the accomplishments I have made in the sport. Most of all, I feel pleased to have made a mark in the sport. Track and field is much bigger than you or me; I was just happy to be a part of it while I was in it.”
In 2000, after he became an assistant coach at Georgia Tech, Huffins went on to compete in arguably his greatest accomplishment as a professional athlete. Huffins won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, making him the best decathlon athlete in the nation, and fourth in the world.
That same year he won his third John H. Bennett Award and was inducted into the Indiana State Track & Field Hall of Fame.
Huffins later went on to be the director and head coach of track & field at Cal Berkeley in 2002, where he coached 23 all-Americans and two top-10 athletes in the U.S. Five of these athletes competed in the U.S Olympic Trials, and recruited Cal’s first two NCAA champions since 1990.
Huffins was named assistant-coach by Goodridge at the beginning of the 2010 Track and Field season to coach sprints, hurdles, jumps and a recruiting coordinator.
“It’s just great having Chris again as one of my assistants,” Goodridge said. “He is now a very experienced and accomplished coach, and a recruiter with national contracts.”
Goodridge has seen his decision in hiring Huffins pay off for him and the team already. Vanier Joseph was recently named MAC athlete of the week setting a record in the 60-meter high hurdle, ninth best time in the NCAA.
Earlier this season, Kevin Lanier broke a 10-year-old heptathlon record at the Grand Valley State University Holiday meet, scoring 5,224 points compared to the previous record of 5,102 points held by Dave Stewart.
“We as a staff want to continue the excellence here at EMU,” Christopher said. “We want to continue to be the dominate program in the MAC.”
Much credit should be given to the athletes for their individual accomplishments, but some credit should also be given to the coaching staff in molding these individuals to achieve these accomplishments.“Chris’s passion for coaching, recruiting and teaching young men how to conduct themselves as members of a team mirrors my own personal and professional goals and standards,” Goodridge said.
Huffins says his transition to coaching at EMU has been easy for him, where the cold hasn’t bothered him as much as it has bothered his wife, Tamika and son, Zach.
Nowadays, Huffins is no longer in the Olympic spotlight, and takes a backseat role in coaching, being a husband, and being a Dad.
“Dad, husband, coach; that is what consumes my day,” Huffins said. “I am seen now as Zack’s dad, and not as an Olympian. I’m a husband. I still have to do the normal things of a normal husband. I still have to do what she tells me to do.”
Huffins has his own saying: “A happy wife is a happy life.”