When you hear Thayer Redman talk about how he wound up coaching track at Manchester High School, it almost sounds like a joke. But Redman’s accomplished, almost 20-year career as head coach of the boys outdoor track team at the school has been anything but.
During his tenure, the Indians have been three time runners up for the CIAC Class LL Championship, won 10 Central Connecticut Conference championships and had nine undefeated regular seasons – and that’s just over the past decade.
The punch line to Redman's career could come this June in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he will be honored as one of eight finalists for the National High School Coach of the Year for boys track and field. Redman was initially nominated as Connecticut’s candidate for the award, then advanced on to become the New England region’s candidate at the awards ceremony in Grand Rapids. He said he has no idea how he wound up even being nominated or in competition for the award, but that he is certainly grateful for the honor.
“It’s just humbling because there are just so many great coaches in this state, and to somehow get to that level, I’m just grateful,” Redman said. “When I was chosen as a nominee, I didn’t really expect to go beyond that.”
Redman and his family will travel to Michigan from June 20 through June 23 for the awards, where he will have to give a presentation on “some area of expertise” pertaining to the sport, which the 41-year old joked he would probably just wing it.
“He’s kind of known throughout the state as a track coach,” said Manchester High School Athletic Director Lindsey Boutilier. “It’s a credit to him as a coach.”
So how did Redman, a Maine native who claims to be from “all over,” wind up in Manchester, Connecticut?
“My car ran out of gas on I-84 and I ended up here,” Redman deadpanned (as an interviewer, you quickly find out that Redman doesn't take himself too seriously).
But the truth is that Redman’s wife, Susan, is a Manchester native and 1986 graduate of Manchester High School. Susan Redman has deep roots in the Manchester area through her family. Her father Matthew Moriarty was a former mayor of Manchester in the 1970s and ran Moriarty Brothers, a Lincoln-Mercury dealership on Main Street.
“I was teaching on the Navaho Indian reservation, my wife was teaching here, and the difference in pay was about double,” says Redman, a physical education teacher at the high school. “It was a wonderful experience, but I was ready to come here.”
Redman doesn’t run too much any more himself – he says it’s too much “wear and tear” on his body, and it takes him too long to recover – but was an accomplished decathlete and football player in high school. He played both sports at the University of Maine, and then transferred to Arizona State University in hopes of competing on the track team as a walk on, but fate had other plans for Redman, it would turn out.
“Unfortunately, the day before classes I broke my neck in a diving accident,” Redman says. “That pretty much ended my career.”
Unable to compete at a competitive level in the sport any longer, Redman’s love of track and field drew him to coaching others, and his passion for the sport and respect and commitment to the student-athletes he coaches has led to his success.
“The kids are just fantastic kids,” Redman said. “I have such respect for them, and I always tell them that I feel a tremendous responsibility as the head coach to honor their commitment to the team. I’ll have another season, for some of them this is their senior year.”
Although he stopped coaching the indoor boys team several years ago to spend more time with his family, when asked Redman said it was very hard to foresee a day where he would give up coaching the sport completely.
“The only thing that would really pull me away from coaching track would be my family,” he said. “I just look at it as something I was made to do. God has blessed me with such great teams, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.”