Kamehameha Teacher and Coach, Joel Truesdell, making a difference
When young people are exposed to sports participation they often come into contact with a variety of coaches, some good and others who need improvement.
Coaches can enhance a young person’s experience or they can take away their enthusiasm in that particular sport.
For a young Joel Truesdell his love for sports led to the discovery of a new, more objective form of coaching.
“I have been interested in sports since I was in elementary school,” Truesdell said. “I loved any sport that we were paying and my favorites were baseball, football and wrestling.”
It was through that passion for sports participation that Truesdell got a rude awakening into how some coaches show favoritism.
“In high school, I played football my freshman year, but had a coach that played his favorites and I was not one of them,” he said.
From his unfortunate life lesson in football Truesdell vowed to only participate in sports where playing time was based more objectively on his performance.
“I realized that in cross country and track that the stop watch does not lie,” Truesdell said. “In wrestling, if you beat the guy above you on the weight class ladder, you take his place.”
By his college years Truesdell was running between 70 and 100 miles per week and considered himself to be in the best shape of his life.
“ During the summer of my sophomore year in college I felt like I had a touch of the flu for a week and when I ran my next race, I could barely keep a 6 minute per mile pace for the 5 miles,” Truesdell said.
The week before his 5 mile race Truesdell was running the same distance on a rugged course at a 5:10 clip, so he knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what it was.”
“I went to the doctor and he just said I needed a little rest and that I would be fine,” Truesdell said. “I wasn’t diagnosed properly until Christmas when my weight dropped down to about 114 pounds that’s when it was discovered that I had Type I diabetes.”
Truesdell stopped running for a while after learning about his diabetes and claims that his health started to deteriorate even further.
“I started running again seriously when I got to Hawaii in 1981, at the age of 26,” he said. “My health started improving and by 1983 I was running marathons.”
Truesdell’s health improved so much after ’83 that he joined the Hawaii Ultra Running Team, also known as HURT, and started running ultra marathons or distances beyond the 26.2 mile marathon.
“My favorite ultra became Run to the Sun on Maui,” he said. “It is a 36.2 mile run up Haleakala, and my best time was 6 hours and 20 minutes and a 7th place overall finish.”
Truesdell has done Run to the Sun 11 times and is a testament to perseverance and a strong mind.
Today Truesdell is a Chemistry teacher at Kamehameha Hawaii campus where he also coaches, what else, cross country and track.
“My workload, as are all teachers, is very high and highly stressful,” Truesdell said. “Coaching, while also a lot of work, helps to relieve my stress.”
Truesdell has been married to Elizabeth for 21 years who also shares in her husband’s coaching task.
As for diet Truesdell follows the Chris Carmichael diet, which is high in carbohydrates and low in fats and protein.
“Carmichael preaches to eat what you need and not stuff yourself,” Truesdell said. “I will eat fresh food everyday and dessert only on occasion.”
Truesdell is very visible in his coaching duties as he will run with his cross country team.
“I stay active by running 4 to 5 times per week with the kids,” he said. “We run 4 to 5 miles per day and I enjoy doing it as it is fun and also keep my Type 1 diabetes in check.”
Truesdell is a good role model for his team as he does everything he ask them to do, even if it means trying something different that he had never done before.
“Our team started doing cardio kickboxing for core training and we do it twice per week. I’ll try to do it with the kids but I seem to have rhythm disorder,” he said with a grin.
Coach Truesdell is an advocate for good health through exercise and eating right and lives the lifestyle, serving as a positive influence for a sport that is dear to his heart, which he happened to stumble upon.
At age 56 Truesdell continues to benefit from a sport that doesn’t lie, “it’s all about the stop watch.”
“What I like best about working out is the feeling that I have gotten rid of a lot of stress and that I have taken an action that will help me live another day,” Truesdell said.
“There is nothing that I dislike about working out as I hope that I can be running for many more years to come.”
Truesdell and his Kamehameha Warriors will be playing host to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation cross country championships scheduled for October 22.
If you happen to come by the Warrior campus be sure to view the race at the one mile mark where you will see a sign called “Truesdell Trail,” in honor of a coach that has made a difference.
And someday should you happen to see a jogger meandering the back trails of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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