Thursday, September 28, 2017

V7 N. 65 George Dales, Former Western Michigan Track Coach R.I.P.

George Dales (1922-2017)

Richard Mach who was one of George Dales' stalwart runners in the early 1960's contacted us this morning with news of the passing of his coach at Western Michigan University.

"John Bork called me a little after 9 last night to tell me our coach , whom we planned to visit on the 9th of Octobert, had passed away around 8pm.  He was 95 last month and in waning health."

"He coached two NCAA individual champions in track and field in Ira Murchison and John as well as two back-to-back team NCAA championships in cross country in 1964-1965.   He made many academic contributions to the sport after his retirement in 1970, both nationally and internationally and did tireless work, much of it gratis, on behalf of track and field in many capacities including pursuing scientific advances as well as administrative positions spanning well into the new millenium."
Coach Dales with the majority of those 1964 and 1965 NCAA Cross Country Team Champions
"He was possessed of great energy and acuity of mind well into his 80s,  which assured the continued quality of his contributions long beyond the usual.   He collaborated with Gideon Ariel,  the talented biomehanics maven, who developed a sequence that "computerized" biomechanical analysis back in the very early 70s.  And when Bill Bowermann was selected as coach of the year by the USTFCA, he publically stated on the podium the award should have gone to George."

"George Dales was born in West Virginia in 1922 and moved to Cleveland in mid-childhood where his Greek father set up a confectionary store.  After attending Miami University as a gymnist just short of a degree, he went into the service  and with his unusual accumen and skills, was rapidly promoted within the US Navy, where aboard an advanced cruiser, the USS Alaska, he spent much of WWII creating and carrying out physical fitness programs as well as basketball competitions.  He also accompanied the US Marines into China in the role of medic to rescue civilian personnel of many different nationalities caught by the occupation by the Japanese of portions of China."

"After the war, he returned to complete his degree, taught and coached in Cleveland for a short time, married his beloved Christine, then sought an advanced degree in PE @ UMich and became Don Canham's assistant there before being offered the head coaching job at Western Michigan, where he had numerous All Americans in both X-C and T&F.  He is survived by four daughters,

And, as they say, the rest is .... now ...... history."

This remembrance came to us from Paul O'Shea written by one of Coach Dales' daughters

George Dales was born in Excelsior, West Virginia in 1921 to humble beginnings.  The first son of Greek immigrant parents, George was taught the importance of heritage, hard work, and tenacity at an early age.  These core values served as the underpinnings for a very full life and an impressive professional career.
Recognizing that a higher education was the ultimate path to success, George worked multiple jobs to put himself through college, as well as to help support his family.  He shared stories of shining shoes during The Great Depression to encourage his daughters to maintain a strong worth ethic.  His hard work paid off:  George graduated cum laude from Miami of Ohio University.  In his senior year, he was recruited to attend the US Navy Fitness Instructor School where he taught swimming to Navy and Marine women cadets.
With WWII under way, George enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the cruiser USS Alaska.  The Alaska escorted USS Saratoga and USS Enterprise as they conducted night bombing missions against Tokyo.  On the same tour, Alaska covered the landing operations at Iwo Jima.  Dales held the rank of Chief Petty Officer and Fitness Instructor on board the mega-ship, with keeping the 1517 sailors well-conditioned among his responsibilities.  His Navy career took him to the Philippines, Korea, Japan and China.
After his tour, George accepted a graduate assistantship at University of Michigan, where he earned two graduate degrees (with honors), before becoming Associate Professor of Phys Ed and Head Cross Country Coach at Western Michigan University in 1953.  In 1955, he married his wife Christine, who remained his biggest cheerleader throughout their 43 years together.  The couple raised four daughters, Maria, Janine, Corinne and Natalie, all of whom inherited their father’s drive to be the best.  
George’s career at WMU was the stuff that legends are made of.  His hard-driving style and “never say never” mantra led him to become the winningest coach in the school’s athletic history, outpacing the more recognized sports of football and basketball.  Under his watch, WMU earned two NCAA team titles in cross country; 12 Mid-American Conference crowns in track & field; 8 Mid-American Conference crowns in cross country, and produced stand-out athletes, national record holders, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and 25 All Americans.  Honors and accolades abound, including Hall of Fame memberships too many to list; the WMU George Dales Scholarship, awarded to an outstanding scholar athlete; the annual USTFCCCA George Dales Award, presented to an exceptional track & field or cross country coach, and a stint as an assistant track coach to the Greek Olympic track team, to name a few.

Anyone who knew George knows that he was extremely proud of his Greek heritage and its contributions to sport, specifically the Olympic Games.  He attended every Olympic Games from 1952 to 2008, often as an advisor to the US team and occasionally as press.  These travels took him to Helsinki, Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing.  When it came to travel in Greece, George was a fountain of knowledge, excited to introduce friends, family and occasional by-standers to the rich heritage and beautiful sights of his motherland. He loved to regale anyone who would listen with tales of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Marathon, the grand-daddy of the modern marathon.  George told the tales so passionately and frequently that, when grew into his 90s, his daughters surmised that he probably had an all-access pass to the first marathon.  
A treasured memory was the family’s 2004 trip to the Olympic Games in Athens.  George, Christine, their daughters and families, enjoyed field level access to watch Track & Field superstars from around the world make history.  George carried with him his signature accessory:  A 3-inch stack of index cards rubber-banded together, scribbled with world record stats and qualifying times, affectionately dubbed, “Dad’s palm pilot”.
Relating some of their Dad’s trademark expressions, the Dales girls shared these:
-“A car is a tool---it doesn’t need to have a radio.”
-“I’ll eat the cow, you eat the grass.” (to his vegetarian daughters)
-“You girls don’t need shampoo—in the Navy, we used bars of soap.” (All the more amusing since he was bald.)
Retirement didn’t slow George down. He remained integrally involved in his beloved sports until his final days. He coordinated international Congresses for up-and-coming coaches and established a mentoring program to help sustain a legacy of excellence.  He was the President of the International Track & Field Coaches Association; Editor of the Track & Field Quarterly; the Secretary-Treasurer of the US Track Coaches Association; and Commissioner of the Central Collegiate Conference.  Despite his advancing years, he was still a frequent sight on the field, bouncing from the starting line to track-side with words of encouragement.  
George was the greatest advocate for Track & Field that the sport has ever known.  He worked tirelessly to polish the raw talents of his athletes while always reminding them that they were part of a greater tradition.  Later in life, he continued to lobby to “Bring Back Track” to WMU, a battle that he never gave up on, but was not able to achieve.  Asked what he hoped his legacy would be, George’s wish was simple: “I hope I helped inspire people to be champions in sports and in life.”

Refer to that 1965 XC Season

George Dales and His Western Michigan XC Legacy  This very good article just appeared today.

Article on George Dales by Paul O'Shea Originally Appearing in Cross Country Journal

1 comment:

Wilfred Schnier said...

Although George Dales was short of stature he was a giant in our sport. His 1964 and 1965 cross country teams were the only Mid-American Conference teams in any sport to win the national championship. He is the namesake of the George Dales Award, given by the USTFCCCA to the coach who enhanced the profession of coaching track and field. He was one of the most fair-minded coaches I have ever known, and also one of the best. When his Western Michigan Track & Field team defeated the University of Michigan in a dual meet in Kalamazoo, the Michigan coach and future Wolverine AD, Don Canham, told his athletes to get on the bus and leave everything behind which they did not have in their hands.
As an assistant coach at Indiana University in the late 1970s, I first met George at a Big Ten gathering at Johnny Pont's house at Northwestern. For some reason we struck up a friendship which lasted until this day. He always gave me much more respect than I deserved and I always relished the opportunity to speak with George at the national convention. Whenever topics were discussed at that convention he always had enormous insight, never failing to take the side of whatever was good for the entire sport. George Dales was one in a million.

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