Stephen Field had Arena Football teams calling as late as February asking him to try out for the upcoming season.
The former Cal Poly and Arroyo Grande High star — who was a Football Championship Subdivision All-American at two different positions on the offensive line — hadn’t played a game since his last one in a Mustangs uniform in 2008.
As a senior, he wanted desperately to follow former Cal Poly center, Atascadero alumnus and Arena Bowl champion Dan Loney into the AFL before the league took a hiatus in the slumping economy.
When football came calling this time, however, Field turned it down. He’s committed to another sport now.
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Field was one of a select group of coaches who spent this past week at a training camp put on by USATF and the U.S. Olympic Committee for “emerging elite track and field coaches.”
Held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, the camp gave selected coaches from the high school, college and club levels an inside look at the methods used by the national team.
There was an application process, and coaches were chosen based on “their proven abilities to develop athletes to state and national levels and their projected potential to develop future Olympic medalists.”
Field also got a referral from the only Olympian to come out of Arroyo Grande, former Cal Poly star Stephanie Brown Trafton, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the women’s discus.
“That was more honoring than anything, really,” said Field, who followed Trafton at both Arroyo Grande and Cal Poly but never overlapped with her at either school, “that she thought something of me to go ahead and nominate me for something like this.
“I was completely shocked. I was filling out the application thinking, ‘I’m not going to make this thing.’ ”
Arroyo Grande’s reputation as a throwing power had to have boosted Field’s résumé. The Eagles’ throwing program has produced 11 boys and girls state champions since 1995.
Though there has been a drought of champions since Danny Rohr in 2005, Arroyo Grande was once honored as the most prolific throwing program in the nation and usually sends its best to the state meet.
Field, who was a state-level performer in his high school career, has been the Arroyo Grande throwing coach since 2007, when he was still playing football at Cal Poly. Coaching the Eagles “is a huge privilege because we were considered to be the best group of throwers in the country,” Field said. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back and take that over. I didn’t want to see that go.”
So in hopes of improving his coaching, Field was an eager student at the training camp.
He soaked up stories told by 80-year-old hammer-throw legend Harold Connolly, the 1956 Olympic champion who broke the world record seven times.
He watched training sessions by Becky Breisch, who just won the U.S. outdoor title in the women’s discus two weeks ago, and by elite men’s throwers Russ Winger and Ian Waltz. Field said he was awed seeing Breisch hit a mark in practice that was just a few feet shy of Suzy Powell-Roos’ American record of 222 feet.
And Field came away particularly impressed by national team coach Ty Sevin, who competed in three Olympic Trials in the javelin and made two national teams as a competitor.
Sevin has been a fast-riser in coaching. After competing in his last Olympic Trials in 2004, he spent just three seasons as the head coach at McNeese State before moving on to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
“Listening to him talk was just amazing,” Field said. “You listen to anybody who’s at the top of their game. Just to sit there and absorb what they’re saying is great to take in.
“The main thing I learned is how important the passion is that you carry and pass on to your kids. That, and you just never, ever, ever have the answer. You’re always absorbing and evolving what you do and your program and how you teach. You’re like a sponge.”
Field nearly coached his younger brother Austin to the state title in the shot put in 2008, where he eventually settled for second, but in the previous year and this past season, Arroyo Grande failed to advance a thrower to the state meet.
That’s a trend Field is hoping his experience at the training camp will help change. He said the Eagles will have plenty of talent, especially in the sophomore and junior classes next season.
“Most of them are hard workers, too,” Field said. “If they do what they’re supposed to do and I do what I’m supposed to do, we’ll be putting up some real good marks in the next few years. So that’s really exciting for me, especially coming back from this camp.”