RAYMOND — The spring and the track & field season represent a less stressful time for Mike Tully, the head boys basketball and track coach at his alma mater, Raymond High School.
Not to say that coaching track & field, where Tully excelled at Raymond and Western Washington University as a high jumper, is not stressful. In comparison to coaching junior high football and a full season of varsity boys basketball, track & field is a more leisurely sport to coach.
But before the Gulls turned out for track, Tully, 33, had a week or two to de-stress from a tough boys basketball season — Raymond’s boys lost in two games in the District IV 2B tournament, always a tough way to end the season.
“I was frustrated; I didn’t want it to end that way,” Tully said. “I don’t mind losing and I don’t mind losing to a team that is better than us if we played well. We didn’t play well and that is what was eating at me. It was an up-and-down season.
“That was the one nice thing about finishing as early as we did — it allowed me the time to decompress,” he added. “It allowed me to look back at the season and what needed to be improved upon for next season. There isn’t a lot of time to process between seasons. I figured throughout an 180-day school year, I had 20 or so days without a practice or a game after school. There isn’t much downtime, but (coaching) is something I do enjoy. It is worth it to me.”
For Tully, an eighth-grade science and math teacher, he is working exactly where he wants to be — teaching and coaching at his alma mater and passing along the lessons and advice he learned there to a new generation of Raymond students and athletes.
Coaching and athletics
Tully is a 1998 Raymond High School grad who owns one state 1A track title, in the high jump in 1998. A football and basketball player as well for the Gulls, Tully went to Western Washington University to study elementary education and compete on the Vikings’ track team.
At Raymond, he competed for longtime Raymond head coaches Jim Henrie, in track, and Doug Makaiwi, in football. Both of these coaches, especially Henrie, were big influences on Tully,
“To a certain extent, as an athlete, you pick up things and advice from the coaches you’ve been around,” said Tully, who took over as Raymond’s head coach for Pat Rogers and replaced Henrie in basketball and track, respectively. “I can see that in myself at times. I’ll get going on something and I’ll think, ‘Man, I sound like Mr. Henrie right there.’ You learn what to do and what not to do from your coaches. You learn how to do the right things to be successful.
“And, (Makaiwi and Henrie) were more than happy to share it with you,” Tully said. “It was good to have them around to learn from and we certainly miss both of those guys being around.”
Henrie died in 2012, while Makaiwi is currently an assistant football coach at North Kitsap High School.
Tully believes that history is important to remember and pass on to current and future players at Raymond. He has spent many hours during the recent summers researching and compiling a historical timeline for Raymond boys basketball — career scoring, team win-loss records and championships — that connects the generations of players at Raymond.
“One of the things I have is my binder for career scoring,” Tully said. “I went through a summer and went back from the 1930s up until now going through the seasons at Raymond, marking the 1,000-point scorers, game-high scorers. That stuff fascinates me, the history of the game. When I was a kid, I was always reading about sports history.
“It is nice; we have some young coaches here who are Raymond graduates,” Tully added. “They understand where we’ve been and where we want to be again. (Football coach) Rob Clements, he and my brother, Kevin, graduated in the same class and it has been fun working together with him. (Volleyball coach) Bob Swogger, he was a few years older than I was at Raymond and I graduated with his younger brother. It is a good group of young coaches here who want to make their marks here and are in it for the long haul. It is going to be interesting over the next couple of years.”
Within his family, Tully has a few historical coaching influences as well, starting with his father, Bill, who helps as a second pair of eyes at games. His uncle, Bob, was one of Montesano’s first soccer coaches, so Tully can draw from experience within his family in coaching as well as from within school. Thus, his lifelong affiliation with sports moved him easily into coaching.
At Western, Tully coached the track team’s high jumpers as a volunteer for the 2004 season. One of his best experiences as a coach came during this time and helped start his coaching career path.
“I had four guys high jumping and we finished first-second-third and sixth in the (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) meet,” Tully said. “The guy who coached the high jumpers at Western Oregon University was Bernie Wagner, who coached at Oregon State when Dick Fosbury invented the Fosbury Flop. After the meet, he came over, shook my hand and said, ‘You did a great job this year, coach.’ Oh man, the original flopper just told me I did a great job. It was one of those moments that told me maybe I can keep on doing this.”
Tully worked as a fifth-grade teacher at Ilwaco for his first teaching job during the 2004-05 school year and assisted the high school track program as well. However, a failed levy meant that his job wasn’t safe and he found a position teaching junior high math and science at Raymond the next school year.
Growing up in Raymond, Tully knew teaching was exactly what he was going to do when he grew up. He didn’t have to go very far to find a strong influence in the classroom.
“My mom,” Tully said of his mother, Kathy Tully, a longtime Raymond elementary teacher and White Pass and Morton administrator. “Teaching is something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I wanted to do anything else. I caught the bug from her. She is one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen.
“I remember going to her retirement party at White Pass a couple of years ago,” he added. “People were getting up and talking. So, I got up and said, ‘If I can be half the teacher my mother is, I would be happy.’ I would be fulfilled professionally. I had kids in class who had my mom in class and a couple of them would go, ‘You know, you’re not as good a teacher as your Mom.’ Well, duh. Who is.”
Kathy Tully, who is now the school improvement facilitator for the Morton School District, said that Mike learned very early the skills to be a teacher, starting with teaching himself how to read at 4 years old.
“He didn’t go into kindergarten until he was 6, but I think he was already advanced at that point,” Mrs. Tully said. “The teachers would tell me that if they needed an extra set of hands or an extra teacher, Mike became that person. I think he learned to teach at a very young age. His teachers allowed him to grow that skill.”
Tully noted that when he was growing up, he would go early to school and his mom would set down a batch of papers for him to grade before class. As a senior, Tully was also a teacher’s assistant for her. She gave him plenty to do and he absorbed the experiences.
“I think that’s what gave him the bug,” Mrs. Tully said. “He was just good at it.”
“She is the consummate professional — go in early, stay late, go in on the weekends, work at home,” Mike Tully said. “She did a really good job with everything in the classroom and I strive for that as an educator. I’m not there yet, but that is what I strive for.”
Teaching and education is almost the Tully family’s trade. Tully’s brother, Kevin, is a teacher, as well as three younger cousins who have just finished getting their teaching credentials. At Thanksgiving, talking education and what to do in the classroom dominates the dinner table.
Teaching at a small school, there are challenges. For Tully, the challenge to raise the level of the students’ knowledge and comprehension as a group sometimes clashes with the challenge to individually tailor the teaching to each student in the class.
“I learned from (my Mom) how to interact with each group and each kid, to challenge them individually, and raise the standards for the kids — to get them to be better students, but also to want to be better students,” he said. “That is the constant struggle.
“That is the push for education now — individual attention and it has to be unique to each kid,” Tully said. “In a real-world situation, that isn’t always feasible, but you try to hit as many as you can. You have to try and find a way to get all of them what they need and that can be difficult at times. You have your group, your class and you are constantly adapting and changing what you are doing. It is the same on the athletic fields. You have to take what you have and find the best fit for all of them to get them to the next level.”
“I think sports ties into teaching, also,” Mrs. Tully added. “Coaching offers the chance and the ability to teach — you want the kids to improve their skills, whether it is in academics or in sports. When you are involved in sports, it is a natural connection between the two. You have to break things down into chunks and make sure everyone knows what you want accomplished.”
At a school the size of Raymond’s, the pool of athletes isn’t as big, naturally, as at larger schools, so coaches have to find a way to incorporate all of the athletes at their disposal in team sports. It is the same way in individual sports, like track, as well as in the classroom.
For Tully, this taps into his competitive nature.
“That’s the challenge,” he said. “To coach three sports, you have to be pretty competitive. It is that competitiveness that I enjoy. To be able to compete, whether you are good or not, it doesn’t matter. You go out there and compete to the best of your abilities and give it your best shot. It is the same way in the classroom. You want to compete and be the best you can be in order to bring out the best in the class. The challenge of it is what I enjoy.”
Sometimes, Tully’s competitive nature can get the best of him. Early on in his coaching career, Tully dipped into his own experience as a Raymond athlete and he got mixed results from it.
“My first year, we went up to Wishkah and we weren’t very good,” Tully said. “However, I was expecting us to win by 30 and at halftime, we were up by 5. It was a close game. I went, ‘guys, I can go out there 1-on-5 and beat these guys.’ Yeah, it was a slight exaggeration. I was just frustrated.
“It is part of learning what to say and what not to say,” he added. “It is interesting to go through that transition from athlete to coach. It is something that can be a difficult transition. It is the process of ‘Why can’t you do this’ to ‘OK, here is how you can do this” and breaking down it down so they can learn and do it themselves. You are working on the process to get to the result, which it is easy just to focus on.”
There are no immediate plans for Tully to move on or leave Raymond. In fact, he’s very happy with the schedule and the life he has right now. He and his wife, Karen, just welcomed their first-born son, Gabe, into the world just two months ago. Tully also has a very talented group of student-athletes competing in track this season.
But, noting the time away from school for practices, games and some scouting in football and basketball, Tully knows that coaching three sports may come to an end soon, just not now.
“I try not to think too far ahead and just enjoy the moment and where I am right now,” Tully said. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep up the three-sport gig. During the fall and winter sports, I’m also the home ‘set up’ guy for the sports I’m not coaching. So, I’m away from home on those days as well.
“When I do get home, I like to just be home, decompress, be myself,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about track. It is my slowest time of the year. You have practice every day, then you can come home at a decent hour. You have a meet or two each week. It is a nice season to have. Track is the one I see myself doing a long time. You don’t see too many track coaches burning out after 4-6 years. You get guys like Steve Lazelle at South Bend and Deb Denny down at Naselle. The track coaches are usually the most stable. You see that longevity and the history of the program and see what they’ve accomplished there.”
Rob Burns is a Daily World sports writer. He can be reached at (360) 537-3926 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org