By Derick Abbey:
This year’s Section V Indoor Track State Qualifier meet was a very one special for coach John Izzo, not because it marked his 52nd year in coaching but because he got to see his granddaughter take second place and secure a spot in the State Indoor Championships for race-walking.
Despite only being a seventh-grader in her first year on varsity as a Brockport high school Blue Devil, Desili DuBois is in her fifth year as a competitive race-walker. For all five years standing on the side of the track, her grandfather has been there holding the stopwatch. But coaching family is nothing new to Izzo.
“I have been able to do a lot as a track coach, but it has been amazing to have been able to coach my daughter from afar in the race walk and then my son in the hammer throw in the Empire State Games,” Izzo said. “Now coaching Desi(Desili) was the biggest surprise. She was playing youth soccer very well so we thought she would stick with that. But after her last game, she came off the field and said ‘You know what I really liked? The running part, a few weeks later we started working together.”
His passion for coaching has earned him honors, awards, and achievements including coaching 11 national champions. But of all of them, coaching his daughter, son and now his granddaughter have been the most satisfying for him.
“I love coaching and the opportunity to coach my family made me a better coach honestly, but I always made sure to treat every athlete the same. It was always easy coaching Christina (DuBois,
his daughter), I just treated her like I treated everyone else,” Izzo said. “If I had to come down on the team, I came down on the team, including her.”
Izzo and DuBois have fond memories of coach Izzo’s off-season training.
“Everyone had a different button to push, I knew how to push her, we would do a ten-mile walk. We would be going down the road, her running, me driving my car behind and I would stop grab a soda and maybe a cupcake,” Izzo explained. “Then I would pull up next to her with the window down and the radio on drinking a Coke with a snack, and I would say. Hey how’s it going on this hot day? I’m having a blast in here. Hold on I need to roll up the window for the air conditioner. She wanted to kill me but she finished her workout because I knew that’s the kind of athlete she was. I knew I just needed to push her.”
For his daughter, Christina DuBois grew up with this mindset and understands his coaching style helped shape who she became as an adult.
“I have been around that coaching style since I was a kid, I saw him coach college and high school kids so I knew what he expected of all his athletes so I always strove for that,” DuBois said.
Now watching her father coach her daughter in the same way she he coached her and many others has created a bond between the two.
“While I think we were close to begin with, I try to separate the fact that he is her coach, and I am her mother, just so I can make a place for her to get away from it when the practice is done,” DuBois said. “When she gets home I can see that she worked hard and having known what she went through it has definitely made us closer.”
Izzo has been inducted into a number of hall of fames for his hard work and dedication including the Greater Rochester, Section 5 High School Cross Country and the College at Brockport Hall of Fame. However, when it is all said and done for Izzo, the ability to change the lives of young athletes is a privilege.
“No matter who the athlete is, there is nothing better than being able to see them put effort into getting better and then see progress. That’s what keeps me going, helping these athletes change their lives,” Izzo said.