Mel Olson recently joined the McKay School staff as director of the coaching minor offered by the Physical Education Teacher Education Program (PETE) when the PETE Program moved to the Department of Teacher Education earlier this year.
For the past 20 years, Olson has been an integral member of the pedagogy faculty at BYU, teaching physical education and coaching courses. But his history at BYU goes back much further than that. BYU, where Olson gained his education and his on-the-field football experience, was also where he later coached football for 20 years. His long history in educational, athletic, and coaching experience informs and validates his instruction.
In high school Olson was recruited from Star Valley High in Afton, Wyoming, to play for the BYU football team. After taking two years off to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Olson returned to BYU to finish his football career and receive a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1970.
That same year Olson was hired as a BYU football assistant coach on Tom Hudspeth’s staff, working for three years alongside assistant coach Lavell Edwards, until 1973 when Edwards was appointed head coach. Olson remained an assistant coach for Edwards until 1990, during which time he received both his master’s and doctoral degrees in physical education from BYU.
Olson credits his wife, Susan, and their five children for supporting his coaching career—attending games, cheering for the Cougars, and even baking cinnamon rolls for team meetings. After 20 years of coaching, however, Olson decided to make a career change so that he could spend more time with the family.
He took a faculty position at BYU in 1990 and began building a minor in coaching and teaching physical education, one of only eight programs in the nation that certify their students to be coaches through the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education. “Every athlete deserves a certified coach,” Olson argues. He is adamant that the coaching minor offered through the McKay School not only certifies its future coaches but also ensures that its graduates know the principles, ethics, and techniques necessary for quality coaches.
Olson is a strong advocate for the recent transfer of the PETE program to the McKay School. He says, “Coaching is teaching at its highest degree. You’re not just dealing with athletes’ skills. You’re also dealing with their health and their parents, as well as an entire community that critiques your entire coaching platform.”
Though he sometimes misses coaching and even playing football on BYU game days, Olson says that he loves training coaches for the upcoming generation who will exemplify important coaching principles. He enjoys spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren; participating in outdoor activities; and of course, watching BYU football.
2 November 2009