By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Edrick Floreal has had a busy summer. He is Kentucky’s new head track and field coach, joining the Wildcats after serving as director of track and field at Stanford. Floreal also will serve as Team USA’s assistant men’s coach for jumps at the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games.
Floreal graduated from Arkansas in 1990. While a student-athlete for the Razorbacks, he captured five NCAA triple jump titles and four NCAA team championships.
Floreal sat down with the SEC Digital Network for this Q&A, to discuss a variety of topics including his new job and his upcoming Olympic coaching assignment.
SEC Digital Network: What went into your decision to take the Kentucky head track and field coaching job?
Edrick Floreal: “I had been there before and coached there for four years. I am very comfortable here and am very used to the surrounding. My wife’s family lives about an hour-and-a-half away in Dayton. She was born and raised there and her family is there. I was very familiar with UK having worked there before. We had some really good success when I was there; I coached 13 All-Americans, so I was very comfortable with the athletes I know we will be able to recruit at Kentucky. I think it’s a place with tons of untapped potential.”
SEC Digital Network: What impressed you the most about the Kentucky program and athletics department?
Edrick Floreal: “I think the commitment to track and field was probably what excited me the most. Sitting down with [Kentucky athletics director] Mitch [Barnhart] and listening to his vision for UK athletics and how seriously he takes track and field. There are a lot of schools that have great facilities, but they’re not all interested in supporting it with viable support. I think for me, the fact that he thought track and field was an important part of UK’s success, was very impressive to me.”
SEC Digital Network: You were a very successful athlete at the University of Arkansas. How do you think your personal experience at such a high-level program helps you relate to your athletes?
Edrick Floreal: “I think that’s imperative. Athletes sometimes need the show-me effect; I can show them what they can do because I’ve been there and done that before. I understand the demands of being a student-athlete in the SEC and what it takes to be able to compete at that level week in and week out. I know what they’re going through. I think it makes it easier for me to understand the adjustment they’re going through and be able to manage their training effectively.”
SEC Digital Network: You’re about to coach in the Olympics as the assistant men’s coach for jumps. How much do you think that experience will help you in coaching at Kentucky?
Edrick Floreal: “I think it’s instant credibility when you’re able to tell student-athletes, ‘Hey, I’m out of town for a few weeks coaching at the Olympics.’ To them, they think ‘Wow, this guy is going to coach Olympians.’ I think all that stuff gives you credibility. I think that’s huge with kids who are 17 and 18 years old, because they feel like your words are gold; you’ve been there and done that. It’s been tough managing the move for my family and making sure things are set up properly for transition at Stanford. I worked there for 15 years and I don’t want to drop the ball in the transition. So it’s been a lot of work.”
SEC Digital Network: Where do you think you can take the Kentucky program? What can the Wildcats accomplish?
Edrick Floreal: “I think the sky is the limit. You look at what have been done at places like Texas A&M or the University of Arkansas. You go to Fayetteville, it’s a smaller size town, but they have great facilities and have had so much success. Lexington is a smaller size of town, but if all of the places that were being successful were in large cities, you would never have Texas A&M or Arkansas. In the sport of track and field, that doesn’t restrict you from being successful. It’s just a matter of rolling up your sleeves and bringing in athletes who are interested in UK.”
SEC Digital Network: How much did it mean to you that former UK coach Don Weber, under whom you served as an assistant in the 1990s, recommended you for the job?
Edrick Floreal: “I think the biggest shot in the arm for me was that he called me and told me that after almost 30 years of coaching, he couldn’t think of a better fit for the job. He’d hired a lot of assistants and he told me that of all the assistants he had, he felt like I was the guy. He obviously knows what it takes to be successful at UK. He knows the restrictions and difficulties and knows what has to be overcome. It was a big shot in the arm that he thought I was the guy who can do it.”
SEC Digital Network: What did you learn while serving as the head coach at Stanford that you feel will help you be successful at Kentucky?
Edrick Floreal: “I think integrity, above all. I really learned how to dot all my “Is” and cross all my “Ts.” At Stanford, sometimes the difficulty is you have to develop a lot of athletes. You have some really good superstars, but mostly it’s student-athletes with high GPAs who have maybe some different motivations. They’re sometimes less athletically oriented. That taught me to take whatever I have and teach kids to be better and to improve technically. Being able to develop kids is important. I’m going to be doing the same at Kentucky and recruiting some of the best athletes in the country.”