Faith, Family And Coaching: Alan Webb Takes On New Role

* Alan Webb arrived at Little Rock Catholic High in 2021 following a few years leading the cross country programs at the University of Arkansas Little Rock

By Cory Mull - MileSplit

Alan Webb isn't quite sure where coaching is going to take him over the next year. 

In August, the 38-year-old American record holder in the mile and Olympian left his post as an associate head coach of cross country and track and field at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to pursue his Master's degree at Franciscan University, in a specific area of the Catholic theology. 

Along with that decision came an opportunity to coach at the high school level for Little Rock Catholic High School, a Class 6A program in Arkansas.

Webb chose to take it. 

With experience having coached his alma mater South Lakes (VA) in 2003 and Portland Westview (OR) in 2015 -- along with other stints at the University of Virginia and Portland State -- he was familiar with the grassroots nature of prep running. 

But it would be a disservice to say that Webb's true goal was coaching itself: To continue this identity within the running world. Perhaps those who know Webb best now understand his true focus, as a man of God, as a husband and as a father of four children. 

He's pursuing a future in the field of Catechetics, an area of the Catholic theology that teaches the rituals of sacrament and embraces Evangelization. In 2017, Webb converted to Catholicism, according to the National Catholic Register. 

"Really, the sins of my youth was putting running before God," Webb said on Friday. "If you would ask me, that would be my biggest regret. That was it. Running is super fun and it's a really cool thing and it's been a blessing. I am grateful that I was able to have the gift of running, but everything still needs to be put in its proper order. I'm just trying to do that now." 

These days, Webb doesn't have much free time. He's pulling Daddy duty from sunrise to sundown and helps take care of his four children, ages 2, 6, 9 and two months. 

But he's also found time to help young athletes at Catholic. This past weekend, Webb led his boys team to an eighth-place finish at the Bison XC Invitational in Searcy, Arkansas. Elias Found, the son of co-head coach Jennifer Found, was third overall in 16:35.60.

"We're having tons of fun and they're getting better," Webb said. "It's fun to see them improving." 

Let's backtrack for a second. This summer, Webb's first priority was figuring out his next steps outside of collegiate coaching. Focusing on his family and his future professional ventures were first on that list

Then came the opportunity with Catholic. The all boys school in Little Rock afforded him an opportunity to continue coaching athletes. Both Found, a former Kansas State University athlete, and Webb work specifically with the cross country team, a modest group of roughly 41 athletes. 

Ultimately, Webb knew his mission to serve others and preach his faith fit with the ideals of Catholic High School.

"I wanted to be in a more Catholic environment. I wanted to be at a Catholic school," Webb said. "That's what prompted that decision, having God being the No. 1 thing in my life. And then, my family. I couldn't really do that effectively as a collegiate coach. So, just making those changes I needed to, to listen what God's will was for me, for myself and the world." 

Before Webb, Found had coached the boys team over the past two seasons. Her experience as a Division I athlete served her well, though she knows the presence of Webb will bring something different to the table. He brings the 1-percent you can't really find elsewhere, she said. 

"He immediately stepped in and brought a lot of new stuff that I didn't have time to do with the kids, honestly," said Found, who also coaches a middle school team in Little Rock as well. "He's very specific about what we do every day. It's been great. It's the little things that we were missing." 

"Really, the sins of my youth was putting running before God," Webb said on Friday. "If you would ask me, that would be my biggest regret. That was it. 

Training smart. Building from the ground up. Understanding how to develop and how to compete. Those are all the things Webb brings to the table today. But Webb also appreciated the other side of the coin, too. 

Before any kind of training takes place, an expectation begins the day. The team leans into its faith. 

"We try to make a habit of having prayer as the first thing before any workout," Webb said.

"He immediately walked in and he did prayers before practice," Found said. "That resonates with the kids. I think it's a common thread with some of the boys who are devout." 

Then again, the teenagers at Catholic weren't immediate cognizant of Webb's history, either. Found said when Webb arrived, hardly any member of the team knew who he was. 

"I don't think a lot of kids are students of sports anymore," Found said. "If you walked up to a high school athlete today and said, 'Do you know who Alan Webb is?' sadly, a lot of kids just wouldn't know."

As the squad thumbed through YouTube, however, they begun to figure out his extraordinary history. He's in the high school record books for 800m and 1,500m, too. 

These days, however, Webb isn't touting his past.

He's happy to sit back and coach. 

In recent weeks, he's even jumped into a few workouts. 

"To have someone to pace, to show them when it's not an all-out effort," Webb said. "It's teaching them that every workout isn't an all-out effort. It's the pace they should be going. Having that confidence and saying, 'OK, we're not running hard but we're running fast. Whether it's a tempo or intervals at critical velocity." 

The coming weeks will see the Catholic boys compete in an array of meets, with some hoping to reach the Arkansas state cross country championships. Elias Found was a top 50 finisher last year as a sophomore. 

Will the arrival of Webb boost Catholic's top runner into the upper-echelons of the state? 

Perhaps only time will tell. And as long as there's an equal calibration of faith along with athletics, Webb said. The question of whether Webb will continue coaching high school is an unanswered one. He said he's taking things one day at a time, and playing this season by ear. 

But for the time being, he's having fun. 

"Yeah, I haven't signed a 10-year contract to be the volunteer assistant coach at Catholic High," Webb said with a chuckle. "But like we talked about, we have to put it in the proper place. I love Jesus but I am not him and I cannot predict the future. I have to be in the present."