The Bryan Hoddle Story: Iron Sharpening Iron

Many people have written about him in the past. His story is widely circulated in the running and military communities. The combination of his work with able-bodied athletes and disabled athletes is unparalleled in the United States.                                 

Few have done what this man has done to cross over and help both populations in a world-class manner. His life work is like a majestic stone that shines brightly on a summer day. Hope fills the air when this man walks into the room for good reason. He helps others come alive.

This story about coach Bryan Hoddle is a bit different than most. You see, I am coming at this story from the perspective of someone who grew up with Bryan. We have known each other since junior high school days. We spent almost every day together during those long summer days and cold winter nights so long ago now working out together chasing our dreams as young men on and off the track. Bryan ended up being the best man at my wedding. And, my best friend.

I know Bryan’s story well. I saw first-hand how he overcame his own adversity at a young age to become one of the greatest coaches in the world, especially for our disabled veterans and for Paralympians. This is not to say what Bryan did for able-bodied runners was not amazing, it was. Bryan has coached countless high school state champions in the sprints, helped pro football players improve their speed, and quietly helped able-bodied Olympians to improve their craft.                                            

This man also had over 300 kids on his middle school track team when he was just starting his coaching career as a young man! Who does that? The staff of the magazine Runner’s World selected him as one of their hero of the years for a reason.        

Bryan was also a pioneer in so many ways during his career. Like most pioneers, he had those who wanted him to succeed and those who wanted to protect their status quo way of doing things.

Making positive life-giving change is the work of courageous men and women who are willing to pay the price and stand alone. You are guaranteed to have some critics along your journey when you want to make a better life for those you serve. From a young age, Bryan was able to push through the status quo and do the right things regardless of the critics who stood in his way.

Let’s back up a bit and take a look at Bryan’s life during his teenage years. Bryan was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met even in Junior High and High School. He flipped burgers at a local restaurant for many years, ran track and cross-country, got his schoolwork done, played basketball, and found time to work hard at everything he attempted.

Nearly every hard practice we had in junior high and high school track and field was a race. Bryan was state champion in the 440 (400 meters now) and I was state champion in the 880 (800 meters now). Iron sharpening iron was a daily event in our lives when we were young. We pushed each other daily to be the best we could be with the gifts we were given. Pushing each other to be better carried over to our adult years in our joint ventures together.

As I look back, we pushed each other to be the best we could be in more important things in life as young men that included the breaking of some long-standing societal barriers in the disabled sports movement. 

There was not a day I can remember that we did not leave it all on the track when we had a hard workout day during our track days as young men. There was not a day that went by where we did not push each other as young adults either as we tried to break through the status quo of inequities in the Paralympic Movement and other areas that we worked together in over the years.

I remember going to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and other locations with Bryan to watch future Paralympians run with their prosthetists. Bryan would watch Paralympic athletes run in their prosthesis and give suggestions to improve their prosthetics so disabled athletes and others could run faster. I would throw my two cents in as well but Bryan was the primary observer. I was more on the marketing and business side of our work together.   

There were few road maps for Paralympic athletes back when we worked together. Bryan’s astute biomechanical eye would forever help change the face of the lives of disabled athletes. New technology came out of the sessions he attended that would forever change the capabilities of disabled athletes and others who wanted to stay physically active after going through physical trauma. Bryan was willing to look hard and fast at changes that needed to be made to make the world better for Paralympic athletes.  

Bryan was the sprint coach pioneer in the Paralympic Movement. The results spoke for themselves and included gold medals and world records for those he coached. Bryan was selected as the USA Paralympic Track and Field Coach when the games were held in Athens, Greece. He helped bring many medals back to America.

I can also remember spending countless hours talking with Bryan  about how to break down the many barriers that stood in the way of Paralympic athletes and the Paralympic Movement. That is a story for another day. Suffice it to say, we had no roadmap and relied on each other to make things better in our unique roles. It was an amazing time of life for us as young men trying to make things better for the people we served.

You can read many stories on the internet and elsewhere about how Bryan started helping wounded warriors during his coaching career as well. His work in this area is well-documented. Bryan wanted to help the wounded warrior’s community in all areas of their lives, not just the physical aspects of their lives.                   

Bryan's work at Walter Reed Hospital and other military hospitals is well known. His compassion and heart to help wounded veterans are one for the ages. He has done so much for our disabled veteran community in terms of helping them improve their physical, mental, and spiritual conditions.  His love for veterans is unquestionable and steadfast.

Today Bryan is enjoying retirement in the great State of Arizona. Our discussions these days focus more on Bryans’ and Sherri’s beautiful granddaughter who they both adore, his wife Sherri who was also his high school sweetheart, his family in general, Church life, and of course all those great professional sports teams in Arizona, especially the Diamondbacks. Bryan and his wife Sherri love baseball and go to many games each year.

Even though we live in different states now, we still contact each other several each week. Bryan still volunteers on occasion to help runners, wounded warriors, and others as well.

There is something very settling about having a long-time friend from your childhood. Bryan and I went through good times together, tough times when trying to break longstanding barriers, and we have those memories of growing up that we can and do share. Having a lifetime friend is a gift from God.

You young coaches out there, never give up on your dreams, push ahead with all you have, serve others along the way and, find someone you know  who will challenge you, make you a better person, and help you to become your very best.

Iron sharpening iron, yes, it’s been a great and meaningful friendship my friend. Thanks for pushing me to go after my God-given potential like so many other people you've touched along your journey.

You can read more about Bryan's story on his web site at https://www.bryanhoddle.com/.

Blessings,

Coach Weber

Philippians 4:13

Two old friends meeting up in Arizona. We have known each other since the 7thgrade.

Left to Right: Tony Volpentest, Ross Perot, Bryan Hoddle, and Larry Weber during Tony's Gold medal runs. Ross Perot helped sponsor Tony and served as mentor to all three of us in different ways.

                   Larry and Bryan going 1-2 at a race in our youth.