Behind the success

GVL Archive
Jerry Baltes

GVL Archives

GVL Archive Jerry Baltes

Zach Sepanik

When it comes to championships at Grand Valley State University, the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams have risen to the top multiple times. The man behind that, head coach Jerry Baltes, has led the charge and become synonymous with GVSU and that winning tradition.

With numerous accolades, including 30-plus GLIAC Coach of the Year titles over his 13 years as head coach of the GVSU men’s and women’s cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field teams, there is not a shadow of a doubt as to his abilities to teach.

“He is very good at being extremely involved in your training the first couple years until you have a chance to get a good handle on what it takes to become better, and what it takes to reach your full potential,” said senior distance runner Anthony Witt. “Over my third and fourth year, he has let us tweak our training to what we need it to be for ourselves. At this point, if you truly want to become better, you know what it takes and he understands that.”

As Baltes will tell anyone, he would not be in the position he is today, or for that matter, be experiencing the success he is, without the help of others.

“I was fortunate early on in my coaching career to be given the opportunity by [GVSU athletic director] Tim Selgo,” Baltes said. “When I got the job I was only 24 years old, so he took a chance on me. It’s special because of the people that are here from our administration, to our faculty, coaches and students.”

It was his upbringing in a small farming town in northern Indiana called Rolling Prairie that helped Baltes establish a firm set of beliefs and values that are still evident in his day-to-day actions and philosophy as head coach.

“Farming is not fun, but it did teach me the importance of hard work and getting stuff done,” Baltes said. “If you want stuff done right, you have to take ownership and a lot of times you have to do the work yourself. I think that is the biggest thing that I am reminded of everyday. You can’t sit back and expect, or rely, on everyone around you to get it done. You have to do your part and if everyone does their part, good things will happen.”

His commitment to the university and the cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track and field programs, is something that corresponds to the loyalty to his wife Samantha, his daughter Alicen, 7, and son Jack, 4.

“My wife and I have established a family and we are happy here and I am excited to go to work every day,” Baltes said. “The focus is on helping young student-athletes get better each and every day and every step of the way, whether that is at practice, in the classroom or in their everyday lives. I think you have to lead by example. That is the best way to get people’s attention.”

Whether leading the Lakers to a National Championship, receiving the 2009 Division II National Women’s Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year award, or grooming All-American athletes like a bakery churns out pastries, the mentality and character Baltes exemplifies remains the same.

“The great thing about Jerry is that he is always there,” said fifth-year senior long sprinter Adrienne Chandler. “He is always there to support me and cheer me on, even if he isn’t directly coaching me. He is constantly communicating and he does so much behind-the-scenes work and stuff that we do not even think about. He puts in so much time, but never asks to be noticed. He does all that work without ever expecting glorification.”

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