Even back when he was an athlete, Ryan Deets had what it took to be a track coach.
At least, that's what longtime Polo head coach Tom Welty thought when he was working with Deets.
After 13 seasons at the helm for the Marcos, Welty retired last spring. He was more than comfortable handing the reins to Deets, a 2003 Polo grad.
"He had it all in there, everything it took to do this job … and do it well," Welty said. "Even as an athlete, he was always conscientious about becoming better, and helping others to do the same. In passing the torch, I couldn't think of anybody better to hand it off to."
A three-sport athlete for the Marcos, Deets took his athletic ability to Augustana, where he turned his love for the hurdles and high jump into a collegiate career as a decathlete. Being learned in the two most technical events of the decathlon, Deets said the transition to the 10-event discipline was a natural one.
Upon graduating from Augie in 2007, Deets returned to Polo and became a high school biology teacher, a job which he said he "just fell into" when a science teacher happened to take a job in another district.
Immediately, he knew that he wanted to help his former mentor coach the sport he loves above all others.
"I knew for sure that I wanted to do it," Deets said, "especially after having such a great high school coach in Tom, and a great college coach in Paul Olsen. It was just a natural fit."
Deets has served as one of Welty's assistants for the past six seasons, and Welty slowly groomed his protege to replace him. Over the last few years, he's had Deets come up with training routines for the jumpers and hurdlers; the last couple of springs, Deets has been the one making the lineups for meets.
"It was kind of a mutual understanding that I'd take over the program someday," Deets said. "He knew that now, I was ready to."
Combining those new organization skills with Deets' natural athletic ability was what really told Welty the time was right to step aside.
He also thought Deets' ability to reach the kids through his own more recent experiences would be that much more effective.
"I'm the old coach going out, he's the new guy coming in who's really not that far away from the athletes in age, who maybe they can relate to a little better," Welty said. "He's got a good sense of humor, a great rapport with the kids, and he's brought a lot of Augie with him back to us. He's been great for the program."
Deets' enthusiasm is evident, even in small doses. He stresses camaraderie to his athletes, which is the part of track and field that made the sport his favorite, even as a high schooler. Making friends with the guys you're competing with always appealed to Deets, and making workouts fun and getting the most out of his athletes now comes from his natural competitive edge.
And, in step with Welty's mindset, he does admit that the kids seem to respond to what he says … especially when he's right in the thick of things with them.
"They know I'm credible, that I've been there and done it," Deets said, before grinning. "Plus, I can still demonstrate most things to them … and still walk the next day."
High school: Polo, class of 2003
College: Augustana, class of 2007
Occupation: Biology teacher at Polo HS
Coaching history: Polo boys track assistant coach, 2008-13
FYI: Played basketball, football and ran track in high school. … Specialized in high jump and hurdles for the Marcos. … Became a decathlete during his time with the Vikings. … Took over as Polo head coach from his former coach, Tom Welty.