Joel Breakstone: 2019 High School Vermont Track & Field Coach of the Year
January 25, 2020
Written by Emily Silver, long-time coaching colleague of Joel’s
Joel started teaching social studies and coaching cross-country and track & field at TA during the 2003-2004 school year when he interned fresh out of college. In 2009, he moved to California for graduate school but returned to coaching at TA in 2014 after earning his degree.
Joel has many strengths as a coach. He focuses on sprints and jumps, but he is knowledgeable about all areas of track and field. He is excellent at seeing the big picture of the team, noting where our needs are. Then he figures out which athletes might have untapped potential in those events. In addition, with his measured and direct approach, he has talked down countless athletes who find themselves overcome by nervousness. It is not uncommon at a meet to hear, “Joel, I can’t do it!” and then later see Joel reaching out his hand to give that athlete a low-five after they have succeeded.
Even with TA’s modest track and field facilities, Joel has coached many athletes to high levels. In his early years at TA, it was just Joel and thrower/hurdler Jesse Chapman ’08 who would head to Outdoor New England Championships. One of Joel’s biggest fans, Jesse went on to win the Big East Conference Championship as a decathlete for UConn and now coaches at Columbia University. These days, several TA athletes qualify for “New Englands” as Joel has played a key role in growing TA’s track and field program.
Lastly, but importantly, Joel has an excellent rapport with teenagers: he is at once professional and personable; the athletes value his coaching and also love joking around with him.
Joel, pictured above with Hannah Schwarz, class of 2019, at the Vermont State Championships. Schwarz placed third in the pole vault, coached by Joel, earning valuable points in a meet where every point turned out to be vital, as the TA girls won their first-ever state championship by only one point. The boys, too, won the championship that day. In Joel’s eleven seasons of coaching Outdoor Track, the boys have won the state championship five times. (Photo by Linnea Spelman)