Bruce Runnels has been a PE Coach at Slack Elementary for the past 27 years teaching kids kinesics, a variety of sports and swallowing worms for a good cause.
Coach Runnels said, “I do competitions for the kids. All kinds of things. I’ve even swallowed earthworms, 28 earthworms in all.”
Although Coach Runnels teaches all kinds of sports like volleyball, football, archery, and games he makes up himself, his favorite sport is soccer.
He said, “I played soccer in high school. I was the soccer captain.”
He was also proud to mention that all but one of the students who went to the state competition in soccer in 2015 were all “his kids”.
Coach Runnels grew up in Garland, Texas and then his dad was transferred to Lufkin after Runnels graduated high school. He worked at Ferrara’s Heating and Air for 3 years. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University after attending Angelina College, married and had a child.
He said, “If I can do it, anyone can. At one point I had three jobs and going to school. It was all in God’s timing when this job was available. I love this.”
His favorite part of the job is influencing students in a positive way.
“Years later students will tell me I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs because of you,” he said.
Coach Runnels starts the day at 5:45 a.m. and rides his bike to work. He sets up the equipment in the gym for the day at 7 a.m. and does his morning car duty at 7:25 a.m. He, along with two other coaches, have six classes 25 minutes back-to-back and then conference/lunch break. After lunch the team has six more classes, 25 minutes back-to-back again. Then there are after school clubs such as running club and archery club.
He said, “My two other coaches are a great help. We have 500 kids 2nd through 5th grade. There was a time when we had 1,000 students on the campus, and I would have 120 students for my first class. I was younger and had a lot more energy then!”
Even though Coach Runnels participates in aerobic activities most of the day, he still runs with the kids during running club and works out at Planet Fitness four times a week.
“I am an example to my students. I work out four times a week. Friday is my date night. I’ve been married almost 37 years. We may go out to the movies or ride bikes together,” he said.
There are about 100 students signed up for running club on Mondays, 70 2nd and 3rd graders signed up for archery on Tuesdays, and 50 4th and 5th graders signed up for archery on Wednesdays. He’s proud of his Archery All Stars who have shot a bull’s-eye. He puts their picture on the wall of the gym. He also has huge signed Red Ribbon banners covering the gym, one from 12 years ago.
His biggest challenge is trying to encourage students who show no effort.
“Every child needs an advocate to enforce the positive. PACE stands for “positive attitude cooperation effort”. I tell the students to be responsible for their own behavior. If they misbehave, I ask them which word of PACE are they not doing. I tell the kids if you have the desire to try, you can succeed in anything. So many kids are not pushed to do anything. They play video games. They don’t go outside or ride bikes. When I was young, I was never home – push kids to get outside.”
Coach Runnels is not just a huge advocate of exercise, but also nutrition. Parents are the ones feeding their kids. Sometimes it’s easier to go through a drive-thru, but he pointed out how many chemicals are in fries and fast food, not to mention sugar and fat.
He said, “Texas is one of the most obese states. When you have fried snickers, what can you expect! I teach health lessons. We make time for what’s important. You have to take time to take care of yourself. It’s the only body you’ve got. If you’re overweight as a child, it will be more difficult as an adult.”
Thanks, Coach Runnels, for all of the important lessons you teach our kids! Your positive influence and good example have motivated kids for decades.