“It’s all about stride length and stride frequency.” And if you’re coach Matt King, whose accomplishments travel in leaps and bounds and whose actions frequently change lives, these wise words apply to much more than running technique alone.
As a track and cross-country coach for both Carmel Middle and Carmel High School, King has always combined extensive technical expertise with genuine compassion and approachability.
“[Success is] when you can take a kid from just trying something to being joyful doing it,” the Boston native says.
“While winning championships is nice, I’d rather make a program where every kid can meet their potential.”
That program turned out to be the middle school track team, which he created along with the cross-country program. But after turning it over to someone new last spring, King has begun really focusing on CHS’ field athletes, of which senior Nick Lombardi is a star example.
Lombardi, who medaled in CCS last year in the high jump, attributes much of his success to King, who, like him, has had to overcome learning disabilities to get where he is today.
“Not only did he get me into the sport,” Lombardi says, “but he’s really helped me mature in a lot of ways, helped me with a lot of life skills.”
King, whose dyslexia went undiagnosed and unaided in high school, struggled in school but excelled on the track. As a senior, his one-mile relay team placed second in state.
That year, the year-round athlete had planned to visit Australia as a foreign exchange student, but, due to age restrictions, became ineligible. Having missed the college application season, he drove out West to run
competitively at Monterey Peninsula College.
At 23, he began coaching for Monterey High. Soon he landed jobs with a shoe store, the YMCA and a municipal bond service, all of which would culminate in owning his own financial advisory business, No-Load Asset Management, that he still runs out of his home.
The self-run businessman loves his job and can speak equally as passionately about the stock market as mile splits.
In the words of neighbor, friend and fellow coach Tom Clifford, “Matt is nothing if not enthusiastic, and you just gotta love that. His passion for the sport, his passion to get kids better, is sincere.”
In 2006, CMS still possessed a dirt track, unsuitable for meets and a nursery for tadpoles. Two years later, after King had raised over $100,000 through fundraising and becoming head of both the PTA and FOCUS, CMS had a beautiful new track, which the whole community and county now use, and a rapidly growing new league for middle school cross-country.
But beyond his visible impact in the community—honored in a CMS mile course called “King’s Run”—the tireless coach is also a dedicated father and husband.
He celebrates his 30th wedding anniversary to his wife, a successful Carmel florist, this year, and he wholeheartedly supports his oldest daughter as she pursues her dream of a career in dance.
His youngest, Delaney, is now a CHS senior, and she recalls that one day in middle school her father arrived early for track practice while she was running the mile in seventh period PE.
“And so he decided to pace me,” she laughs. “It was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but I look back on it now and smile.”
Right now, King’s retirement plans to travel the world—first Australia, which he never did get around to—are a long way off, and he remains committed to coaching.
“It was the one thing I was good at,” the high school dyslexic says of running, “the thing that I could say yes to. So I just fell in love with the sport, and I really love what it can do for people.”
Recent Harvard graduate Dylan Freedman, for example, discovered part of himself on King’s track team. Choosing track because he didn’t make the tennis team, he had no idea that he would later return as an assistant coach and that he would run with a club team out of college.
In Freedman’s words, “Track has substantially affected my life. It’s given me discipline to follow through with work, taught me how rewarding pain and dedication can be and shown me the best of my abilities.”
That initial passion that King lit in Freedman and countless others is still very much alive. If anything, the flame is only growing brighter.