An inspiration to many

Crossroads track, cross coach finalist for Brooks award

BIG RAPIDS — Even though Ben Talsma is a varsity coach, he often flies under the radar when it comes to what he does for his team.

WAY TO GO: Crossroads track coach Ben Talsma has been selected as one of 25 people for the Brooks Most Inspirational Coach award. (Pioneer file photo)

The Crossroads Charter Academy cross country and track and field coach works hard when others aren’t around, oftentimes unnoticed by parents, athletes or staff.

That is until now.

Talsma has been selected as a Brooks “Most Inspiring Coach” finalist. Talsma was selected as on of the 25 finalists, earning Crossroads Charter Academy $5,500 in cash and prizes for the two programs.

Talsma does more than just coaching kids.

Out of his own pocket, he has bought running shoes that he keeps in a bin for the athletes who otherwise can’t afford them. Talsma makes himself available for coaching at any time of day at any time of year.

Talsma continues to inspire athletes at Crossroads despite not having a functional track or cross country course.

“We expect a lot from our cross and track athletes,” Talsma said. “We as a staff, realize, if we expect a lot, you have to demonstrate and commit a lot ourselves. We are up front that we’ll put in the work to help them be the athlete they want to become.

“Another thing,” he continued. “Enthusiasm can’t be taught, but it can be caught. You have to be full of energy, full of life — that’s part of the job and as a staff we do a good job of that.”

That hard work has led to impressive results the past three years on the track.

The Cougars placed fifth in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 4 state championship in 2010.

That was followed by a state championship the following year, needing to win the final event of the event to have a shot at the title.

Crossroads placed third overall this past June.

That hard work also caught the attention of a couple of past athletes, who nominated Talsma. More than 1,000 coaches were nominated with just 25 being selected as a finalist.

“This means a lot to me,” Talsma said, who has been the track coach for the past eight years and cross country coach for the past five years. “You put a lot of time and effort into the program and to have somebody or number of people make a nomination, that’s significant.

“When I first go the e-mail, it took awhile to believe it was real and legit,” he continued. “Once it sunk in, you start thinking about how nice it will be for the program.”

The winner, who will get an additional $7,000, will be determined through a combination of public voting and the merits of the finalist. You can vote at

Talsma knows the $5,500 the school has won is significant and the additional $7,000 is just bonus. He already is looking at buying shoes, trainers, spikes and warm-ups.

The winner will be announced at the end of August to the beginning of September.

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