A new chapter in Porterville College athletics is set to begin this fall as women's cross country will now be offered as an official sport. And to lead the program, PC Director of Student Programs and Athletics Joe Cascio recently announced the hiring of Brien Friedman as the Pirates' new head coach.
With the sport of cross country so popular in the Central Valley, the pool of potential head coach applicants was impressive, but Friedman distanced himself from the pack early.
"Coach Friedman comes from a strong academic background as well as a highly competitive running background," said Cascio. "I knew right away that Brien had the correct mindset for what we're trying to do here at PC. He was able to instill a sense of confidence in me that he can build this program from the ground up to be both an athletic and academic powerhouse."
Friedman, a 2012 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, brings a wide variety of coaching experience at all levels, ranging from youth, prep, collegiate, and international ranks. He's excited for the opportunity he has been given and looks forward to his first year leading a program.
"It feels amazing to be named head coach of Porterville College," said Friedman. "I've believed myself to be ready to take on the responsibilities of being a head coach for awhile now, and I feel as though I've finally gotten the opportunity to prove my worth at the community college level."
Friedman most recently served as associate head coach for the Tesseract Running Club in Marin County. With Tesseract, he coached runners ranging in age from 8 years old all the way up to adult. His athletes have competed at such prestigious events as the Footlocker Nationals, US National Championships, North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships, as well as the World Championships.
Prior to Tesseract, Friedman was assistant coach as NCAA Division II Dominican University of California in San Rafael for one season. In 2012, he began his coaching career as an assistant coach of cross country and track for three years at Skagit Community College in Mt. Vernon, Washington.
Regardless of age or competition level, Friedman is confident he will be able to get the best out of his athletes.
"One of my goals as a coach is to combine my higher level coaching experience and adapt it to serve athletes of any level," said Friedman. "I've tried to bring an attitude of excellence wherever I go, whether it's a 9-year-old trying to break six minutes for the mile or a runner trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials. Obviously, the workouts vary widely, but the overall approach can be surprisingly similar."
With a little under two months to go before the start of the fall season in September, Friedman will be an an early disadvantage in forming his team. But he's up to the challenge in starting a program from the ground up.
"My goal for this first season is to lay a foundation in terms of having a team and building a team culture," said Friedman. "As a coach, it's easy to pinpoint specific training plans and workout progressions as a means to develop athletes' fitness, but one of the bigger intangibles that makes teams great is the sense of momentum and enthusiasm among the athletes for what they're doing. More than anything else, I want to attract the kinds of women who see a value in that kind of pursuit and want to take the first steps as a team in making that happen."
Porterville is set to join College of the Sequoias, Fresno City, and West Hills Coalinga in the Central Valley Conference this season. Cascio realizes it will take time to build a contender but can see a bright future for the Pirates.
"This season is all about getting the ball rolling," said Cascio. "The hiring process took longer than expected, so we've dealt Coach Friedman a bit of a tough hand as far as building a roster. But I feel confident that the program will start on the right foot."
Friedman is currently in search of student-athletes interested in joining his first squad. His positive outlook, impressive coaching style, and commitment to excellence should have him filling out his roster in no time.
"Overall, I really want to make Porterville a place where runners come to enjoy our sport and get better at it," he said. "We have some beautiful facilities, our own track, and several great running trails right next to campus. I see no reason that we can't take advantage of all the resources at our disposal and make ourselves great."