Men's Cross Country, Sports, Women's Cross Country

More than a track coach

The passion of camaraderie, academic excellence and college athletics can be seen through Andy Sythe’s accomplishments at Long Beach State.

His position as director of track and field is to uphold Long Beach Athletics’ mission of enriching the lives of student-athletes on campus and advancing the Long Beach athletics off the track.

As a coach, Sythe has been recognized for his coaching throughout his career, winning the Big West Track & Field Coach of the Year award nine times, 10 including Women’s Coach of the Year this past season.

Even before getting a job at Long Beach, Sythe always knew he wanted to be a coach.

During his early student athlete days, Sythe was the captain of every sport he was a part of. He’s unsure whether or not his father’s coaching during his early days influenced him, but he knew wanted to go down that path.

He coached age-group track while attending high school. In college, he coached high school track. Graduating from college, he knew he didn’t want to coach at any level below college.

“I think probably a thing that helped me wanna be a coach, inspire me more, was the fact that I always had great mentors at every level,” Sythe said. “There was always somebody behind me, helping me and lifting me up and doing everything they could to give me opportunities.”

His long history at Long Beach started in 1988 as the youngest Division I head coach.

Sythe believed Long Beach was the school he wanted to pursue because of the coaches and administration within the athletics department. After coaching for his alma mater San Diego State University, he chose Long Beach.

“I picked the lowest paying job out of all the positions that I looked at in Long Beach State and decided to come here,” Sythe said.

His decision to take a position at Long Beach was also because of former track and field head coach Ralph Linderman and the mentorship Linderman embedded in Sythe.

“Ralph was a mentor and true friend,” Sythe said in an Long Beach Athletics article honoring Linderman after his passing. “The impact he has had in my life is profound. I am so very grateful to him on so many levels and this loss truly hits me in the core of my soul.”

The best quality of a coach, Sythe believes, is whether they can uplift a student athlete and not just care about winning.

“But that’s not the most important thing, ’cause caring about winning can drive you to do things that you might consider questionable, so we like to care about the whole person and make winning part of the experience,” Sythe said.

Sythe is proud of the coaches within the track and field division of sports with most of them being an alumni of Long Beach.

“His commitment to doing things the right way is a shining example that will lead to much success for our student-athletes under his direction,” former executive director of athletics Andy Fee said in a Long Beach Athletics article about Sythe’s coaching contract extension.

This contract extended his coaching into the 2025 season.

The privilege of experiencing all positive interactions within every level of his career is what gets Sythe to breathe this initiative into his job as track and field director at Long Beach.

“Our environment and our culture here is the most important thing to help us be successful. So we protect those things and work very hard at making our environment and our culture the right one that we want to have,” Sythe said.

Sythe is also the coach for all jumping events. This would include triple jump, long jump, high jump, javelin, decathlon and heptathlon runners.

“We’re teaching them how to be stronger mentally. How to make decisions, how to overcome obstacles, how to, you know, meet the challenges, whatever they may be,” Sythe said.

When the pandemic hit, everything shut down, leaving teams with lackluster seasons, senior athletes unable to finish strong and coaches unclear with what it would mean for the future. Sythe described it like being sidelined, an injury limiting people from growing.

“Coming back was just as hard, but we made it and we survived it and this fall feels like normal,” Sythe said. “I feel like everyone’s, you know, kind of back to the rhythm.”

Cross country meets have commenced as Ryley Fick became the first Long Beach cross country student athlete this month to be awarded Big West Women’s Athlete of the Week. Fick also marks a new school record, beating Rosa Del Toro’s time 11 years ago.

Track and Field has also seen recent recognition, as Jason Smith from Long Beach Men’s Track and Field team was named Field Athlete of the Year this past season, according to Big West.

But with each passing season, Sythe’s accomplishments and his determination for his student athletes seems to indirectly influence the track and field divisions’ success.

“From a personal standpoint as a director, I am responsible for managing people and staying on target, but what inspires me, what motivates me, what makes me want to come to work everyday and be the best I can be, is the student athletes.”

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