Coach Mike Holloway eats, sleeps, and breathes sports. He can create any analogy using any sport, if it’ll help get the message across. Best known for his ability to coach UF track and field stars to the Olympics, Mike “Mouse” Holloway ran track and field back in his day, as well.
Holloway’s days as a track star are where the nickname “Mouse” was born — his junior high school track coach dubbed him Mouse for being a quiet, small guy who looked like he was scooting across the track when he ran. Today, the nickname still follows Holloway, even in his current high-profile position as Florida’s head men’s and women’s track & field and cross country coach.
Students step in and out of his office comfortably. They’re not there just to talk strategy — sometimes they go in for a friendly chat or life advice. Coach’s relationship with his athletes extends beyond the track and field. It speaks volumes on the kind of person Holloway is.
“I love the text messages and the phone calls and the emails and the pictures I get of their children, that means a lot. But I would say just the simple text saying, ‘Hey Coach, how you doing’, ‘Hey Coach, happy birthday’, messages on Facebook, things like that. It warms my heart because our relationships are beyond the track field and it means a lot to me. They hang up their spikes and they can still come talk to me,” said Holloway
Holloway knows what he’s doing and he knows he’s good at his job — this year marks his 15th season as the Florida men’s head coach, and the 10th season as Florida women’s head coach. Holloway also knows that it’s all about the athletes. He explained that a man can be the greatest coach in the world, but without great athletes, none of it matters.
So what makes a great athlete? A good athlete, Holloway claims, starts with genetics. But sometimes, even genetics are not enough. Without the right mindset, a talented athlete might not go very far. Making the sacrifices necessary to reach the top separates the great from the best. That means practicing when the couch is calling and going home to sleep when friends go out.
The athletes may have a hard time battling their inner selves, and for Holloway, the hardest part about his job is managing his emotions. “I get a very short fuse when I see talent in someone that they might not see. Why can’t you see what I see? I have to manage my emotions and understand that they might not get it as quickly as I see it. My job is to help them see it. I always say that my job is to help you figure out who you are. Now we have to work together to get you to be the best you can be. That’s tricky for me when they fight who they are.”
It’s all worth it for Holloway in the end. Through coaching the Gators, he’s living his dream job. His parents always told him to work hard. In this case, Holloway works hard because he doesn’t want to find a new job. With all the success Holloway has had, he stays a down-to-earth guy. His daily reminder is to never take himself too seriously. He can’t even remember where the trophies are kept.
“At the end of the day I just want to make sure that I’m the same guy. My address has changed, I drive a bigger car, but the guy in the car is still the same guy. The moment I think I’m changing I quickly reel myself back in and tell myself, ‘remember who you are and how you got here,’” Holloway said.
Even if the Gators don’t make it first across the finish line, it’s a win in Holloway’s book if everyone performed to the best of their ability. That includes instilling the right core values into his family and athletes. His athletes receive the tools to be productive members in a community, from volunteering around town, to forming the necessary work ethic required in life past college.
“I’m just the guy who gets up every morning, my feet hit the floor and I start working. From the morning until night, my goal is to make the Gators better and my goal is to make the community better and my goal is to make my family better,” he explained.
At the end of the day, Coach sits and talks with his son about what they’ve learned that day. If neither of them learned something, they know they weren’t paying attention. “Luckily, I haven’t had one of those moments in a long time,” Holloway laughed.
Photography Courtesy of Tim casey and Andres Leiva