Brad Bauer of Lebanon High School has seen the highs and the lows of coaching over the past three decades.
He led a football team all the way to the state championship game and built a cross country program which repeatedly qualified for the state meet.
He also experienced losing seasons and struggled with the frustration of falling short of expectations.
Now he is ready for a different kind of experience. That means stepping away from coaching for the foreseeable future.
Bauer, who led the Lebanon High School girls cross country team to a place in the 2018 state championships, said offseason expectations are the main reason for his decision.
"I believe you have to h ave a commitment to doing it in the summer for the kids," Bauer said. "I'm going to be gone all summer."
Bauer plans to take a cross-country bicycle ride in 2019, traveling from Lebanon to Washington, D.C. He has previously done long rides to Los Angeles and North Dakota.
"I've always said I'm going to do a cross-country trip and I better do it while I have the health," Bauer said. "That's my sole motivation."
Bauer is a graduate of Lebanon High School and what is now Western Oregon University. He coached football, softball and track and field at The Dalles starting in the late 1980s. He led the football team all the way to the 1992 3A championship game. The team fell to St. Helens in the title game.
"We were pretty loaded," Bauer said.
Around this time his wife, Nancy, was completing her education and hoping to find a teaching job as well. Options were limited at The Dalles and longtime Lebanon football coach Don Tomlin gave Bauer a call asking if he would join his football staff.
Both Brad and Nancy Bauer were able to teach at Lebanon High School and Bauer helped Tomlin lead the Warriors football program.
The program, unfortunately, was entering a tough stretch as Tomlin left to coach at Sprague and Bauer took over as head coach.
"There were very tough times. There were few wins before me, few wins after me, and few wins while I was the head coach," Tomlin said.
That experience is difficult in a small community where there is so much emotional investment in the program. It led him to step away from coaching for a few years. During this time, he took up running, eventually advancing to the point where he competed in marathons.
Head football coach and athletic director Rob Allen convinced Bauer to return to the sideline. Bauer mentioned to him that if there was ever an opening, he was interested in coaching the cross country team. When that day arrived, Bauer was excited to try something new, even though he had never been part of a cross country program before.
He learned as much as he could from other coaches and read books on racing strategy. Despite those efforts, the first year was a disaster. Bauer remembers that at his first district meet, the Lebanon competitors on both the boys and girls teams were the final runners on the course.
"We were the worst team, by a long shot," Bauer said.
They didn't remain the worst team, however. Bauer led team fundraisers, including founding the Roaring Run, which supported training trips to Big Lake and trips to Southern California to compete in the Disneyland Half-Marathon.
"We tried to do as many super-cool things as we could. We rode from Astoria to Crescent City on bikes twice. Spent a week at Big Lake every year," Bauer said. "We tried to appeal to kids to run cross country by making it more than running. We ended up starting to turn the corner, get some athletes."
Over the past several seasons, the Lebanon girls have been very successful, qualifying for the OSAA State Cross Country Championships in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The Lebanon boys have not yet had that level of success, but Bauer believes it is possible. His successor has not yet been named, but Bauer is hoping assistant coach Cameron Eberhart will take over the program.
"I think Cameron can get them there," Bauer said.
Over the years, he grew to love cross country, in large part because the expectations are not the same as in football. Runners compete against themselves to measure their own improvement before worrying about how their times match up against others.
"People are not focused on winning and losing. There's about three races a year you're concerned about and the rest you train right through it," Bauer said.