WATERLOO — Success can’t always be defined by the number of championship banners hanging in a gymnasium or the size of the trophy case in a school hallway.
Sometimes, it’s about being a positive role model, impacting young lives and teaching the value of traits like discipline, responsibility, teamwork and accountability.
By those standards, Tim Moses will walk away from coaching satisfied that he made the impact he intended 25 years ago when he took on his first coaching position in the Logan Junior High track and field program under John Lounsberry.
For the past 23 years, Moses has been the men’s track and field head coach at Waterloo East High School, where coaches often don’t stay as long as the students. He’s been a rare rock of stability in one of the state’s more challenging coaching environments.
“The opportunity to come back to East High, the school I attended, just to come back as a head coach was a great feeling,” says Moses, who was a standout in football, basketball and track and field for the Trojans in the early 1990s.
“It’s something I’ve always cherished and something I’ve always held to the highest standard. Being a coach here at East High was a privilege. I wouldn’t trade that for anything else because it’s allowed me to give back and make that connection with young adults and make an impact in their lives.
“And as much as I’ve been able to impact their lives, they have impacted my life, as well. It’s been fun.”
Much of who Moses has become as a coach is the product of his own journey.
Moses grew up in a family where sports were a focal point and East football ruled the state. His father, James “Lefty” Moses, was a minor league baseball pitcher. His brothers — Jerry, Neal and Ricky — were football stars, as were his nephew J.J. and his cousins in the Montgomery family.
Two things were always clear in the household of James and Doris Moses — academics took priority over sports, commitment was demanded and immodesty was not tolerated.
“I was blessed to have a mom and dad and older brothers to guide me and lead me to make the right decisions,” Moses explains. “I am very thankful. My dad was firm. He taught us the responsibilities of being a young man. He made sure education was the first thing on our list of things of importance.
“Never brag about yourself. That’s another one of the things my dad always taught us. If he heard you, you got slapped upside the head. He was disciplined and I’m thankful for that because it made me a better man.
“I try to coach the same things. Take care of school. Be humble. Be thankful because the game and the sport can be taken away from you at any time.”
At East, Moses played for three legendary head coaches — Roger Kittleson (football), Steve McGraw (basketball) and he ran track for Jim Miller.
“I was lucky,” he offers. “At every level, those coaches were champions. Those coaches were more than just a coach. They were educators, they were teachers, they cared about their student-athletes and they taught you to work hard, pay the price and pay your dues. They taught you to trust the process.”
Moses dreamed of playing professional football. While he was a highly regarded high school athlete, significant injuries cost him portions of his junior and senior seasons.
When he enrolled at Ellsworth Community College, he faced more adversity.
“I came in as a quarterback and never saw one snap as a quarterback,” Moses relates. “I got moved over to the defensive side and I guarantee you — I’m not joking — I was probably like fifth- or seventh-string. I was like, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’
“It just shows you that football doesn’t build character, football reveals your character. I wasn’t the type of person who was just going to lay down and give up and want to transfer out. I knew the tradition of Ellsworth football and I wanted to be part of that tradition and I wanted to play, so I did the things I needed to do.”
Moses proved to be a quick learner. In his second season at Ellsworth, he was a first-team all-region defensive back, and he accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Northern Iowa and head coach Darrell Mudra where he was part of the foundation for today’s highly successful Panther program.
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Moses earned his teaching and master’s degrees at UNI and became a graduate assistant on the Panther coaching staff under Earle Bruce.
When he got his opportunity as a head coach at East, Moses knew how he wanted to build his program. He had strong support from his wife, Sue, who has also been deeply involved in Trojan track and field behind the scenes.
One of the first things Tim did as a head coach was visit Waterloo businesses, with the help of assistant coach Mike Sheeley, to raise money.
“I wanted to make sure our student-athletes had the same things other schools had ... that they didn’t go to a track meet saying, ‘Wow, look at that. They’ve got a charter bus,’ or ‘Look at their uniforms’ or ‘Look at their warm-ups.’”
From there, Moses simply coached his athletes the way he was coached — take care of academics, be accountable, be a good teammate and work as hard as you can.
There have been challenges. Moses, who also coached freshman basketball and was an assistant football coach for a few years at East, no longer teaches in the East building. That has made it more difficult to recruit and mentor student-athletes.
Then there are today’s student-athletes.
“Kids have changed so much over the years,” notes Moses. “I think it’s harder to coach here at East High School in my opinion than any other place in Iowa. We have kids from low-income families, kids who don’t have much. That’s where we wear multiple hats because we serve as a coach, mentor, big brother, uncle, father ... I love it. To me, we’re a family.
“Being a product of East High School, a lot of the kids I’ve coached I either went to high school with their parents or I’m related to their parents or they’re family friends. That has helped me build those relationships with the student-athletes I’ve coached.”
The trend toward sport specialization has impacted high school athletics, as well.
“That’s different about the kids today and kids in the generation I grew up with,” says Moses. “We were multi-sport athletes. It was all about the school. To put on the orange and black was something I couldn’t wait to do when I was at Logan Junior High.
“Today, it’s hard to get the numbers (of kids participating). We’ve had numbers to start the season, but then they just don’t finish. “It’s ‘I’ve got to get a job. I’ve got to take care of my phone, got to take care of my car, got to take care of my mom, got to help pay rent, got to help do this ...’
“I get it. I wish it wasn’t like that. That’s been a huge challenge.”
On the other hand, Moses will leave his head coaching position with plenty of positive memories. In addition to relationships he has built with Hall of Fame caliber coaching peers, there have been times when his track and field teams have achieved at a high level, and he counts Jacee Clark’s state championship in the high jump last season as a highlight.
“It’s been a fun run,” Moses states. “I’m sad, but I’m happy at the same time. I’ve tried to do the best I can. You always feel like you could have done better.”
Moses plans to continue teaching, and he says he’ll remain involved in the track and field program in some capacity.
“I enjoy teaching a lot,” he says. “There’s not a day that I don’t wake up in the morning and I’m not happy for the job I have. Teaching is a great profession. I get a chance to be around kids, get a chance to have a relationship with them, make an impact. I love my job.”
Moses will be hard to replace.
“Tim has served as a mentor to our young coaches and has to be the most easy going coach I’ve ever had the experience to work with,” states East director of athletics Brenton Shavers. “He stays calm in tense situations and allows his athletes to celebrate their successes without drawing attention to the amount of hard work and dedication he has put forth to assist them both in the classroom and in their sport of choice.
“Tim will be missed, but we all know that it won’t be for long because he will not be able to stay away from East High athletics.”