Meet the Coaches: Halston Taylor from MIT Cross Country/Track & Field

Halston Taylor talking to his student-athletes at a meet in Rhode Island.
Photo by

Cambridge, Mass. (January 13) -- As part of a series that is taking place throughout the 2020-21 academic year, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) is featuring a number of head coaches and DAPER staff members to learn more about them. This next installment of the series features MIT director/head coach of cross country and track & field Halston Taylor, who is currently on sabbatical and is in his 39th season at MIT in 2020-21.

As part of each feature, we have included a written question and answer session, along with a video interview where recruits, alumni, fans and others can learn more about the program and MIT. If you can't currently visit MIT, we will bring MIT to you!

Q: Who is your favorite athlete of all-time?
My favorite athlete of all-time, I believe, would be Jim Ryan. He went from not making his high school track team in the ninth grade and then, in the 10th grade, running a 4.10 mile in his first year on the team. In his junior year, he broke the four-minute mile, made the Olympic team and did it while being sick. To me, he was the most amazing, gifted track and field athlete and watching him race was just otherworldly.

Q: Is there a particular coach that you've looked up to during your career and that you've tried to draw on for things to bring into your own program?
A: I would say that Gordon Kelly influenced me the most. When he hired me, I had done some part-time high school coaching, and as I said, my own team back as a high school senior. I really didn't know a whole lot about team development and he had been quite successful and I learned a lot of things from him.

Q: As a coach, was it different coaching your teams versus coaching your children as they were going up?
Yes. I would say definitely. I tried not to get too involved with coaching my kids. If I was asked to help, I would do it, sometimes I'd throw batting practice for my son's team or I would try to help with maybe a goalie drill for my daughter when she was playing soccer. Overall, I did not get too involved with them. I would do a little bit on the strength training side for both my children, if they were interested, but I think I learned right away, particularly from watching other parents and kids, that your kids aren't going to respond to you as a coach as well as they will you as a parent. Trying to mix those things, I don't think that was something that would be the right mix for me.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in the area?
I think my favorite restaurant in this area is Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. My wife and I go there for special occasions. But also, once in a while, we go there just to have an extraordinary meal with good ambience.

Q: What is your favorite professional sports team?
I don't really have a favorite sports team and I follow pretty much all professional sports. My favorites are going to be the coach. So if a coach has a process that I agree with and they stick to that process, and then they plug people into that process, I think you'll see a lot of success. Nick Saban, Alabama football, and Bill Belichick. I really enjoy watching football and their processes are something I agree with. I think they've been so successful for so long because they stick to that process. So, if they were to move to a different team, I would follow them, not the team.

Q: What is your favorite book?
Gosh, I like so many genres and so many books. I probably read a book every two weeks. I think my favorite one of all time is probably The Stand by Stephen King. I think it's the basic good versus evil and if you haven't read it, you have to. You don't even have to be a Stephen King fan. It's a long book and it's so enthralling. He brings in some characters from other books and some characters that you'll see later in other books. It's the whole basic good versus evil... He does a marvelous job with that.

Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: My favorite quote; and I'm probably going to be paraphrasing this more than a quote, but an employer I had one time, I had messed something up and I brought it to him. He said, "Well, this is how you fix it." So he wasn't angry and I went and I was able to fix it. When I came back, he said that if you do everything in life as if you're going to sign your name to it, you'll do pretty well. I mean, this was just a side summer job, but that was very profound for me and I have carried that around with me for the rest of my life. It has served me well.

Q: Have you started watching anything new on TV since we're remote, whether it be Netflix or a show or something you'd never watched before?
My wife and I have always been fans of watching Survivor and we'd watched all the seasons. But somewhere around, I guess it was June, I decided, "Hey. I'm going to go back and watch all of them." So, I went back and watched all 40 seasons of Survivor while I was on my elliptical machine in the mornings. Then, I heard that there was a new Survivor-type show called Alone, which I think is on Amazon. I looked that up and have watched all seven seasons of that so I enjoy those kinds of shows.

For the latest on MIT Athletics, follow the Engineers via social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.