Nick Cunningham, a three-time Olympic athlete who was recently named Assistant Development Coach for Team USA Bobsled and Skeleton, has been named April Alum of the Month.
In addition to his position with Team USA, Cunningham coaches track and field at both the high school and collegiate level: he is the head coach at Carmel High School in Carmel, Calif., and assistant coach at California State University at Monterey Bay.
“I love watching my athletes push themselves and chase success,” said Cunningham. “Whether it’s one of my freshman girls beating her personal best in track and field or watching my men’s four-man bobsled team win an international race, I have the same smile and passion for giving them every opportunity to be successful.”
Cunningham competed in the 2010, 2014, and 2018 Winter Olympics in both two-man and four-man bobsled. A 10-year veteran of the sport, Cunningham has also been to six World Championships with Team USA.
The Monterey, Calif., native received his bachelor’s degree in Communications from Boise State University in 2008, where he was also captain of the Track and Field team. After he graduated, he moved to Lake Placid, N.Y., to train and compete for Team USA.
Competing and training for bobsled is a year-round commitment, and Cunningham said that The Patton College’s Master’s in Coaching Education program accommodated his schedule.
“I did my coursework while traveling on the World Cup tour,” said Cunningham. “As coaches, we ask our athletes to give their very best effort and be the best version of themselves—I hold myself to the same standards.”
Cunningham said what he learned in the Coaching Education program still has a strong impact on his coaching strategy. Lessons like conflict management, communication, personnel management, and delegation are still with him today.
Cunningham was named Assistant Development Coach for Team USA in October 2018. Although he had to make some adjustments when he became a coach, Cunningham is grateful to be able to help his sportsmen perform to the best of their ability.
“Not more than six months prior [to being named a coach], I was teammates with several of the athletes I am now coaching,” said Cunningham. “I had to create several boundaries when I was put in a leadership position, but I was fortunate enough that the athletes I was coaching saw me as that—a coach—and not as an athlete and competitor.
Right now, Cunningham coaches track and field in the spring, summer, and fall, and he coaches bobsled in the winter. After 2020, Cunningham said he will decide whether or not he will continue coaching or try for a spot competing on the 2022 Winter Olympic Team.
For right now, Cunningham is focused on his coaching roles—especially since April is the height of high school and college track and field season.
“The title of ‘coach,’” said Cunningham, “is one I do not take lightly or for granted.”