TRACK & FIELD
Coached For: Berkeley High School (1971-2004), Lindenwood University
By Earl Austin
The legendary track and field coaching career of Rod Staggs has spanned more than six decades. Staggs has enjoyed tremendous success at the local, statewide, national and international levels. He has coached and developed athletes into high school state champions, collegiate national champions and Olympic gold medalists.
To St. Louis area sports fans, Staggs is most known for building the Berkeley High track and field dynasty. He was the Bulldogs’ coach from 1971 to 2004. Under his leadership, the Bulldogs were the toast of high school track programs in the state of Missouri.
A native of Kirksville, MO, Staggs attended Kirksville High and went on to enjoy a standout football career at Truman State University in his home town. He graduated from Truman State in 1966.
Staggs coached football and track at South Shelby High from 1967 and ’68 and then coached in Iowa for three more seasons. He made the move to the St. Louis area in 1971 where he took over the track program at Berkeley High School. He immediately instilled a tough regimented program that stressed hard work, discipline and more hard work. His practices were rigorous and his discipline was unwavering. He also stressed the team concept in what is mostly considered an individual sport.
Staggs also added a unique aspect to his program at Berkeley. Although he was coaching teenagers at the high school level, he avoided calling his athletes boys and girls and he rarely referred to them as kids. Instead, he referred to his athletes as men and women. Anytime you saw a Berkeley athlete in uniform, all of their apparel read, “Berkeley Men’s Track or Berkeley Women’s Track.” “If they did the work load and put up with me, they were men and women,” Staggs would always say. “If you could handle my workouts, you could be in the Marines.”
From the moment he took over at Berkeley, the Bulldogs became a force in Missouri prep track. Staggs’ athletes brought home several state championship medals and their relays were so dominant that Berkeley started to become known as “Relay U.”
In 1982, the Bulldogs team won their first state championship, which started a wave of state titles that lasted all the way until 2003 when Staggs left Berkeley. In that span, the Bulldogs’ boys won 14 state championships. Staggs also led the Berkeley girls to two state championships as well for a total of 16 state titles.
In addition to the 16 state championships won by Berkeley, the overall accomplishments and achievements from Staggs’ elite athletes were simply staggering. During the Rod Staggs era at Berkeley, the Bulldogs also had 143 individual state champions, 58 state championship relay teams and 28 All- Americans. Most important, more than 100 athletes from Berkeley received collegiate scholarships.
Some of the names of Berkeley track athletes who developed under Staggs’ guidance resemble the Who’s Who of Missouri track and field history: Michael Rodgers, Lavar Miller, Dan Futrell, Rick Stovall, Marlon Boykins and Alonzo Parrish. The list is endless.
For his efforts, Staggs was named the Missouri High School Track Coach of the Year 19 times. He was also selected the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1996 and 2003.
After a tremendous run at Berkeley, Staggs ascended to the collegiate level at Lindenwood University, where he quickly made the Lions a powerhouse program. The Lions won a pair of National Intercollegiate Athletics Association (NAIA) national championships and were also national runners-up twice. During that span, the Lions had 64 All-Americans and 25 individual and relay national champions.
Staggs has also been a member of the coaching staff for USA Track and Field for several years for eight different teams. He has been the coach of the USA men’s team at the Pan-American Junior Championships, the World Junior Championships, the World Indoor Games and the Pan-American Games.
He was just recently named the head men’s coach for the USA team that will compete in the NACAC U23 Meet in Mexico this summer. Staggs has also coached at the high school level in Loveland, CO, where he led Loveland High to a couple of state championships.