Seton Hall cross country head coach John Moon was recently honored by his peers in being inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in August.
The USTFCCCA Hall of Fame honors some of the greatest coaches in the history of track and field based on their accomplishments throughout their careers and contribution to the sport.
Moon was ecstatic to be selected for this achievement and was especially excited that it was an accomplishment that his peers had selected him to receive.
“When my peers selected me for this award, I had a lump in my throat,” Moon said. “This is an honor; I cherish it and my family cherishes it and I am still on cloud nine as well.”
Moon did not expect to reach this honor, especially before he started his coaching career. Coaching was not always his plan as he originally intended to become a vice principal and someday a superintendent of schools.
After having one of the top sprinting careers in the history of Tennessee State, a career that included an induction into the school's Hall of Fame in 1988, he then worked as a high school teacher at Rahway High School. He later accepted a role as a coach for the school's track team, sending each athlete he coached to college.
Moon became the head coach at Seton Hall in 1972 and has remained in that role ever since his initial hiring almost 50 years ago.
“Everyone thought I was crazy because I took a big cut in salary to come to Seton Hall,” Moon said. “If I had to do it all over again I would. It was the best move I made.”
This decision paid off for Moon, and his USTFCCCA Hall of Fame status was quite the cherry on top of a long and storied coaching career.
“Hall of Fame, that’s like a Rolls Royce,” Moon said.
Moon has also coached the United States Olympic track teams and has coached 19 Olympic athletes throughout his career. He took the role of the first assistant coach for the United States Track Team in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Despite his success in coaching Olympic athletes, he focused more on the development of his athletes rather than creating Olympic products.
“I just want to coach the athletes to be their best,” Moon said. “I was just fortunate to have the athletes that were hungry and wanted to buy into my program here at Seton Hall University.”
Moon has not only gained the respect of his peers in track and field but, more importantly, has created an environment where his athletes trust him and buy into his philosophy as a coach.
“I think the athletes see in me somebody who has their interests in heart.” Moon said, “When athletes see you have their interests in heart, I think that’s the number one ingredient in being a head coach.”
This mindset has allowed his athletes to grow and shine, with a multitude of his runners achieving high honors in their sport.
Moon emphasized his athletes’ successes in the classroom. In 2013, the men’s cross country team won the Big East Team Excellence Award after his students finished with the highest GPA in the conference, with three student-athletes being inducted into the National College Athlete Honor Society, Chi Alpha Sigma.
His teams have consistently held some of the highest GPA averages in the conference, something Moon is very proud of.
“You’ve gotta be smart nowadays, and it’s an honor to coach when you have an average of a 3.6 team GPA. That says a lot, and that to me is a gold medal.” Moon said.
After 50 years of coaching at Seton Hall, Moon’s passion for the sport has never wavered, and he still intends to coach as long as he can.
What keeps that passion alive are the athletes; most importantly being able to watch them develop as human beings first, and athletes second.
“I could have left a long time ago, but when you love something it’s hard to give it up,” Moon said. “It’s not the money, it’s the love of the sport.”
“I’m hoping that someday we’ll put track and field back on the agenda for Seton Hall because we need it,” Moon added.
Even with all his accomplishments, Moon still has plenty to give to the game and will continue coaching past this season. Though Moon is not sure what the future holds, he does know he wants to continue coaching as long as he remains healthy.
“I’m just enjoying life right now and enjoying coming to work every day and talking to my athletes,” Moon said. “They keep me young.”
John Makuch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.