Let’s Move Quad Cities: Legendary coach shows no signs of slowing down

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- For more than half a century, Coach Paul Olsen has been inspiring athletes on and off the track, and he isn't letting his seventies slow him down.

Olsen's coaching career spans 52 years at Augustana College. He took over the cross country team in 1966, and he's led the track and field program since 1969.

On a brisk November morning, you'll likely still find him on the track.

"A couple weeks ago, I got up in the morning, and it was cold, and I was heading out to the cross country course and putting on three layers, and my wife just smiled and said, 'You still love it, don't ya?" said Olsen.

It's the relationships, Olsen says, that keep him coming back.

"I get to be with kids like that," he said, while pointing to his team, "Every night. And I get to know them really well."

And whether he's headed to class or practice, Olsen is often in a hurry.

"Every time I would see him around campus, he'd be running. He did not walk anyhere, and that was a very interesting thing about him is that he really wasted no time," said Dr. Waqas Hussain, who specializes in sports medicine at ORA Orthopedics.

Dr. Hussain is an Augustana alum who has helped Coach Olsen through a torn quadriceps and a knee replacement. He knew it would take much more than an injury or two to slow Olsen down.

"When I talk about Coach Olsen, I don't think of him necessarily as a senior. Even though he's a couple years older than I am, his activity level, and based on what he does, doesn't necessarily match with his numeral age," said Dr. Hussain.

At 74 years old, Olsen insists it's never too late to get active.

"It's not too late, and if you're just starting, just like a young athlete, we start slow," he advised. "You can't stop. Gotta keep going."

Olsen doesn't take many weekends off, either. On Saturday, November 11, he'll be coaching Augustana's cross country team in the NCAA Midwest Regional Qualifying Meet at Saukie Golf Course in Rock Island.