Earl Lauer has few hobbies at age 69. He doesn’t like to travel or watch the news or read the newspaper or work in the yard. He does, however, love to coach.
That’s what made the last three years on the sideline strange for a man who spent 44 consecutive years from 1971 to 2015 coaching cross country, wrestling, indoor and outdoor track and allied sports at Glenelg, Atholton and River Hill. When Earl’s son, Brandon, was hired as the Athletics and Activities Manager at River Hill in 2015, the HCPSS policy on nepotism forced Earl out of coaching the Hawks cross country and track teams after nearly 20 years.
“It was pretty tough. The break wasn’t something I had planned to do or wanted to do,” said Lauer, who was The Baltimore Sun All-Metro girls cross country Coach of the Year his last season with the Hawks after winning region and state titles and earned the National Federation of State High School Associations Coaches Association National Coach of the Year Award in 2012. “I wasn’t ready to quit.”
Lauer will make his return to coaching high school athletics this fall at Atholton, where he spent 23 years from 1973 to 1996 leading numerous programs. He will be the head coach of the girls cross country team and director of the program.
“I am first and foremost a teacher, and coaching is teaching,” said Lauer, whose teams have won 15 state titles with 18 runner-up finishes across four different sports. “I taught for 35 years and I coached for 45. Why should I take all that knowledge and sit at home when I could be giving back to the kids, which I love to do? That keeps you young.”
While Lauer wasn’t coaching at the high school level over the last few years, the hall of famer never ventured too far away from the track. In fact, he spent a lot of his time adding to his resume. He is one of a few coaches in the county who is U.S. Track & Field Level 2 certified, and he finished all of his Level 3 courses. He started the River Hill Running Club, a USATF registered competitive club, and took a cross country specialist course at Villanova University last year. Lauer said he may be a senior age-wise but is also a senior experience-wise.
“Why should I let that go to waste?” he said.
“You could tell he missed coaching,” said Brandon Lauer. “When you do something for that long and have the passion, it’s hard to stay away. I think that inevitably he was going to get back into the game, it was just a matter of where and when.”
Lauer said he first saw the open position for girls cross country coach at Atholton in February, and when he noticed it was still being advertised a month later, he applied and got the job.
“I said to my wife, ‘Maybe I’ll just go ahead and apply. I started there, I spent 23 years there, it’s the girls team — I started the first girls team in Howard County in 1977 at Atholton — so I’ll call and find out what’s going on,’” he said. “There have been a lot of job openings the last three years for cross country, and I wouldn’t have taken a job any place else.”
Centennial coach Kevin McCoy, who ran cross country for Lauer in high school at River Hill from 2002 to 2006 and took the specialist course at Villanova alongside him, said he isn’t surprised Lauer is returning to coaching.
He invited Lauer to all the meets held at Centennial since he left River Hill and saw firsthand how much he still enjoys being around the sport and the athletes.
“When that kind of situation opens up it’s totally understandable that he put his name in there and is willing to do it,” McCoy said. “In my opinion, he’s the best coach I’ve ever met. Whatever you think about him, you can’t argue with his track record. He’s got to be the most decorated cross country coach in Howard County history and I can say that when I ran for him I absolutely loved every single minute of it.
“He’s super invested in kids and he loves to do it. I always saw him around and he would always talk and he was up to date, knew what everyone was doing. He’s such a running and wrestling dork that he never even left. He just had a different spot on the sideline.”
Lauer is taking over a girls team that placed fifth at the county championships, third at the 3A East region meet and fifth at the 3A state championships. Four of the Raiders’ top-five finishers at last year’s state meet were underclassmen. Lauer said the goal is to “develop a winning attitude.”
“They’ve got some good kids coming back. It’s not like there is nothing in the cupboard. They’re decent,” he added. “Let’s see if we can move into the top tier in Howard County. I think we can do that. I’m having fun so far, meeting the kids and understanding where they are and what their potential is.”
Fall practices officially begin Aug. 8.