KNOXVILLE —The Royals’ cross-country coach challenges his team to become better runners, but also better individuals.
Sho Gray said he believes that running teaches people how to overcome adversity physically, mentally and emotionally. He said it bleeds into their daily lives.
As a 6th grader in Japan, Gray grew up playing soccer, but found he needed further conditioning. Eventually, he joined the cross-country team.
He ran his first half marathon during his Senior year of high school. From there, he continued to challenge himself.
“I set rules and followed them,” he said.
When it came to college, he said that he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. However, his father had ties to Johnson University.
“I knew I would be taken care of,” Gray said. He graduated JU with a Bachelor’s in Children’s Ministry and Non-Profit in 2010 and 2011.
From there, Gray became a teacher at an elementary school in Knoxville, but he said he did not feel fulfilled.
During an administrative change, his school received a new principal. This new principal mistakenly sent him a text which led to feelings of failure and heartbreak.
According to Gray, the text said, “we are probably going to fire that Sho Gray kid.”
“God used that failure and heartbreak,” said Gray.
When visiting with Dave Legg, dean of students, soon after, he was offered the coaching position for the Royals’ cross-country team. Gray was excited to start coaching at Johnson in 2013.
“Coaching allows me to help people achieve their dreams,” Gray said. “I want my team to succeed and overcome challenges.”
For Gray, the hardest part of coaching is teaching people how to say no.
“I hate giving up,” Gray said. “But, there are times to say yes and times to say no.”
He especially finds it difficult with new runners. However, he said he wants to be the best example for his team. Gray tries to encourage them to be excited and not fear failure. He tells them to “be a little crazy.”
As a coach, runner and individual, Gray sets the bar high.
“I like to go for the impossible,” he said.
He said he would like to see a track team implemented as well as more trails paved on campus to better the cross-country program.
With the addition of a track team and running trails, he said he hopes to keep his runners in better shape and benefit the Johnson community.