Need for Speed Spotlight: An Interview with US Short Track Speedskating Coach, Anthony Barthell

Need for Speed Spotlight: An Interview with US Short Track Speedskating Coach, Anthony Barthell

After spending two years Down Under coaching the Australian Short Track Speedskating Team, Anthony Barthell is back in the States as the new Men’s National Short Track Speedskating Coach. He brings a lot of coaching experience to the table, and is looking forward to the upcoming season. Today, we talk to Anthony about how he got started in speed skating, what he learned from his coaching experience in Australia, and what strengths he brings as the new US Men’s Short Track Coach.

Roller Skating and Baseball

Growing up in High Point, North Carolina, Anthony started skating not on the ice or on inlines, but on quad roller skates. He says, “In High Point, we had a roller rink. I used to go there mainly on Friday nights with my friends. And for some reason, I liked to go fast. I saw people skating, and I thought, ‘I want to do this.’ A couple of my friends were on the roller skating team, so I just started skating from there. But I didn’t skate for long. I only skated for maybe two years. By the time I got to high school, I was done skating.” Anthony took a break from skating to continue pursuing his other love—baseball. “I always played baseball, from [the time] I was little. I played third base and short stop. My first love is baseball.” And even though baseball doesn’t have the same speed as short track, Anthony says, “you still get hot shot players and pitchers throwing the ball 88MPH at you.”

First Time on the Ice

Anthony returned to skating in his 20’s, after watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. He says, “Joey Cheek is from Greensboro, North Carolina. I actually skating against him in a relay in Virginia. And then Derek Parra was in our region too. I remember seeing those two when they went to the Olympics, and I was like, ‘You know what, I miss skating. I should try it.’ But I had never been on the ice. That was a whole new animal. I thought, ‘I can just get on the ice and skate. I’m athletic. This won’t be bad.’ I was okay on quads, but I’d never skated inline before then. I got on hockey skates two or three times when I lived in Tampa, and I thought, ‘Alright, this isn’t a problem.’ But as soon as I got on speed skates, I couldn’t cross over. And I remember going to my father’s house and throwing my skates down. He said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ And I said, ‘I can’t cross over. I think I just went in way too deep [with speed skating]. This isn’t going to happen.’ He said, ‘Go back out and try it again. It’s no problem.’ So I did.”

Moving to Salt Lake City

Anthony skated with the Sunshine State Speedskating Club while he lived in Florida. Then, he moved to Salt Lake City to skate with Mike Kooreman’s New Edge Speedskating Club, (now the FAST Team), at the Utah Olympic Oval. He says, “At the ’06 Short Track Nationals in Madison…I spoke with Mike, and he invited me to come out to Salt Lake. So on May 29th, 2006, I moved to Salt Lake. I still remember the date, because it was snowing.” He adds, “Since I was older when I started on the ice, my focus was, ‘I need to learn this as quick as possible.’ I had to work a full time job and skate. I wasn’t going to try and rely on my parents, because I was already 27 or 28 when I moved to Salt Lake. So I had to just put my head down and go for it. My goal was never to make the Olympics. I can’t say I wasn’t going to try, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to try and make Olympic Trials—just to get the qualifying times. I think I finished either 19th or 20th in the Trials, so I was excited about that.”

Becoming a Speed Skating Coach

In 2010, Anthony was offered a coaching position with the FAST Short Track Speed Skating Team at the Utah Olympic Oval. He says that going from an athlete to a coach “was an easy transition. I think it stemmed back from when I was younger. In high school when I was playing baseball, the coach had me as an honorary team captain. I would always go talk to people and try to help people out. And even at the Oval, when I was skating with New Edge…I sat and watched a bunch of videos and pictures for three months straight, before I got my skates. And learning from Mike helped me teach other people.”

Anthony was also Head Coach of the US Junior World Short Track Team from 2012 to 2014. He says the best thing about coaching the Junior World Team was “getting to know the junior athletes. It was actually quite fun to go to Junior Nationals and Junior Worlds. [At] Junior Worlds…I got to meet people from different countries—making friendships, meeting the coaches and athletes. But the biggest thing was just getting to know all the younger athletes in the US.”

Coaching the Australian Speedskating Team

Anthony attended the 2014 Winter Olympics as Assistant Coach for the US Short Track Team. Then, following the Olympics, Anthony relocated to Australia for two seasons to coach the Australian Short Track Team. He says, “I think it was time for a change for me, just to grow as a coach….Once the opportunity came up to go overseas to Australia, that was a huge thing for me. I had skated with a couple of the Australians, and made friendships with a few of the athletes. And when I got the [coaching] position, it was well worth it.” One of the things that helped Anthony grow was learning “to deal with…all levels of skaters. In Australia, they have maybe around 40 skaters, with a lot of masters skaters. And I inherited a team of 4 or 5 skaters. So I had to learn how to adapt, not only as far as a coach, but with the program, [and] to read my skaters. The good thing about Australia is that they have a huge supportive staff, and it’s great.”

US Men's National Short Track Coach

Anthony was recently named Men's Short Track National Team Coach, along with Alex Izykowski, who coaches the Women's Short Track National Team. Anthony brings a lot of strengths to the program. He says, “As a coach, I understand programming more now, [and] I understand athletes more. I would say one thing I that I have is, when someone steps on the ice, I can tell within 2 to 5 minutes if they’re ready to skate, or if something’s on their mind. So I feel like bringing that to the team is a good thing. And then I worked with a lot of these guys and girls. So coming back, it actually just brings the family back together. And I don’t really have to establish a coach-athlete relationship, because it’s already there—the trust from not only the skaters, but myself and Izzy.”

As far as what he is looking forward to in the upcoming season, Anthony says, “I just want see where these athletes can go. I can sit here and say, ‘I want to see everyone on the podium.’ And of course, I want to see all the US athletes on the podium, for every single competition. Whether or not it will happen, I don’t know. I would love to see that; but if it doesn’t happen, as long as they put forth 100%, and I put forth 100% as a coach, then that’s good enough for me, because we’ll see results from that.”

*Special thanks to Jerry Search and Anthony Barthell for photos.

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