Most High School Track & Field Meets begin in the same manner: a single pop resonating from the starting pistol signifying by sound, and a plume of smoke, that the events have begun. This tradition dates back decades and is a familiar piece for the Track & Field as well as Swimming Community. DeLand High thinks of one man whenever there is a discussion about hosting a Track event: Coach Tony Tussing.
With hands folded behind his head, DeLand’s Track Coach, Jim Lowenstein, leans back in his chair. Eyes closed, he begins, “you know, back in 1978, Tussing was my Track Coach here at DeLand. He even established the Big D Relays in the 1960s, and coached everything under the sun for DHS... boys swimming for seven years… he assisted with football for at least 40 years!”, Jim said with a smile. He continued, “I came back to work for DeLand in 1994, and there was a meet in Lake Brantley that Tussing tagged along to. He was handed the starting gun again which really rejuvenated his passion for being a starter…”
At Pinecrest High School in South Florida, Tony was an All-American Swimmer, and star athlete. He travelled to Central Florida and graduated from Stetson University, majoring in Social Sciences. He went on to teach Geography at Southwestern Middle and then became an Administrative Assistant for Volusia County Schools, retiring in 1988. Coach Tussing received the DeLand High School Hall of Fame Award in 2003. He was the Florida Track Official of the Year and was inducted in the Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2012.
Tussing has worn and continues to wear many hats. He coordinates officials for the University of Florida, Embry Riddle and the University of Central Florida. He has started for the FHSAA Track & Field State Meet. One of his most admirable positions is keeping the scorebook for Stetson Basketball. He has held this position for 55 seasons beginning in 1962. He is the President of Kiwanis; directs the Annual 4th and 5th Grade Junior Olympics Track Meet, and is Director of DeLand High’s Hall of Fame Award.
While interviewing Coach Tussing in my office, a fond memory came to his mind from 2009. He was attending the presentation of the Bowerman Award (essentially the Heisman for Track & Field) to a young lady from Oviedo High School named Jenny Simpson. After the ceremony, Jenny walked by Tussing and he called out to her, “Hi Jenny, how are you doing?”. She responded, “I know you… but I don’t know you. How do I remember you?” Tussing responded quickly, “get rid of the suit, and picture me in a large hat and khaki shorts calling out…” “Coach Tussing!”, she interrupted with a huge smile, “I remember that voice, you were a starter!”, Simpson laughed. You see, Tony is much more than the man with a starting pistol. He communicates with the student-athletes.
Coach Tussing’s dedication to Track & Field is clear, but most importantly, he has a passion to help kids. He takes the time to build a rapport with the athletes he works with; he creates a relationship despite seeing thousands of athletes at each event. The knowledge he exudes for the craft is extensive and he is constantly eager to share. He has high expectations for the student-athletes that step on the track or into the field.
Coach Tussing is constantly on-the-go, and has many things to accomplish in the brief time allotted at a meet, yet he will always sacrifice a moment to chat. One of the most important qualities of a good coach is getting athletes to believe in themselves. Listen to Tussing at any Track Meet, and you will hear encouragement and motivation… you will hear a devotion to every athlete from a special coach who cares.
Wrapping up our conversation, I asked Tony to tell me his biggest accomplishment. Face beaming, he immediately brought up his two sons, DeLand Alumni: Leith and Ethan. His son Leith is a Computer Engineer in Orlando, Florida for the University of Central Florida. By age three, his youngest son, Ethan, began travelling with his dad to tracks all over the state, including the University of Florida where Ethan began his career. Ethan’s passion for Track and Field was ingrained by his father. Today, he is the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Throwers Coach in Richmond, VA proving that Tony’s influence has extended beyond the state of Florida.
Thank you, Coach Tussing, for your tireless hours of dedication and continued service to DeLand High School, the DeLand Community, and Volusia County. The Track & Field Community in Florida will always be indebted to you.
Elizabeth Strople, Assistant Athletic Director