By Kenneth Spisak
Krysten Baker goes by multiple names: Krysten, Coach Baker, Ms. Baker, KB. Depending how you are acquainted with her, one of these will be how you address her. Baker is on the coaching staff for McKendree’s track and field team as the throwers coach. Not only is coaching essentially a full-time gig, she also has her daily job of a high school guidance counselor for Columbia High School. Often times I wonder how coaches got into their beloved sport from the get-go, and after kindly agreeing to an interview, Baker answered that very question.
“I technically got involved in track and field in 5th grade,” Baker said. “We had a small team at my elementary school where we had modified versions of regulation track events. It was in 6th grade when I actually joined my junior high track team. I threw the shot put and discus and remember getting 3rd place in the IESA State Meet. From there I competed on my high school track team and later received a scholarship to McKendree University for the sport.” She has been involved in track for double digit years and has been coaching for a while as well.
Baker began coaching at Columbia High School in Columbia, IL, for two years. She then coached at Chester Middle School for 1 year while in grad school. After her time at Chester, she moved back to the St. Louis area where she began to coach at her alma mater, McKendree University, where she has been for four years now.
When asked Baker what makes her the happiest and most proud of her athletes, she gave an answer that shows how big her heart is.
“I can remember exactly how it felt when I would hit a P.R. [personal record] I’d been working for back when I competed,” Baker said. “The feeling I get when my athletes hit a P.R. we’ve been working towards is incomparable. There is such a strong sense of pride and excitement seeing them reach their goals and knowing I contributed to that success in some way. I find a lot of joy in knowing I helped someone find that special feeling that we feel when we finally reach our goal.”
Baker loves to watch others succeed and to be a part of their success in any way she can whether that is on the field or even at her day job. Baker acquired a high school guidance counselor position at Dupo High School in Dupo, IL, in the summer of 2015, but this is not what she necessarily went to college for. Baker actually went to school for business where she has a double bachelor’s in management and marketing with a masters of business degree. It wasn’t until she got out of college and took a job working for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) where she traveled in the area delivering college and financial aid assistance to high school students.
“I worked very closely with the school counselors in the schools I worked in and became good friends with several,” Baker said. “I realized that was the work I wanted to do. I ended up applying and getting accepted to SIU Carbondale and got my second master’s in educational psychology with emphasis in school counseling.”
And thus, her journey as a high school guidance counselor began at Dupo High School. Continuing the interview, I asked Baker what she loves about coaching and her job as a counselor.
“I absolutely LOVE working with students in the 14-22 age range,” Baker said. “I feel like I have a strength in relating to this age range. I am able to allow my natural personality come through and even work as an aid to my position… I love that coaching and school counseling require creativity and flexibility. Every student or student athlete is different, therefore; every interaction is different and requires situational manipulation.”
Her love for helping others is unquestionable considering she works with the future of America every day.
“I ENJOY every day,” Baker said. “I have so much fun working with young adults and the feedback I receive helps me validate that this career is a great fit. I feel like I am helping and making an impact. That is important to me.”
Finding a job you love and feel as if you were born to do it is something that not everyone is lucky enough to find, but Baker is one of the lucky ones. I asked her for one piece of advice for anyone wanting to coach or become a guidance counselor. She had this statement to offer:
“One piece of advice would be to make sure you are going into the profession for the right reasons,” Baker said If you truly want to help but not receive much recognition or compensation… then school counseling AND coaching are great options. If you are looking to make a lot of money or looking to become some public hero… these two positions likely won’t meet your needs.”
Finally, I asked her what she loved the most about her jobs. Baker explained that she loves that her jobs require her to commit to a lifetime of learning, the creativity involved with her jobs, and the tremendous people she works with day in and day out. From her fellow coaches, teachers at her school, or the ideas she gets to put into effect every day, she loves it all.
“My days are never boring and they are never the same,” Baker said. “I laugh a lot in both of my jobs and I truly love coaching and school counseling. I am very blessed to have found my dream jobs.”