64-year old Ille Kukk was chosen as the coach of the year by the European Athletic Association. The national record owner in the 3,000 m and 5,000 m distances has been a physical education teacher for three decades.
Ille Kukk's days mostly go by teaching and motivating young track athletes. The former top Estonian mid-distance and long-distance runner began her work as a trainer in the start of the 1990s and also took up teaching at the Kõrveküla school in the 2000s.
"I still appreciate it being physical education and not movement studies. And a student should still get a workout in physical education. And that I have given them something once they leave the lass. And another thing, they should be happy and want to come back to class," Kukk said. "You need the necessary equipment, which we cannot complain about here."
The teacher said students at the Kõrveküla school consider her to be more of a trainer than a teacher.
Ille Kukk was presented for the European Athletic Association recognition by the Estonian Athletics Association. The track season was a successful one for the Estonian as her student Uku Renek Kronbergs set a new under-18s Estonian record in the 800 m at the under-20s European championships in Tallinn this summer.
"If you are a coach, then your success always depends on you meeting a talented child. And talent is not only their physical capabilities, but also work ethic. At this moment, she is in a good state as a trainer," said Kukk's colleague Toomas Klaup.
"But when it comes to teaching, everything is just super. She is meticulously accurate, proper, demanding. She was chosen as the best class manager of the school by her students. So it is not just physical education. She is an awarded teacher and the main thing is the children noticing it," Klaup added.
The 64-year old still has enough energy to hit the stadium after the school day. "I think the [energy] is provided by the students. And once I finish here, I have older students coming at 5 p.m. We still do not have a stadium here. If we had a stadium, I probably would not go Tartu for training every day," the trainer said. "But some of the best athletes today that I have - they are good! They have all come from this school."
Ille Kukk has some great achievements in her career as an athlete - her individual bests in the 3,000 m and 5,000 m are still Estonian records, even 35 years after they were set.
Do young athletes realize their trainer is an Estonian record owner? "Those in my trainings do realize, but students do as well. I borrow my shoes to them occasionally and they go home and say: 'can you believe it, I have Ille's shoes on,'" Kukk said.
The Estonian Athletics Association will present the European award to Ille Kukk at the season end gala at the end of the year.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste