Longtime Track & Field Coach Falk Left Lasting Impact on Community

Longtime Track & Field Coach Falk Left Lasting Impact on Community

KINGSTON, R.I. – Legendary track & field coach Bill Falk – a five-time New England Coach of the Year – passed away on Friday, Sept. 7.

Falk, who was inducted into the Rhode Island Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985 – spent 18 years coaching with the Rams, both as a head coach and an assistant coach. During his time with the Rams, he coached five All-Americans, five IC4A titlists and 20 individual New England champions.

He also was a pole vault coach at the University of Miami before returning to Rhode Island and coaching area high school athletes for decades. He also spent several years coaching the pole vaulters for the Rhode Island women's teams. Falk wrote five books about the pole vault and produced a number of videos on the event. He also played a major role in bringing longtime Rhode Island track & field coach John Copeland to the University.

"Bill's contributions to the University of Rhode Island Track team have been profound," Copeland said. "We will miss Bill and his always-positive attitude."

Considered one of the nation's preeminent experts in the pole vault, he founded Cranston-based M-F Athletic. Along with former Brown University athletic trainer Jack McKinnon, the company was founded in 1960 when they developed the M-F Heel Protector, a device that covers the athlete's heel area and is worn like a cup inside shoes. M-F Athletic eventually became the nation's top track & field equipment supplier.

Mark Strawderman, a three-time All-American in the pole vault for Rhode Island, worked with Falk for years and is the General Manager of the Track & Field division for M-F Athletic. He and current Rhode Island assistant coach Rob Whitten serve as directors of the Bill Falk Pole Vault Camp.

"What Bill did in with coaching the vault was microcosm of what he did in life," Strawderman said. "He was always looking for better ways to do things. He would challenge how and why we did things. Bill was always taking the time to help other people. He always put others before himself."

In 2013, Falk was honored with the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association George Dales Award, given to individuals who enhance the profession of coaching track & field and cross country. The Bill Falk Fund at the R.I. Track & Field Foundation has been a longtime presenting sponsor of the Interscholastic League's state championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track and field.

In addition, his fund sponsored education and training for area high school coaches and officials; historical research and publication of state championship performances; coaches polls per the three competitive seasons, and winter training access at the Providence Career & Technical Academy indoor track (PCTA) for the benefit of RIIL athletes.

The Falk family has had a deep and long-lasting impact in the Rhode Island community. In 2016, the Narragansett High School's eight-lane track was dedicated in the name of Falk's late wife, Grace.

"It didn't matter who you were," Strawderman said. "If there was something that needed to be addressed, Bill was there. He was born to coach. Whether it was a young vaulter, or an employee at work or a friend dealing with relationship issues, Bill could coach you through it all."

A Brown University graduate, Falk earned a master's degree from Columbia before beginning his teaching and coaching career at Attleboro High School in Massachusetts. He also coached and taught at Hope High School in Rhode Island. It was the start of a career coaching in track & field that spanned seven decades.