Coach to high school stars, Hall of Famer Marc Anderson was a pioneer in his field

Marc Anderson remembers being in the shower when he found out he was a hall-of-famer.

It was May 7, 2020 and less than two months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. His wife Paula hollered to him about seeing a post on the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame's Facebook page that the Bloomington native and long-time high school coach was being inducted in its 2021 class.

"I had seen names in the Class of 2020 and I knew there was going to be a Class of 2021," Anderson said. "But it never even crossed my mind that I'd be in it."

One big reason he didn't see himself in that stratosphere was the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame is in its infancy and the 2020 group was its inaugural class. The organization had clearly determined to catch up quickly, inducting gigantic classes with obvious names.

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The 2020 class included over 100 athletes, coaches and other luminaries who had either grown up in or played or coached college or professional sports in Indiana, assuring the hall a baseline of credibility. Among them were Bobby Knight, John Wooden, Gene Keady, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Reggie Miller, Isiah Thomas, Don Mattingly, Mark Spitz, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana.

The 2021 class was slightly less star-studded but not by much. There were still Hall-of-Famers already enshrined in Canton, Cooperstown, and Springfield, including Bob "Slick" Leonard, Marshall Faulk, and Oscar Charleston. Any IU, Purdue or Notre Dame superstar who wasn't included in the first class was included this time around, including Scott May, Leroy Keyes, and Adrian Dantley.

Making the cut

But on the alphabetical football list, squeezed in between Purdue's Mike Alstott and Notre Dame's Jerome Bettis, is Anderson's name. Next to it, where every other coach has either their team or school listed, Anderson just has "IHSAA."

Due to COVID, it would be two years before there was an induction ceremony, but Anderson got to experience that in May with a 2022 class also being put in at the same time.

"When you see all those people that were inducted in the Class of 2020, '21, '22, my resume looks awful light beside Peyton Manning, Bob Knight, Slick Leonard," Anderson said." So many of those people, it's just incredible to see. All of those people have been my heroes in life. To go in to a hall of fame with them, it seems like it was a dream or something."

Anderson's body of work impressive

But Anderson's resume isn't actually light at all. He isn't what you'd call famous or legendary, even by the standards of high school coaches, but in his time coaching football and wrestling and, most importantly, running strength and conditioning programs at schools throughout the state he's helped develop some of the best athletes ever to play high school sports in Indiana.

The list includes Indiana Mr. Basketball winners Damon Bailey and Eric Gordon, Martinsville state champion golfer Leigh Ann Hardin and North Central cross country state champion Futsum Zienasellassie.

He's spent the last 11 years running youth football camps with the Indianapolis Colts. He hasn't coached a game from the sidelines in more than two decades, but few coaches in Indiana can lay claim to having a hand in the stories of so many great athletes.

He announced his induction on Facebook by thanking all of the athletes who made it possible, writing "great athletes can overcome bad coaching and be amazing. However, coaches cannot overcome bad athletes and kids that don't work hard. I was blessed with some of the greatest athletes in the history of Indiana."

Several of those great athletes suggested he had downplayed his on role. One wrote, "The reason I don't quit in any aspect of the word is because of you." Another wrote, "You're the reason I am the man I am today."

Anderson, of course, downplays his role.

"I would say my career is a lot like Forrest Gump," Anderson said. "When something could happen, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

But when a person finds himself in so many different right places at so many right times, that can no longer be considered the product of accident. Perhaps he can't take all the credit for the successes of the athletes he worked with, but he provided each of them with help they needed.

Making a path to coaching

Anderson decided he wanted to be a coach before he graduated from Bloomington's University High School in the last year before the it split into Bloomington North and South.

He played football and wrestled, but had most of his career was derailed by injuries. He broke his collarbone in his sophomore year, then broke the navicular bone in his wrist about a week after that and had to miss his entire junior year. He played football as a senior, but couldn't wrestle. More than 50 years after the injury, his wrist has never fully healed and he doesn't have motion in the joint.

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He walked on at Indiana University as a wrestler just so he could learn to coach the sport from Doug Blubaugh, who had won an Olympic gold medal in the 1960 games in Rome and had just been hired as the Hoosiers head coach in 1972 when Anderson graduated high school. Anderson majored in physical education and minored in health and was at IU at a time when coaches still had to teach, which meant he got to take classes from a young Bob Knight.

Taking the coaching plunge

When he graduated in 1976, the IU coaching staff was devoted to finding him a job. George Finley, Anderson said, was particularly persistent and called everyone he could to get Anderson an opportunity, until he finally landed one at Pike Central High School in Petersburg as the school's first wrestling coach.

When he arrived and started practice, the school didn't yet have wrestling mats, so it used the foldable gymnastics mats it used for gym class. After six weeks of training and with its first meet approaching, Anderson decided the team needed to see what a wrestling meet was actually like, so he put them on a bus to Martinsville to see them face Bloomington North in what at the time was a match between the two top programs in the area.

"Keep in mind, we've been practicing for six weeks," Anderson said. "We walk through the tunnel into the gym and my best kid -- six weeks of this now -- looks at me and says, 'Where's the ropes and the turnbuckle?' He was serious. He thought it was WWE or something like that."

He still led Pike Central to a 10-3-1 record in his second year, which led to an opportunity at Castle High School in Newburgh where he was the wrestling coach and freshman football coach.

Castle a turning point in his career

It was there that Anderson developed his interest in strength and conditioning. Even as a student at Indiana he spent little time on it, but the Castle football staff decided it needed to change something after it lost the first 19 varsity games after Anderson was hired to coach the freshmen.

"We decided we better get going and get something changed or we're all going to be out of here," Anderson said. "So we decided, we can't change our athletes. We got whoever we have. So how are we going to make them better? We decided to put every resource we had into a strength and conditioning program."

It took more resources than they had in the bank at the time. Anderson said they sold thousands of dollars of Reese's Cups to raise money. One of Anderson's wrestlers was a "master welder" in high school, so he put together the squat racks and weight benches the school and coaches couldn't afford.

Bill Bennett worked as Castle's strength and conditioning coach at the time, and when he left in 1981, Anderson took on that job along with his coaching duties. He persuaded Castle to create strength and conditioning classes as part of the physical education program at a time when only a few other schools in the state were doing that.

Anderson became the first certified strength and conditioning coach in the state of Indiana. He based his program on what he had learned from Bennett, which Bennett picked up from his time working out at an Evansville gym called The Pit.

"Our program was built around the parallel squat," Anderson said. "Most people say they do the parallel squat, but most people don't get deep enough to really work the body. Our No. 1 goal above all else was prevention of injuries. I was a strength coach for 36 years. I had one kid pull a hamstring. I had one kid pull a groin. That's all. Our kids were virtually always on the field."

Success, new opportunities come quickly

The payoff was nearly immediate. Anderson said his freshman teams went 73-4 in his tenure. Meanwhile, the Castle varsity football team claimed the Class 3A state title in 1982, at the time the highest classification in the state.

His wrestling teams won five sectional titles. He also coached the girls' tennis team, and even though he didn't know that much about tennis, he helped Castle's Lanae Rentschler to a perfect 100-0 record in high school and four straight singles state championships.

Damon Bailey scored a state record 3,134 points during his high school career.
Damon Bailey scored a state record 3,134 points during his high school career.

Anderson's success at Castle led to an opportunity to be the head football coach at Bedford North Lawrence in 1988, which also coincided with Damon Bailey's junior year on the basketball team. BNL basketball coach Dan Bush didn't like the idea of his players weight training, but he allowed Anderson to work with one player his first year — Bush's son Alan. Alan made immediate and dramatic gains in the weight room, so for Bailey's senior season, Bush was more comfortable allowing Anderson to work with his team. That group famously won the 1990 all-class state championship in front of a packed house at the Hoosier Dome.

After Bedford North Lawrence, Anderson went to Hamilton Southeastern where he coached the varsity football squad to an undefeated regular season in 1994. He went from there to Martinsville, where he coached the freshman football team for three years before deciding to dedicate himself to strength and conditioning full time.

Anderson hones his craft at Martinsville

"It got to the point where if we wanted to get to the point where we needed to get to, I needed to be there after school every day rather than coaching a football team," Anderson said. "That was 100 percent my call. I just walked in one day and said I'm not going to do freshman football anymore, I'm just going to focus on the weight room."

Martinsville's Israel Thompson(33)(middle) is crushed by three Ben Davis defenders during first quarter action in 1996 at Martinsville. Defending for Ben Davis is (bottom left) Jason Holok(33) and (right) Kyle Moffatt (back defender)
Martinsville's Israel Thompson(33)(middle) is crushed by three Ben Davis defenders during first quarter action in 1996 at Martinsville. Defending for Ben Davis is (bottom left) Jason Holok(33) and (right) Kyle Moffatt (back defender)

While Anderson was at Martinsville, the school had one of its most successful stretches in athletics, especially on the girls side. The girls basketball team won state titles in 1997 and 1998. The girls volleyball team won in 1996.

The girls golf team continued an incredible run of state titles that began in 1991, long before Anderson arrived. Coach Sharon Most's squad finished first at the state meet in nine of 10 seasons and second place the only year it didn't win.

On the boys side, running back Israel Thompson, who eventually played at Ball State, won Mr. Football in 1996.

The big move to North Central

Anderson followed with a brief move into college ball. Cam Cameron found him and convinced him to be part of his strength team for two years at a time when he had Antwaan Randle-El on the roster. He enjoyed it but felt like his calling was working with youth, so when North Central had an opening, he jumped at it.

"I wanted to get back to the high school level," Anderson said. "I thought I could have more impact on kids at the high school level. When they get into the college level, they're pretty well molded as to what they're going to be. I tried to teach kids about life."

Indiana All-Star A.J. Ratliff of Indianapolis North Central shoots over Kentucky All-Star Boris Siakam. Ratliff had 17 points for Indiana. AP Photo.
Indiana All-Star A.J. Ratliff of Indianapolis North Central shoots over Kentucky All-Star Boris Siakam. Ratliff had 17 points for Indiana. AP Photo.

Anderson spent 11 more years coaching high school strength and conditioning during a particularly successful period in North Central history. The boys basketball team reached two state title games and saw A.J. Ratliff and Eric Gordon named Mr. Basketball. Amber Harris, who would go on to star for Xavier and then in the WNBA, won Miss Basketball, and Futsum Zienasellassie dominated the state cross country and distance track circuit.

Semi-retirement brings new focus

Anderson finally decided to step away in 2011 to work with even younger players. A girl in one of his classes was the daughter of Ricky Thomas, then the Colts' tight ends coach under Jim Caldwell.

He decided he was ready for retirement, or at least semi-retirement, so he spoke to Thomas about of running football camps for elementary school kids through the Play 60 program. Thomas put in a good word for him, as did others, and they got him the opportunity.

It has since become his retirement project. His paycheck for it goes directly to charity, mostly to sports programs in Indianapolis Public Schools.

"It just gets kids moving and it's fun," Anderson said. "I wanted to stay active with kids, but I didn't want the stress of keeping the weight room. You're trying to get kids to reach their highest potential and there's some stress to that. This, I'm going from high school to younger kids and we're just teaching them to play and be active. It's completely different to what I was doing for 36 years."

In a sense it is because there are no titles to be won and he doesn't have to maximize anyone's performance, just make sure they want to keep playing.

But it still gives the hall-of-famer an opportunity to teach, and for that he is still in the right place at the right time.

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This isn't a comprehensive list, but a snapshot of Marc Anderson's accomplishments.

USA Powerlifting State Championships (Team) - Head coach (26)

North Central High School

  • 2007 Boys, Girls

  • 2006 Boys, Girls

  • 2005 Boys, Girls

  • 2004 Boys, Girls

  • 2003 Boys, Girls

  • Martinsville High School

  • 2000 Boys, Girls

  • 1999 Boys, Girls

  • 1998 Boys, Girls

Hamilton Southeastern High School

  • 1995 Boys

  • 1994 Boys (National champions)

  • 1994 Girls (National champions)

  • 1993 Boys (National runners up)

  • 1993 Girls (National runners up)

  • 1992 Boys (National runners up)

  • 1992 Girls (Natoinal Champions)

  • 1991 Boys

Bedford North Lawrence High School

  • 1989 Boys

Castle High School

  • 1987 Boys


North Central (10)

  • Darius Latham

  • Celeste Edwards

  • Ronnie Johnson

  • Rachel Gregory

  • Nariah Taylor

  • Terone Johnson

  • Briana Bass

  • Amber Harris (Miss Basketball)

  • AJ Ratliff (Mr. Basketball)

  • Tony Passley

Martinsville (2)

  • Kristen Bodine, April Traylor

Bedford North Lawrence (4)

  • Marla Inman (Miss Basketball)

  • Amy Walker

  • Carrie Mount

  • Damon Bailey (Mr. Basketball)


  • Northern Arizona cross country (1) - Futsum Zienasellassie

  • Indiana Soccer (8) - Nikita Kotlov, Sean Weidman, Chris Munroe (2), Charley Traylor (2), Greg Stevning (2)

  • Duke Golf (1) - Leigh Anne Hardin


  • Northern Arizona cross country- Futsum Zienasellassie (4x)

  • Xavier basketball - Amber Harris

  • Duke Golf - Leigh Anne Hardin (2)

  • Indiana basketball - Damon Bailey

  • Indiana football - Joe Huff


  • Chad Spann - Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts

  • Andrew East - Seattle Seahawks

  • Darius Latham - Oakland Raiders

  • Jordan Williams - New Orleans Saints


  • Tim Barrett - Montreal Expos


  • Damon Bailey - Indiana Pacers


  • Amber Harris - Minnesota Lynx (WNBA Champion)

Follow Herald-Times IU Insider Dustin Dopirak on Twitter at @DustinDopirak or email him at

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Hall of Fame coach Marc Anderson was a pioneer in his field