That sound you hear at nearly every Nassau County track and field meet? That’s Leigh Pollet not whistling. The long-time Uniondale girls coach never learned how, so he substitutes with a high pitch sound of his own as his athletes speed around the track.
"Wooooo," goes the coach, audible for all to hear whenever a Uniondale Knight is rounding a turn or sprinting for home.
“I want them to know that I am paying attention to them,” Pollet said. “I’m not just sitting in the stands reading the newspaper or taking splits. I can’t whistle, but I’m watching every single one of my girls and I want them to know that I care as much about the slowest kid as I do the fastest kid because they’re all part of my little family, which is our team.”
That team, under the direction of Pollet since 1988, has been the best and most consistent in Nassau. Pollet-led teams have won 56 indoor and outdoor track county championships, rarely losing in his 31 years at the helm. He’s coached over 40 individual state champions and more than 20 All-Americans.
Pollet was inducted into the Coaches Hall of Fame at the Armory in Manhattan during the Energice Coaches Hall of Fame Invitational on Saturday afternoon. Pollet’s class included Frank McCartney of Brooklyn’s Xaverian High School, Jacob Brown of Ridgewood High School in New Jersey, Cornel Johnson of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, and Donald Norford of Long Beach Poly High School in California.
Pollet is the sixth Long Island coach to be inducted into the hall. Past inductees include Kellenberg’s Marty Brown, Mepham’s Paul Limmer, Uniondale’s Dennis Kornfield, Bay Shore’s Steve Borbet, and Chaminade’s Bill Carriero.
“I am humbled,” said Pollet, who was coach at Adelphi University and as an assistant at Valley Stream Central and Wantagh before taking over at Uniondale. “I had to call back and double check and say ‘Are you sure?’ It’s just the way I am. I’m in awe and absolutely honored. I just saw the list of some of the people who are in the Hall and thought ‘I don’t belong with these people.’”
The championships would beg to differ. For Pollet though, it’s not about those impressive numbers.
“It’s never been about me,” he said. “I don’t really care about winning. Yeah, I don’t like to lose, but my philosophy has never been about winning. It’s been about doing the best that I can for the kids and giving them opportunities to improve themselves and asking them to give back what I give to them. If I give them 100% of my best effort, I want them to come back and give 100% of their best effort.”