Tony Colizzi, ODU Alumnus and South Carolina Hall of Fame Inductee
By Tiffany Whitfield and Jefferson Huddle
Tony Colizzi, better known as Coach Colizzi on the cross country and track field, is a recent inductee into the South Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association (SCTCCCA). But before this accomplishment, Colizzi worked towards achieving the first of his two master's degrees at Old Dominion University. His first was in Oceanography and his second MS was in Education. Colizzi says his time spent learning with the Department of Ocean & Earth Sciences at ODU is where he truly found his muse with teaching science along with the joys of running.
"The teaching of oceanography at ODU, the work I did with the marine science Sea Camp program and outreach programs through the oceanography program all lead to me becoming a teacher," said Colizzi. With the outreach program several of the graduate students would go to local middle and elementary schools and talk to the kids about science and in particular marine science. Colizzi was a teaching assistant for Associate Professor Ron Johnson who taught a large undergraduate oceanography course while Colizzi was enrolled "Thanks to Dr. Johnson, I discovered I wanted to go into teaching," said Colizzi. He also acknowledged emeritus Associate Professor McConaugha and his wife Cathy, Emeritus Associate Professor Anthony Provenzano and Professors Larry Atkinson and Denny Kirwan for their time and commitment in helping him at ODU.
Colizzi and some other OES graduate students also held science programs aboard the American Rover in downtown Norfolk. "We would talk to the tourists and local kids about the marine environment, and we would collect samples from the local waters as we sailed for the groups to observe," said Colizzi. "This early experience with educating others showed me what my calling was."
His enthusiasm peaked after doing research with OES faculty. "I did research with larval and mature blue crabs under Dr. McConaugha," said Colizzi. He raised hybrid striped bass with Professor Provenzano.
As a stress reliever, Colizzi ran often while at ODU. "A group of the oceanography students would meet several days a week and run over our lunch break," said Colizzi. Both Eric and Ellie Langsam, fellow graduate students were in the running group. After Eric graduated from the graduate program, he and his soon to be wife moved to Charleston, SC. "They (Langams') asked me to move to Charleston to help them start a Sea Camp program much like the one he worked on at ODU," said Colizzi. After graduating from ODU in 1998, he packed up his belongings and moved to Charleston and ran a Sea Camp program for many years. While living in South Carolina, Colizzi took a teaching position at Bishop England High School. The school was looking for an assistant track and cross-country coach and "I agreed to help with the program," said Colizzi. "After two years, the head coach retired from coaching, and I became the head cross country and track coach."
Colizzi has held the head coaching position since 2001 and in the last two decades Colizzi's track teams have won more than 20 state championships. In 2021, Colizzi reached a pinnacle in high school sports. "It was a great feeling to be inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame," said Colizzi. "Many of the coaches, who are now in the Hall of Fame, helped me in my early years of coaching and to be in the Hall with them is very special. I always looked up to those coaches."
Colizzi has said before that the biggest goal for each athlete is "they become the best athlete they can become."
Building a dominant track program takes time, dedication, and ingenuity and the same can be said about teaching science. "An understanding of science gives you a better understanding of the world around you," said Colizzi. "Without science you would not have many of the items that you use on a daily basis."
Colizzi's commitment to teaching science to his students was something he discovered he enjoyed doing when he was graduate student at ODU, but he still has the same excitement today. He identifies the similarities between science and track. "I would say the main similarity between track and science is they both require the student/athlete to work hard to realize their goals."
He credits ODU to his success as a science teacher. "I would highly recommend pursuing a science degree at ODU to current students. ODU's Oceanography department was the driving force in me becoming a science teacher. Even after over 20 years of teaching, I still enjoy teaching and coaching at the high school level."