Beloved Central Texas coach retires after more than four decades

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 7:03 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A decorated coach and beloved PE teacher is retiring after 43 years in one Central Texas School district.

Dale Keen started his journey with Cameron ISD in 1980, and is enjoying his first days of retirement following parties that happened across the campuses in which he served.

“People have asked me that a lot. Why did I stay in Cameron for 43 years? For me, this is where the opportunity was. I chose this place. They chose me,” Keen said.

Coach Keen grew up, mostly, in Colorado and attended Colorado State University, where he ran distance events. He came to Texas after a chance encounter with a man from Cameron, and never left.

“I was still in college at the time, and I went to a small church, and a guy from Cameron, Texas, came in - and because of that friendship - we ended up going to Cameron.”

Keen said, “coming to Texas was like coming to the promise land.”

Coach Keen started Cameron Yoe’s successful cross-country program in 1982, and has touched the lives of thousands of runners.

Under Keen’s leadership, the team has won 30 district championships, 11 regional championships and been state runner-up five times.

Track and field athletes at Cameron YOE show their district championship plaque
Track and field athletes at Cameron YOE show their district championship plaque(Courtesy Photo)

Keen was also an assistant track coach.

Eight years ago, he founded the school’s wrestling program, which wasn’t really his idea, but has been a huge hit among student-athletes.

“The wrestling program started by accident,” Keen laughed. “One of my cross-country kids heard that I had wrestled, and they kept asking me to teach them to wrestle. I said ‘no,’ and after two weeks of asking me, I said, ‘okay show up at 6 a.m.’”

The kids showed up for the early morning practices, and the teams officially formed. They are currently competing against much larger schools in the state’s 5A division.

Coach Keen has worked under 40 different administrators in his time on the elementary, junior high and high school campuses all which came together to honor him with parties as he left this year.

He says the school has always treated him well, especially, supporting him after he had a stroke a few years ago. He says it’s always been the kids who kept him coming back year after year.

Coach Keen with his student athletes
Coach Keen with his student athletes(Courtesy Photo)

“I can’t forget the young people that I coached, and I had a lot of good people come my way and it made it a very pleasurable experience,” Keen said. “I could have chased around the state looking for more talent, but I don’t think I’d have done better anywhere.”

Keen said he feels lucky that he’s had a career that he’s loved.

“There were times I couldn’t wait to get there in the mornings. Sometimes, I’d wake up at 3 in the morning and wish it was 5:30,” he said.

Keen says he plans to enjoy his retirement with his wife of 49 years, Elizabeth, as well as his kids and grandkids.

But he won’t be a stranger to Cameron Yoe.

The school has already asked him to come help for the next year with the wrestling program, which he plans to do.

“It is going to make a difference in our life,” the coach said. “Your whole life you have different chapters, and this just starts a new chapter.

“I definitely don’t plan to lay on the couch.”

Coach Keen retired after 43 years of touching the lives of student athletes in Cameron, Texas.
Coach Keen retired after 43 years of touching the lives of student athletes in Cameron, Texas.(Courtesy Photos)