Pitt Magazine

Pitt’s father-son coaching team is keeping track in the family

The Webbs stand on a track
Coaches Alonzo Webb III and Alonzo Webb Jr. have created a winning family of Pitt's track and cross country programs. Photo by Aimee Obidzinski/Pitt Photography

There are two Coach Webbs with offices in Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House. On each of their desks sits a gleaming trophy awarded by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

One of those trophies belongs to Alonzo Webb Jr., the head coach of Pitt’s track and field and cross-country program. It recognizes him as the 2021 Coach of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic. The second belongs to Pitt’s “other” Coach Webb, Alonzo III — better known as Coach Zo. It recognizes him as the 2021 Assistant Track Coach of the Year.

The twin honor for the father-son duo is a testament to how the coaches continue to raise the bar for athletic excellence in their sport — an achievement, they say, that is built from a shared philosophy that cultivating a familylike community can propel young athletes to achievements in sport and in life.

“It's easier to do the work if you're surrounded by people who care about you — if there is a family unit there that’s going to praise you and push you,” says the elder Webb.

He learned that lesson early in life. The oldest boy of nine children, Webb’s single mother always encouraged the value of education and reaching higher. Her lessons pushed her speedy son from a youth chasing rabbits on Pittsburgh’s North Side into a young man dashing toward his dreams.

Webb, disciplined by organized sports and athletic mentors, became a city champion in the high jump at Peabody High School and in community track leagues. His efforts earned him a track scholarship to Western Michigan University and set him on a luminous coaching career path. He came to Pitt in 2002, bringing with him a sharp focus on supportive coaching that pushes athletes toward excellence through perseverance.

Webb’s youngest child, Zo, knows these lessons well. A talented athlete in his own right, he grew up running alongside his father and earned a track scholarship to Pitt in 2006. When he was sidelined by a knee injury a few months before graduation, he turned his attention toward his teammates, rooting them on and mentoring them in practices to make them faster. Others soon noticed a high aptitude for coaching within his willingness to pivot and selfless encouragement. He saw it in himself, too. He served as a volunteer assistant coach before being named assistant coach in 2011. Today, he’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

To produce a winning “family” out of their team, the father-son duo offers one-to-one counseling and individual practice sessions, all while holding students accountable for their grades.

Their approach has produced results. In the 2023 season alone, Pitt runners set a school record at the Outdoor ACC Championships in May and the program boasted first-place winners at the Penn Relays (the country’s oldest and largest track and field competition). Additionally, 24 Pitt track and field athletes were named to the All-ACC academic team.

The whole Pitt athletic family has much to be proud of. Win or lose, however, Zo says what he’s most proud of is working with his father.

“It's turned into this really cool thing where I realized how much my dad trusts me,” he says. “He's instilled something good into me as a coach and, especially, as a person.”