Every student has that one teacher, or that one coach who makes a long-lasting impact. For Aaron Reed (BHS '04), that person is Todd Kuklinski, better known as Coach K. “He took me under his wing and helped me see the potential I had,” Reed said.
Reed and his family moved to the Barrington area from a neighboring district when he was in middle school. “As a black kid coming to what was then a predominantly white school, it was a tough transition,” Reed said. “The thing that helped me was getting heavily involved in sports.”
At Station Campus, he played basketball and ran track. At BHS he played basketball and football, but to his surprise, it was his athletic abilities in track that would end up earning him a college scholarship. “My wide receivers coach for football, Coach K, mentioned to me during my junior year that he thought I had some potential in the long jump,” Reed said.
Reed had never participated in the long jump at the time and didn’t even own a pair of jumping spikes. “Coach K actually gave me a pair of spikes and started talking to me about what it might look like if I wanted to compete in college,” Reed said. He ended up taking 9th place at the state meet that year.
When Coach K suggested Reed should also try the triple jump, he heeded the advice. His senior year he took 2nd place in the long jump and 4th place in the triple jump at the state meet, setting the school record for both jumps. Reed says it would have never happened if it wasn’t for Coach K’s unwavering faith in him.
“I remember heading into the sectional meet, right before the state meet my senior year,” Reed said. “I was in the last grouping for the long jump and we were seeing some pretty good jumps from other guys. Right before I went, I looked up at Coach K, who put up a two and a four with his fingers. I had never jumped 24 feet before, but I thought to myself, ‘If he thinks I can do it, then I think I can do it.’ I ended up jumping 24’1/2”, which is still the school record today.”
I had never jumped 24 feet before, but I thought to myself, ‘If he thinks I can do it, then I think I can do it.'
After being named Co-Male Athlete of the Year his senior year at BHS, Reed accepted a scholarship to the University of Iowa, where he was primarily a long jumper and short sprinter. He describes his experience at Iowa as one that was riddled with injuries and underwhelming performances. But after graduation, Coach K was once again there to lift him up. “I knew I didn’t want to sit in an office all day and I wanted to help athletes,” Reed said. “He asked me to return to BHS to work as a full-time track coach.”
“Aaron is an easy guy to root for,” said Kuklinski, who still works at BHS as a social studies teacher and coach. “He is honest, loyal, and extremely hard-working. Those are the main reasons I asked him to come back and help coach our student-athletes. He was a great coach, but as a person he is top-notch.”
During his time as a coach at BHS, Reed worked with a student who went on to win the state title in the triple jump, breaking Reed’s school record. “If an athlete is put in a situation that helps showcase his or her talents, and the coach believes in that athlete and encourages him or her even when things aren’t going well, I truly believe that’s the difference between an athlete having a mediocre athletic career versus an amazing career, or even going pro.”
The more he worked with athletes, the more he realized he wanted to make a career out of it. In 2011 he opened ASAP Fitness in Wheeling, where he provides elite and personalized athletic training to high school, collegiate and pro athletes. “I always say to my athletes, ‘No one cares. Work harder. Just be great',” Reed said. He teaches them not to worry about the things they can’t control, to set small goals, to attack the goals, and to believe that the process will work. But perhaps the most important part of his job is getting his clients to believe in their potential.
“I owe a lot to Coach K and his belief in me. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today without him.”