‘Transformational coach’ After 57 years at Catholic High, Pete Boudreaux calls it a career

by: William Weathers // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

Fifty-seven years ago, Pete Boudreaux was looking for a job when he signed a contract to teach and coach at his alma mater, Catholic High in Baton Rouge.

He recalled working for the sum of $5,400.

Boudreaux subsequently signed 56 more one-year contracts, putting into motion one of the most influential careers as a teacher, guidance counselor, athletic director, along with his specialty – coaching cross country and track.

“That wasn’t the gameplan when I first started,” Boudreaux said of his 57-year career. “I needed a job and Catholic High hired me being my alma mater. Then I kept signing those one-year contracts.”

A career’s worth of memories reflected fondly on the impact Boudreaux had, and the immense legacy he leaves behind, following Wednesday’s gathering in the Catholic High gymnasium to celebrate the 82-year-old’s retirement.

“We wouldn’t be the school we are today without coach Boudreaux,” said Lisa Harvey, Catholic president and the school’s former principal.

Boudreaux was showered with both gifts and praise, standing in front of hundreds of his former students and athletes who were on hand to extend their well wishes. There was also a collage of pictures of Boudreaux in his element in the classroom and track through the years, and a heart-felt video tribute from some of the people that closest with him at Catholic.

“It’s touching that you came to say hello to the old coach,” he said.

Boudreaux commanded the kind of attention typically reserved for heads of state. He calmly and generously welcomed seemingly endless lines of people wanting to say thanks, offer congratulations and share stories with the man of the hour.

There were hugs, handshakes and pictures and in some cases, there were tears shed.

“There was a book written (by Joe Ehrmann) called InsideOut Coaching,” said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. “There’s two type of coaches, there’s transformational coaches and there’s transactional coaches. Coach Boudreaux’s definitely a transformational coach.

“He was about teaching young men to become men and didn’t force them to become men quicker than they needed to,” Bonine said. “When they leave here, they come back with a skill set that’s prepared them to go into college or college athletics. He gave that guidance to them.”

Former Catholic High running back and track standout Karl Bernard, who has his own law practice in New Orleans, was one such former athlete who returned to lavish praise on his former coach.

Bernard, who signed with LSU before finishing his career at UL-Lafayette, authored a book, Lessons From My Fathers, that paid homage to the different men that helped shape his own path in life.

Bernard dedicated an entire chapter to Boudreaux.

“The main thing was he took the words I can’t out of my vocabulary,” Bernard said. “I thought I couldn’t do something, and he told me I could, and we did.”

Boudreaux authored Louisiana’s greatest coaching success story in cross country and track history, combining to win a staggering 52 state championships in indoor and outdoor track, along with cross country.

The breakdown goes like this: 18 state titles in outdoor track, 14 indoor titles and 20 state crowns in cross country.

Catholic also had 17 state runner-up finishes in outdoor track, five in indoor and 10 in cross country.

Moreover, 136 of his athletes won state championships under Boudreaux’s guidance.

“Organization, teaching kids how to love track because track is not easy,” Zachary track coach Chris Carrier, who spent eight years working as an assistant to Boudreaux and has won 10 combined (boys/girls) state titles at ZHS. “Just getting people to have a lot of success. To get those kids to love what they do, get them to perform at a high level.”

Boudreaux’s achievements have been recognized on a national scale when in 2016 he was named Coach of the Year by U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Bonine, then executive director of Nevada’s Interscholastic Athletic Association, was on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of High Schools when he presented Boudreaux with a medallion for his induction into the National High School Hall of Fame in ’16 in Reno, Nevada.

“To receive that award is the pinnacle,” said Bonine, whose two sons both attended Catholic and were part of the track team. “You can’t get anything higher than that. He had 138 ex-players and families that showed up in Reno for his induction.”

Boudreaux was recognized in ’19 once again as Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. He gained enshrinement into both the LHSAA’s Hall of Fame in 2000 and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in ’14.

He’s a part of Catholic High’s ‘Grizzly Greats’ Hall of Fame and the school renamed its track in his name in ’17.

“I’ve done it all,” Boudreaux said. “I’m trying to follow God’s plan early on in your career and you don’t know what it is. Then after a while it dawns on you that you can make a difference in people’s lives. I took that very seriously from a maturity standpoint and a religious standpoint.

“If I can help them, that’s wonderful,” Boudreaux said. “It’s an opportunity and it’s a challenge. Young men need people that can get on them and say it’s alright.”

Catholic principal Dr. Tom Eldringhoff asked Boudreaux during the second semester about his plans for the future to which there was no concrete answer.

Boudreaux said the pace at which he lived and worked had slowed. He was hospitalized last fall with an infected spine that severely limited his mobility, and it wasn’t until he completed several months of rehabilitation that he regained a semblance of normalcy. 

He also thought about his wife Pat who ensured her share of health-related issues before reaching a final decision to retire.

“I need to be with her more,” he said. “It’s been a great ride. I’m blown away when I counted the years and it made me realize, ‘You have been here long. You’re an old geezer and you won’t admit it’.”

Both Catholic High and dignitaries on a local, state and national level took time bestowing gifts on Boudreaux.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome awarded a ‘Key to the City’, while Gov. Jeff Landry had a proclamation read and a certificate given to the coach.

Catholic graduate and U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, who made remarks about Boudreaux earlier this week on the House Floor, had a plaque presented to Boudreaux along with an encased American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

Boudreaux also received an engraved clock from CHS as a symbol of the number of hours he dedicated to the school. The school also started the ‘Pete Boudreaux Athletic Fund’ which will be a way to directly support CHS athletics.

“The coaches are taking bets that the first day of school I’d be back here,” Boudreaux said. “There’s a good chance I will. I told them I’d be a volunteer with no pay next year. I’d help in any way I can.”