The Art of Coaching
I was first introduced to the sport of track and field at the tender age of 8 years old. My very first coach was a man by the name of Van Wilkerson residing out of Scottdale, Georgia. Scottdale isn't to be mistaken with Scottsdale Arizona by any means but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Scottdale produced some the best athletes and entertainers and many of them have made their way to national prominence. As an 8 year old I was impressed with the level of athleticism that some of my peers possessed and they inspired and pushed me to become a better athlete. Many times we found ourselves playing sports with boys 4 and 5 years older than us. It was amazing to see an 8 or 9 year old kid holding their own against boys that were physically bigger and stronger. Although very talented many of them were not able to accept constructive criticism very well and were deemed un-coachable. Due to the fact that I felt I was not as good as my peers, I made sure that I paid extra attention to every word that came out my coaches mouth. If he said jump, I would jump and if he said give me 100 percent, I would give 1000 percent and each year I matured I saw myself inch closer and closer to becoming one of the better athletes in the group and by the age of 14 I found myself elevating past peers in nearly every athletic category. The kids that were faster than me as a kid were no longer that fast. The kids that were more athletic were now the same kids that were amazed at how fast I could run or how high I could jump. I made a decision at a very young age to work hard and to give my very best in all that I do because I wanted to walk in the footsteps of my 2 older brothers that were standout athletes at Columbia High School in Decatur Georgia. Although I may not have been the best basketball player or track and field athlete in the nation, I always gave my best effort.
Throughout my high school career I never had the proper coaching in track and field to take my talents to another level but I did have coach Spruce whom is a man that really cared about me and made sure I always attended the best competitions during my high school days and in hindsight I am so grateful to him. As a freshman in college I was coach by Edrick Floreal at University of Kentucky and he taught me the importance of hardwork, mental focus and setting my goals high. He told me on the 2nd day of practice that if I focused on jumping that I would be and Olympic Champion someday and I thought he was insane because I was set on running the 400 meters. After my sophomore year I transferred to Arizona State University and was coached by Greg Kraft and Darryl Anderson. Coach Kraft believed in me more than I believed in myself and convinced me that I was going to be one the best athletes in track and field history. After I won the Olympics in 2004 I was coached by some of the best technical coaches of all time such as Tom Tellez, Loren Seagrave, and Rana Reider. The information and science that I learned from these highly distinguished individuals have shaped my coaching style. In today's era of coaching in my opinion, I believe it is a partnership between 2 individuals constantly giving and receiving information so that an athlete can maximaze their potential. Coaching is an art and their are a few characteristics that are imparative to possess if you want to be successful such as caring about your athlete, believing in your athlete, respecting your athlete and their opinions, listening to your athlete, challenging your athlete mentally and physically, and finally encouraging your athlete. There isn't a cookie cutter to success but effort is everything and when a coach goes that extra mile to show their is a mutual respect an athlete will go to the edge of the earth and back for you creating a mutually beneficial tandum. I wrote all of this to say Great Athletes make Great Coaches, and Great Coaches make Great Athletes because at the end of the day it's a PARTNERSHIP.