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By Presley Miles, Saint James School
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"You don't know what you got, till it's gone"
This cliché has been in quite a few songs over time and has probably come out of our mouths a time or two only after we have lost something or someone dear to us. Fortunately, for our team we were able to know and truly enjoy what we had over the past few years. My hope is that you read all of this article and get down to what I'm asking each of you to do.
Our team was extremely sad when we found out that our coach, Kevin Madden, was being relocated to South Korea for his job with the military. He's a retired Colonel with the Army and is still relied on by various agencies. I can tell you that we absolutely know what we lost.
Coach Madden was recruited from a competing high school where he had won a state track championship and also led his girls to an astounding number of individual state championships in track, cross country, jumps and heptathlon. He was coaching the runner with the most individual state championships in state history.
He privately coached athletes to NCAA Division 1 scholarships and had coached at almost every level on multiple continents. We knew what we were getting in terms of bringing success to our program from day one.
What we didn't know is how he did it.
You know, maybe his teams just had a load of natural talent? But soon we found out.
From the first day on campus, his passion, vision and willingness to give everything to our success was evident. He was shown the grass field that was to be used for our team and given no budget.
No matter, he viewed that grass area as his slice of heaven. He poured his time, talents and money into making that barren plot of land our "field of dreams." Every item was hand built, from the jump pit to the steeplechase, to the throwing area, hurdles, all the way to the "Track Shack."
From the first day, he instilled in us the expectation of excellence and he mirrored his words in his own actions. I mean if he is working this hard for us, how can we not work this hard for ourselves. That thought was joined by, how can we not work this hard for each other, our school, our parents, and our God because of coach's teachings.
His rules were simple: Commit to the process and honor your parents, your coaches, your school, your God, and each other.
All he wanted at practice was all you had, every day he could get you. He was willing to be there every single day for two or three a days if that is what was required. Coach made every athlete feel like they could be of great value to the team if they committed -- and miraculously, it turned out to be true.
He is one of the, if not the, most certified (IAAF Level V/USATF Level 3 - Endurance/Jumps/Throws,, USATF Level 2 Sprints, Hurdles & Relays/Multis,,USA Weightlifting Coach, NSCA Professional Member over 40 years) and experienced coaches in the state of Alabama and what we noticed early on was his uncanny ability to recognize that someone had the natural features and potential to be great at a specific event.
For example, in March of 2018 he decided that Sydney Hart had the potential to excel in the discus. So, she threw her first event and finished 10th out of 49 athletes. One season later, she won the AHSAA 3A state championship in the discus and graduated with the school record.
Logann Dean was a gymnast who we brought out to practice. She was put through his assessment process and was introduced over time to the triple jump, long jump, hurdles, pole vault and eventually all of the heptathlon events. She started her track career in December of 2017 and in her first indoor season had a best finish of 123rd in the 60m dash ... but coach knew what was possible.
Fast forward to 2019. Logann holds state championships in the 60m hurdles, the 100 hurdles, the long jump, was the state runner-up in the 300 hurdles and yes, the runner-up in the very same 60m race where she first started in 123rd.
I could go through every story. There are so many of them. That's what HE actually did.
In every race report to the school's athletic director, headmaster and team, he made it a point to speak of every athlete. He made a point to say what they had accomplished and what was special and important to our team. It really made everyone drive to be better each week.
At every end of our season banquet, each athlete got their own highlight slide with more analysis than you would believe. He gave out PR awards, running and motivational books (always a personal note within), evening flexibility plans. He hand-built stretch wedges for us, you name it. How many 16-year-old girls can tell you more than you want to know about Emil Zatopek, Mary Decker and Jim Ryun?
He made sure everyone was fully immersed in our sport and yearned for more success and knowledge. We felt like there was no way we could be anything but successful in our sport and in life.
I can't count the number of times he told others about our quality of character, our intelligence, our dedication, our families, and our school. He always reminded us of just how good we had it and he always made sure to tell us to give thanks to our parents and teachers. His recommendation letters have had his athletes awarded the Jimmy Hitchcock Award, Gatorade Players of the Year, and they've gained entrance into colleges where they were not otherwise being seriously considered ...before joining the track and field team.
But what about that metric of success. Of winning?
Of the 41 events Saint James tracks for school records since 1955, he's been coach for 34. In only three years.
I had only one individual state championship prior to Coach Madden's arrival and, truth be told, it was utilizing his methodologies, training plan, and summer coaching that made me a better athlete. I like to call it 'AM' or 'After Madden,' because he made me the only athlete in Alabama history to win the 400m, 800m, 1,600m, and 3,200m across both indoor and outdoor seasons and I followed it up with an individual state championship in cross country in one calendar year.
Because of him, I was the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Freshman 2-mile champion. I've medaled every year I've run at New Balance.
He also led us to our girls program to their first calendar year sweep, winning the AHSAA Class 1A-3A State Indoor, 3A Outdoor, and 3A Cross Country Championships. We would have won outdoor without my points. And he developed depth at a small school.
Honestly, we only had one other state championship in the school's 65-year
Those championship rings will some day collect dust and stored away, but the confidence our ladies gained because of our coach will never fade. He won more than championships. He won hearts and minds. We knew that if our mind believed, our bodies would achieve.There was nothing we couldn't accomplish if that wasn't a priority.
Now, here's where you come in. This is what I ask of you.
Every one of you has gained something from a coach. We've had coaches who have taught you that you can improve more than you thought, inspiring you with confidence, pushing you when you wanted to quit, and building you up mentally. They've kept you humble, they've been there to listen and they've helped you understand your WHY, furthering you passion for the sport and leading by example.
They've taught you how to work within a team, they've made you feel a valued and loved part of that team, and they've held you accountable -- and taught you to hold others accountable -- proving you were special when you thought you were average.
They've demanded that you respect and honor yourself, your parents, your teammates, your school and your God.
My specific ask is that TODAY, you reach out to a coach, past and/or present, and tell them thank you.
Give back. It doesn't have to be two pages, single-spaced, and hand-written. It could be a simple random Thank You.
They'll know what you mean.
Call, text, tag an IG Post, or email, Just do it today. I'll look for your DMs confirming this, and yes, I'm holding you accountable. ;-)
Above all, thank you Coach Kevin Madden, Coach Browning, Coach Moore, Coach Jeremy, Coach Sally, Coach Ware, Coach Micah, Coach Deneta, Coach Campos, Coach Zach, Coach Dad, and all of the event coaches that not only prepared us to be champions in our sport but winners in all areas in the game of life.
Gone for a run,