Team Steve Camp Reflections

November 19, 2017

Well it’s been a week since the inaugural Team Steve Speed & Hurdle Camp concluded, and because of a busy work week and overall exhaustion, I am finally getting around to putting together some thoughts as I look back on the camp.

First off, the camp was a huge success, and I would go so far as to say that it was one of the most fulfilling, gratifying experiences of my life. With a total of 47 campers converging on the JDL Fast Track in Winston Salem NC, we had plenty of campers from in-state and from nearby South Carolina, but we also had campers come from far-away states like Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado. What I most enjoyed was watching the campers interact with each other, learn from each other, grow together, and bond with each other. Despite the fact that the campers might have known no one, or just a few people, prior to coming to the camp, they left having made many friends and feeling like part of a family.

Campers receive final instructions before preparing to get to work.

I want to thank everyone who made this happen, as there is no way I could have done it on my own. First I want to thank Craig Longhurst and his staff at JDL Fast Track for hosting the event and accommodating all of our needs.

Secondly I want to thank the coaches who helped me provide the campers with instruction. It was great knowing that I had a reliable group of experienced coaches with me who put the athletes ahead of their own egos. Such dedicated people are not easy to find. So thank you Hector Cotto, Jenna Pepe, Kevin Howell, Booker Nunley, and D.J. Hicks. Coach Hicks traveled all the way from Houston to be a part of the staff and he proved to be an invaluable member of the group.

Squad up. From left to right, Kevin Howell, Hector Cotto, Steve McGill, Booker Nunley, D.J. Hicks, Jenna Pepe

Hector and I go way back to when I first coached him in summer track after his senior of high school. He went on to become a two-time Olympian for Puerto Rico, and now has his own stable of athletes that he trains out of Raleigh, NC.

Coach Hector Cotto getting his teach on

Jenna and I go way back as well; I coached her in high school and also taught her English and Creative Writing. Now a coach at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, Jenna is one of the most warm-hearted, caring people I’ve ever met, and she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to sprinting and strength & conditioning.

Coach Jenna Pepe observes as campers do their sprint drills.

As for Coach Kevin, he and I spent many Sunday afternoons together for several years, coaching sprinters and hurdlers, and I also coached his daughter Jacklyn, who is now a senior at the University of Kentucky, where she hopes to compete for an NCAA championship in the 100 hurdles this year.

Coach Kevin Howell provides instructions for a group of athletes practicing their start.

Booker Nunley and I also go way back. I coached his oldest son (also named Booker), his middle son Malcolm, and his daughter Justine. His youngest son Alex finished first in the 13-14 age group at USATF Junior Olympics last year, and I still get with Alex for training sessions as often as possible, although it’s a little more difficult now that I live three hours away.

Coach Booker Nunley, with Coach D.J. Hicks in the background, keeps a close eye on the campers.

Thanks also to the videographers Tim and Wo (I don’t know their last names), whom Hector hired to film the camp. The digital version of the camp which will be available for purchase within a couple weeks will be centered around footage provided by these two gentlemen. Tim’s method of filming while riding his bicycle in front of the hurdlers was quite innovative, to say the least.

Thanks also to my teaching colleague and professional photographer Laura Mueller for coming to the camp Sunday afternoon to take some excellent photographs of the campers and coaches. Those photos can be viewed on the Facebook page.

Thanks also to all the parents who sacrificed their time and money to bring their kids to the camp. The coaches and I appreciate your commitment to your athletes’ success, and we certainly know the camp could not have been successful without it.

Leading this camp, and putting my own name on it, was a big deal for me, because I prefer to keep a low profile. While I’ve helped out at plenty of camps over the years, this was the first time leading my own. Enough people kept telling me that I needed to do so that I finally decided that maybe I should. On a personal level, what was most rewarding about the camp was that I went ahead and put myself out there front and center. And I was able to teach, to a larger group, the style of hurdling that I feel is most effective and most efficient. First and foremost, I am a teacher, and that’s what this camp was all about. And that’s what any camp I lead in the future will be about, because, to me, running fast isn’t just about running fast; it’s about knowing what you’re doing so that you can duplicate it over and over again, regardless of weather conditions, etc.

This guy put the “Steve” in Team Steve.

Finally, I want to talk a bit about the T-shirts we had designed for the camp. Firstly, the image is a drawing done by Susan Pepe (Coach Jenna Pepe’s mother) based on a photograph from a race that appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer back in June of 2001. The athlete depicted on the shirt is Cameron Akers — a hurdler I coached to national prominence back in 2000-2001. Between March and July of 2000, Cameron went from being someone who had never hurdled before to being someone who ran 14.23 over the 39’s and finished second at Junior Olympic Nationals in the 15-16 age group. Cameron passed away tragically in 2012 at the age of 28. In talking to his mother afterwards, she said that the one thing she was most afraid of was that Cameron would be forgotten. I told her that if I had anything to do with it, Cameron will never be forgotten. So when you see that T-shirt, or wear it, be aware that the image on the shirt is of one of the best hurdlers I’ve ever coached, and one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had. A week prior to his passing, he and I attended a track meet together at the JDL facility; I hadn’t seen him for a couple years before that, so it was a joyous reunion. We laughed and joked and he helped me coach my hurdlers. I like to think that he still does.




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