I experienced my first AAU track & field meet in 1975, as a soon to be 6 year old athlete, in launching an involvement in the sport and organization that will hit 40 full years next summer. As a college athlete, I became an assistant coach of a local AAU program, and am serving in my 16th year as a coach for my current program; North East Kansas Track Club.
In the summer of 2001, I became the parent of an AAU athlete, as my then, soon to be 6 year old daughter ran in her first AAU meet. Her competitive career included 45 national medals in 8 different events, and making what seemed like a thousand friends from around the United States & Puerto Rico. During those years we traveled to more than 20 states for athletic competitions, and connected not only as coach & athlete, but also as father & daughter. We swam in the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Gulf. We dined on the local favorites, rode every thrill ride at the local amusement parks, and stayed in accommodations that ranged from 5 star, to what I could only term as "star challenged". We visited historical museums, swam with dolphins in the wild, learned about other cultures, and even caught food poisoning the night before a big race.
For us, the competing was awesome, but the memories made, friendships built, and life lived, will far outshine any medals won. I have been blessed to have hundreds of my athletes get to experience the thrill of making it to the awards stand, and it has been rewarding to witness them all. But that little girl stepping on to the stand for the very first time in 2005 in New Orleans, and that young woman stepping off the stand in 2013 in Detroit will forever be my very best memories.
Keara has now taken up the thrilling aspect of coaching, and got to experience a few of her athletes earning hardware last summer in Des Moines, so this cycle will hopefully outlive me. She was so proud of her athletes, earning medals, breaking records, and setting P.R.'s. She swears that it can't get any better than the pride that a coach has in watching these kids accomplish their dreams........but it does. Wait until she gets to experience what I have!
NEK Track Club
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