Youth track club nurtures more than running

The runners of Next Level Track Club look to improve reaction time by practicing their start. (Photo by Timothy Ramsey)

Youth track club nurtures more than running
June 23
03:42 2016

To compete in the sport of track and field, one must possess the physical raw talent to run, jump or throw.  To excel in track and field, an athlete must obtain the technique, form and work ethic to take him or her to the next level.

The Next Level Track Club of Winston-Salem, head coached by Buddy Hayes, is a track and field club that competes in age group competitions while also providing tutorial and social skills education for young people.

It advocates that they are not a “win at all cost” track club, but instead believe all of its athletes are outstanding and cater to their specific needs.

“The greatest satisfaction I get is seeing the kids accomplish and achieve their goals,” Hayes said.  “When you see them put their heart into things and see them reach that goal, it gives me the greatest satisfaction.”

Hayes said he retired from track and field in 2004 because of health reasons and was asked to come and be an adviser to the track club that year.  He later became head coach and has remained in that capacity since then.

He emphasized the track club does not just focus on athletics, but also mentoring and tutoring, too.

Next Level has kids as young as 6 years old on the team, and they aim to groom them until they make the next step in their athletic endeavors. The club has graduated many athletes that have gone on to  compete on the collegiate level as well as international competition.

“We had a real sense of unity, and everyone always cheered one another on whether they were good times or bad times,” said Shanice Jones, Next Level Track Club alum.  “We worked hard and we played hard. It was some of the best times of my life.  I miss the connections most of all.  Seeing the young kids look up to the big kids and seeing the growth in myself, it’s like a family.

The parents come out in full force to support the youth on the team.  They attend all of the practices as well as the events the club travels to.

Yolanda Shepherd-Reid, mother of club member Derrick Reid Jr., said she loves to see the kids happy and having fun no matter what place they finish.  She really enjoys the family atmosphere of the group. Her two older daughters have come through the program, and the eldest daughter now attends Campbell University.

The team competes all across North Carolina as well as in neighboring states like Virginia and South Carolina.  Last weekend, the club competed in the 17th annual Jim Law Track & Field Invitational in Charlotte.  Their focus during the prior week at practice was to shore up baton hand-offs during the relay events to ensure they do not drop the baton.  The 4 x100 meter relay team had some issues with exchanges during the second and third legs, so extra time was spent to nail it down.

Hayes stated he has taken somewhat of a back seat in coaching and has passed the majority of the duties to his younger assistants.  He is proud of what his team has accomplished and looks forward to where they can go from here.

“I have passed the torch to the younger coaches and they all have their own area of expertise they bring to the team,” Hayes said.  “It’s not just track and field with us; we are with the kids all through the year.  Track is just one phase of our activities because you can’t make it through college by just running. You have to have the intelligence to complete the work in the classroom as well.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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