Reynolds High grad trains Olympians

Speas stated he is at the top of his game as a coach but always looks to get better every day.

Reynolds High grad trains Olympians
July 28
07:00 2016

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Being able to showcase your talents in the Olympics is the pinnacle of many athletes’ careers.  For some, being able to train those athletes and assist them in getting to that level is even more of an accomplishment.

Derrick Speas, a Reynolds High graduate, has been coaching athletes in the area of speed for over a decade. Speas is now the High Performance coach for the Chinese Olympic speed skating team.

As a youth, Speas excelled at track and field and football, which enabled him to obtain a scholarship to a junior college in Garden City, Kansas.  After staying there for two years, he transferred to Kansas State University for a short time.  After finding out he was to become a parent, he came back to Winston-Salem State University to finish out his degree.  He said he didn’t have a plan when he returned, so he had to figure something out.

“I stuck to my roots and what I was good at and that was speed,” said Speas.  “It was something that came natural to me and it was something that I’ve always had. So me coaching young athletes: I just needed an opportunity to be seen.”

According to Speas, Richard Watts, principal of Winston-Salem Prep, gave him his first chance to showcase his talents.  He started as a second-grade teaching assistant.  Speas stated he always had ambition to continue climbing the ladder, so when Stan Elrod, principal of Reynolds High, offered him the opportunity to coach at the high school level, he couldn’t say no.

“Him giving me that opportunity to display my talents was the start of having young athletes believe in me,” said Speas.  “From a coaching perspective, I wanted to do more than just coach athletes. I wanted to make a difference.  I wanted to push these athletes so they have a different out-look on life.”

Speas stated that his athletes bought in immediately to what he wanted to teach them; he was part of a state championship during his first year.  He said that his goal was never to be the best locally but wanted to be known worldwide.  In 2004, he started his own business and was training young people on how to become faster.

After training young people for years, the word spread about the skills Speas had.  He trained Anthony Lavine, who was attending Tennessee State University at the time. After training with Speas, Lavine was able to go to the NFL draft combine and perform at a very high level and leave with some of the best times at the combine. Lavine is a cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens.

Following Lavine’s performance at the combine, Speas was able to meet many individuals from agents and other representatives in hopes he would have similar results with their athletes.  This expand-ed his brand exponentially. He said that he wanted his athletes to feel like they were part of a family and educate them not only on the track but on the finances as well so they will be financially independent well into old age. After years of perfecting his craft, he was invited to join the U.S. Olympic team.  In 2015 while in Salt Lake City, Utah coaching the U.S. Speed skating team, he was approached by Li Yan of the Chinese team.  She told him that she liked what he was doing with his team.

“She asked me if I had ever been to Beijing and I told her I hadn’t. I wasn’t turned off or scared to take my show overseas.  I was intrigued by someone who took notice and could see that I had talent.  She took the time out to get to know me as a person and as a coach,” Speas continued.

He stated he saw some similarities in coach Yan that he saw in himself. After taking her up on her offer to visit Beijing he was shown the facilities and to see if he liked the situation. Speas liked what he saw and will now coach the Chinese speed skating team through the 2018 Olympic games.  He stated the biggest difference thus far is that many of the athletes in China have so much passion about their country. Many of his athletes are motivated by the love of their country, not any outside influences.

The food and language barriers have been the toughest things to adjust to but he says with time that will not be an issue. He says his desire to push young people forward is what makes him as good as he is in coaching.

His expectations for Team China in 2018 are very high and he just wants to do his part to make sure he leaves these Olympic games as not only a coach but an Olympic medalist winning coach.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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