Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Former Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Sharieffa Barksdale organized a track and field camp that was held in Harrodsburg in 2010 and expanded to Centre College this week. The two former Olympians had 10 other current or former Olympians at Centre to help them instruct participants and coaches.
Joyner-Kersee was named the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated after winning three gold, one silver and two bronze medals in four Olympics. Barksdale, a hurdler who lives in Lexington, has also been active with U.S. Track and Field coaching and organizing teams and she also provides individual instruction for athletes.
"This camp is about helping kids become well-rounded individuals that just happen to also like track and field,” Joyner-Kersee said.
“I want every kid out there and every coach out there to know that in each kid there is a winner in them and they should let nothing stand in their way. That’s the message we wanted the kids to leave here with. Believe in your dreams,” Barksdale said.
The two shared various thoughts on the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy that started Sunday and ended Wednesday afternoon:

Question: Will there be another camp like this here next year?
Barksdale: “We don’t know yet. We have to see how things go for Centre College and once (Centre track coach) Lisa Owens gives us the go-ahead, we will see what happens. Right now we don’t know because we have to look at the numbers, but the Olympians all liked it and would like to come back. I do indeed think it was a success because the kids have enjoyed it and they say it has been a life-time experience for them. If the (financial) numbers are right, we would like to come back.”
“If it was not for Centre College asking for Jackie and I to host this camp, there probably would not have been a camp. Lisa has really worked for eight months getting the word out. None of the coaches in Kentucky or any other state can say they were not given the information because Lisa has a web page. It was on KTCCCA (Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association), and they have been a big supporter of this camp. We have had some positive people behind the scenes putting it together.
“It was an honor and pleasure to come here to Centre College and I would like to thank the president of Centre College for allowing Lisa and having faith and confidence in Lisa to put on this caliber of camp because she did a great job. If things work out right, we would love to be back, too.”

Question: Why were you able to improve this camp so much in one year from the one at Harrodsburg in 2010 to where you had about 160 participants and 10 other current or former Olympians on staff as clinicians?
Barksdale: “I knew I could get to the Olympians to agree to come to Kentucky at Centre College to put on this camp. We went from 45 last year to 160 this year.”

Question: How did you enjoy your time at Centre College?
Joyner-Kersee: “I enjoyed it tremendously. It was a great event, and the kids were like sponges soaking up the information. When it was time to break, they didn’t want to break. I just hope they are able to prolong a career from the knowledge they gained from all of us. We all have different insights and different ways to help them. Just having Tyson Gay here says a lot. He has a big meet this weekend in New York. So do our shot put girls. But for them to be here and touch these kids and talk to them was a blessing. You can’t go anywhere in the country and get this many Olympians to work hands on with you where you are able to ask questions. Not send it by letter, but ask in person and get an answer.
“The support of Centre College was tremendous, and Lisa Owens did a tremendous job making all our Olympians feel at home. I drove eight hours to be here and would do it again because of the way I was treated.”

Question: How many people working at this camp will be competing in the 2012 Olympics in London?
Barksdale: “You will have Aretha Thurmond (discus), Kristin Heaston (shot put), Bershawn Jackson (400-meter hurdles), Tyson Gay (sprints) and Janie Nieto (high jump). I think all of them will make the team.”

Question: Are track and field athletes, even Olympic medal winners, always so hands-on in their work to help youngsters in this sport?
Joyner-Kersee: “Yes. We have a passion for our sport. One thing I really, really hope will start to change is that we will stop losing some of our athletes to other sports. Nothing against soccer, football, basketball or anything, but I think every athlete should be able to run, jump and throw. If you want to do soccer, football or basketball, when it is all said and done, you have to be able to run right and have the proper running mechanics. Lot of times people see because we are Olympians and think this is all we have ever done, but we all do all kind of sports. I played basketball and did it all. But it all came back to how do I run efficiently? How should I jump? Just learning how to land properly or even fall was big. I just hope we are able to continue this and see it grow.
“I know there is a lot of untapped talent here. I worked with one youngster named Jacob, and he doesn’t have a hurdle coach and learned how to hurdle from You-Tube. I said, ‘Say that again.’ He is a great hurdler, too. We exchanged numbers. There is just a lot of untapped talent.
“Athletics is an opportunity to be able to tap into other avenues they want to pursue in life. They have to have balance with their academics. But in this country, we are dealing with an obesity problem. We need kids to be active, up and moving. It was hot this week, but we kept it fun. We don’t want any kid to associate track and field with being so hot that they would not want to run. We tried to switch it up to keep it fun and also engage them so when they leave they want to go to other camps.”

Question: With the way the Olympians all almost acted like big kids themselves, don’t you think the kids picked up on that and it made camp more fun?
Joyner-Kersee: “I think it is good. That’s why when we work together to partner up. If you see someone doing something wrong, tell them. That is how you will become better yourself. If you know the technique and this person is not doing it right, tell them. That shows you know.”