Title: Coach Maddox molds tomorrow's Olympians
When the United States sends its track and field representatives to the 2004 Olympics, most of us won't recognize them until they earn gold medals and fame. But Larry Maddox will have known about them for four years. The Anderson University track and field coach will be working with the 2000 U.S.A. Junior World Team this year as they compete in a series of exhibition track meets in Canada, Mexico and Chile. Those athletes will become the base of America's track team when the 2004 Olympics are held.
"The junior program is one of those things that the (United States Olympic Committee) funds to be that bedrock in developing future Olympians," Maddox said. "These are practice meets for them to learn how to work together and get to know each other."
Maddox will serve as the head manager and assistant coach to Gene Mullin on the team comprised of 35 men and 35 women. As the head manager, his responsibilities include attending all technical meetings, certifying athletes for competitions according to the protocol and making arrangements regarding housing, transportation and food.
The team is made up of high school athletes and first- or second-year college runners who don't turn 20 during the 2000 calendar year.
"Some of the kids have made the Olympic qualifying standard," Maddox said.
Maddox was selected to coach the team by the USOC in December and will be working on his fourth international assignment.
In 1991 he was an assistant coach at the Olympic Festival in Los Angeles and in 1995 he was the head coach for the North team in the Olympic Festival. Under his guidance, the North team won the Festival for the only time in the 15-year history of the event.
The Olympic Festival pitted potential Olympians from all four regions of the United States against each other, but it was dissolved by the USOC recently.
"We had four former medal winners at the Olympics on the North team," Maddox said. "It started out for boxing, swimming and track and field, some of the more visible sports. It was started to promote the sports to get to the Olympics, but got so that it almost destroyed itself. The USOC no longer funds it."
Maddox was also at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He was the manager of the warmup and practice facility.
While the Olympic Festival is gone, the Junior program is still promoted by the USOC and will be doing three exhibitions before the world championships in October at Santiago, Chile. The first meet is Tuesday in Montreal against the Canadian Junior Team. The second is also against Canada in Sherbrooke the following week and the final exhibition is in Monterrey, Mexico, against its Junior team in August.
"On a trip like this your coaching is limited to being a facilitator, giving feedback and making sure they are in the right place at the right time," said Maddox, who will be coaching the 5,000, high jump, discus, 3,000 and 3,000 steeplechase.
Maddox will be traveling with the team through the Mexico exhibition, but will return to AU to coach his own cross country team in the fall.
"I'm not going to Chile," said Maddox, who has coached the AU cross country team for 22 years and the track team for 18. "My first responsibility is to my teams this fall and track people next spring."
So what has Maddox learned from working with the USOC in recent years?
"One of the highlights so far has been that I'm seeing a change in the hierarchy of the organization and it's for the good," he said. "They are being more responsible for the coaches and athletes. That's been the exciting thing. I see the restructuring as being a fresh breeze and some exciting things happening."
JUSTIN BATES is a sports reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.