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Ester Marsh column: Track and field program is a great way to stay fit

As many of you know, my husband and I have been coaching club track and field for over 7 years, the majority through our YMCA Track and Field program. We both got USATF level 1 coach certified, AAU double goal coach certified and he is in his apprenticeship for USATF official (which takes two years). Through the NFHS, I have gotten certifications and am planning to get more certifications in the sport track and field, since it’s a great passion of mine. As I have spoken about this before, track and field is a program that reaches so many children, young adults, adults and masters. We even had the national masters championship this past summer right here in NC at Wake Forest University, where the oldest participant was 97. You don’t see masters compete in the Super Bowl, just like you don’t see many older competitors in my sport — Judo. It is just too hard on the body by the time you are a “master.” As it shows in our community, so many people have taken up running because they can do it from their home, in a park or meet at a place like our YMCA parking lot to get their workout in. Running is a great way to get and stay fit no matter how old you are. Another reason why track and field is so great is the level of dedication of children and their parents who are part of our program. I have seen children who have struggled in school become honor roll students and children who just didn’t fit in to the “mainstream” sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball or football who excel in track and field. Parents who used to sit and watch are now walking around the track or doing a workout while we are practicing.

I am excited to see this. We have a wonderful relationship with our Rowan County high schools where we practice on their facilities from March through July.

Five of our Hurley YMCA coaches went to JDL this past weekend to track and field clinic for coaches, sponsored by the NC Track and Cross Country Coaches association. College coaches and Olympic coaches host clinics that we take part in. This is our third year and we love it. We build relationships with the college coaches for our children’s future, we receive amazing workout plans and learn lots of up-to-date information of the sport. To my great disappointment, it was mentioned that many smaller colleges need to cut programs, one of which is track and field. Right now, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington is on the chopping block. It is a shame, because UNCW has a great and successful program with amazing coaches. If this one is going to be cut who will be next? On our local level, youth track and field is becoming very popular due to the fact that our children can excel in a sport where they fit in and feel comfortable.. Many of them are students that have an opportunity to receive a great education through the sport. But, when the smaller colleges are cutting these programs and they are not national-ranked athletes, what will happen then?

At UNCW, it is being decided this month, I hope enough people will speak up and give the sport a voice. Its not the big moneymaker like football, but so many lives will be affected. I know some of my West cross country girls are interested in going there on a scholarship. I am trying to give this program a voice, but as loud as I can be, I can not do this alone.

If you have any questions please email me at emarsh@rowanymca.org or call 704-636-0111 ext 212.

Ester H Marsh, USATF level 1 T&F, AAU Double Goal coach, and member of NCTCCCA

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