The CoachUpWay Winner: September 2016
After a short hiatus, we're bringing back The CoachUp Way, a contest to find out which of our athletes are working hard, seeing improvements, and deserve some public shine. If you'd like to enter, head here and tell us your story! The winner will get a CoachUp styled gift-bag and a blog post celebrating their successes.
This month, we're celebrating Dorian Gaines and her massive improvements on the track. Before heading to high school last year, Dorian and her father Kevin scoured CoachUp for the person that would take her game to another level. That coach was none other than Eric N'Dri, a former Olympian for the Ivory Coast and sprinter extraordinaire. Eric was not the closest option for the Gaines family, but he was, as Kevin put it during a recent phone interview, "the man, the absolute man." So, last summer, Dorian and Kevin started driving to Virginia Beach, all because they had a great feeling about working with Coach Eric.
"We had to travel about 80-90 miles to get to coach and that's not because he's the closest either."
After the first session -- which took place back in June of 2015 -- the Gaines' were hooked. Dorian's goal was to be selected for the high school track and field team as an 8th grader -- yes, that's right. In order to run with athletes almost four years older than her, Dorian knew she'd need some serious training -- that's where Eric came in.
"He was an Olympic sprinter for the Ivory Coast, that's as close as you can get to first-hand help, you know?" Kevin explained. "He was worth the travel distance alone just based on getting that experience."
During the first session, Kevin sat to the side and observed how prepared Eric was before, during, and after a session -- a true professional, as he put it. But his favorite part? Eric wasn't the type of coach to yell and command orders, no, not at all -- in fact, he did every single workout with Dorian. All of a sudden, she was getting real-time help with real-time support from an authority on the subject and the Gaines' realized it was a match ready to succeed.
"When they started to run, he was running with her -- which was very cool. Of course, that didn't make it any easier, but you can't get an experience like that anywhere else," Kevin said. "It was like hitting a homerun out of the park on the first pitch."
Over the summer, Dorian and Eric worked with a focus on technique, fundamental sprinting, and some indoor track training -- all with that one difficult goal in mind: making the high school team as a middle schooler. "I don't care if I have to drive extra, this is the guy we need." The result? Dorian ran the third fastest time in the state for her age after working with Eric.
Oh, and she made the junior varsity team as well. Animated below is an incredible highlight from Dorian last indoor season -- watch her blow by the competition during the race's second-to-last lap!
"Her high school coach spoke to me after a meet last year and all he said was that '[his] future is bright with her,'" Kevin recounted. "That says it all: how prepared she was, how Coach Eric got her prepared, and the pair's ability to put it all together."
Not only is Dorian talented on the track, but she's a talented violinist as well, her father says. Dorian, despite her hunger and natural talent for racing, has been taking violin since she was seven years-old and, as her father puts it, "she will just not back off the lessons."
Along with straight A's and her inclusion in the church's string quartet, Kevin knows he's got quite the daughter.
"It sounds like I'm bragging, but it's just a fact. She's a great kid and that's why the running, lessons, and all her other interests, whatever they may be, I'll do whatever it takes to make those happen because she's holding up her end of the bargain."
When I asked him whether or not he could see Dorian running in college or beyond, he was more than optimistic. Crediting Coach Eric with helping Dorian learn the correct way to finish a race strong, Kevin says that he sees improvement with each race. But how serious is it?
"I'll tell you how serious she is about it: her and I usually go on a vacation together once a year, she came to me this summer and said: 'I want to go to the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon,'" Kevin beamed. "She told me, 'let's do that in replacement for Christmas, birthdays, whatever, I just want to go watch that.'"
Of course, they've only scratched the surface. Dorian is currently preparing for the fall indoor season and they can't wait to get back with Eric before long. She's done well based on natural talent alone, but Kevin knows that there's plenty of room to grow alongside whatever the future throws at her. While her aim is now focused on making the varsity track team, they're excited to bring another season of results and experience to Coach Eric in the wintertime.
For now, however, the verdict is in: the sky's the limit for Dorian and we can't wait to see what's next for this talented teenager. "I don't think it's unreasonable to see some sort of scholarship for her," Kevin said. "If she doesn't reach those goals, it's only because her interests went elsewhere, but I expect a very, very bright future."
Us too, Kevin, us too.