At Yokoto Air Base, Japan
Click here for news article in “Stars & Stripes”–
World-class athletes give track tips at Yokota – Pacific – Stripes
By James Kimber, Stars and Stripes, March 29, 2015
My thoughts . . .
This past weekend, March 28-29, I visited Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan, with Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the triple jump, at one of his “World Record Camps” for youth athletes in Track & Field. His partner is Mike Powell, Olympian and current world record holder in the long jump. Assisting them (besides me) was Olympic hammer thrower, Ken Flax. The camp was hosted by the Yokota Striders, a club comprised mostly of military personnel living and/or working on base. Day one, a track meet between three schools was competed on base. Day two, athletes returned to the track for our day-long camp workshop. Among the four of us, we covered all the categories of events – jumps, throws, sprints, distance running. The student athletes were amazing! They were so attentive, receptive, excited to take part, and extremely grateful. Did they ever have fun! The day was full of activity, with fun games –and even dancing– interspersed with the traditional event workouts plus Olympic and world record story-telling by the coaches.
Coaching is what I do for fun. My regular profession is all about education, including teaching, and primarily working to support aspiring teachers earning their credentials. I recognize someone who makes an effective teacher, and I hope I don’t embarrass Willie by saying his teaching skills are exemplary. It’s not often when I see a large group of children, (and these were a wide range in ages), who are completely engaged and positively enthralled, by his leadership skills. This is how learning happens, when children are enjoying themselves and challenge themselves.
It was sad to leave so soon, and the children seemed sad to see us go, but what sweet memories. I’ll cherish those moments, as I will cherish my first viewing (hanami) of the cherry blossoms (sakura) on my final day in beautiful Tokyo.