Central State University (Wilberforce, Ohio) track and field coach James Rollins started his coaching career with youth athletes competing in events hosted by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
Director of the Total Effect Sports Academy in Columbus, Ohio, Rollins started the program in 2008 with his then-wife to reach inner city youth and teach them about track and field, being healthy and the fundamentals of the sport. He credits his experience with AAU for helping to prepare him for life as a college coach.
“What it did was help me with the organizational skills and fundraising, dealing with athletes and parents, and the ins and outs of track and field being a head coach,” Rollins said. “[It helped with] pretty much everything I do now as a head coach.”
Having spent his early coaching career with youths ranging from 6-18 years old, Rollins has adjusted his coaching style since joining the college ranks.
“When you’re working with younger kids, you can’t have them out there doing elite workouts,” Rollins said. “You have to make it fun for them. [College student athletes] already love the sport. It’s still fun for them, but I don’t have to work as hard to make them appreciate it.”
Along with Rollins, many of his student athletes at Central State University competed in AAU events as youth athletes. Freshman sprinter Ronnie Fountain Jr. used AAU to discover which events he wanted to pursue in college.
“AAU helped me prepare for middle school and high school track,” said Fountain Jr., who was earned a berth to compete in AAU Junior Olympic Games as a youth athlete. “It helped me find which events I was good at and how hard I needed to work to get there.”
Similarly, sophomore jumper Destiny Johnson believes AAU helped with her self-confidence.
My experience with triple jump helped me with my confidence because I was able to compete against people all over the world [through AAU],” Johnson said.
Senior BaReeya Richardson believes AAU helped her in every facet of her life.
“My AAU experience helped me on and off the field mentally, physically and emotionally,” Richardson said. “When I came out for track, I used it to relieve my stress and emotions. I left everything on the track. It molded me into the woman I am today.”
A number of other student athletes on the Central State Marauders competed in one of more than 30 sports programs the AAU offers across the country.
The Marauders recently made the trip to Orlando, Fla., home of the AAU Track and Field Primary Nationals and Club Championships, to participate in Disney Spring Training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort