UPDATE 7/25/13 5:04 P.M., EST:
The Kentucky Fillies Elite Track Club have surpassed their mark of $3,000, so they have more than enough money to travel to the AAU nationals in Detroit, Mich. For all of the NewsOne readers who contributed to the cause, thank you!
Last summer, Tamika Townsend of Louisville, Ky., founded the all-girls Kentucky Fillies Elite Track Club, with the hopes of empowering girls and teens through sports.
The results have been amazing. Many of the girls, ranging from ages 8 to 18, have won races at the regional and national levels. The oldest member, Taylor Bradley, says she is attending the University of Louisville on a partial scholarship and credits Townsend with helping her to improve as a 400-meter sprinter.
“On and off the track, she’s like a Mother to me,” Bradley, 18, said of Townsend. “She’s there if I need her. She’s encouraging to all of the runners. If you need help, she’ll help you with anything. She’s like a Mother to all of the Mothers. She treats them like her daughters.”
That motherly bond Townsend, 38, forms with her young runners is what she cherishes most. Known as “Coach T” by her runners, Townsend is a single Mother of three who works as a middle and high school substitute teacher during the day and a night auditor at a local Courtyard Marriott.
She also coaches track and field at Eastern High School, where she first met Bradley. With the spare time she has left during the summer, she devotes her energy to cultivating the 15 young girls on her track team.
In addition to training the girls to be top runners, Coach T feels as though the life lessons she is teaching them are equally rewarding.
“Some of them have never been out of Louisville,” Coach T says. “Some of them have never stayed at a hotel or even just had a sit-down dinner until they got with me. That’s something that just makes me love what I do, to introduce them to things that people just take for granted.”
Coach T coaches track at Johnson Traditional Middle School, where Walter Munday‘s 12-year-0ld daughter is a member of the team. He noticed Coach T’s professionalism with the girls and asked her for assistance in helping his daughter improve her running technique. From their conversation, Munday learned that Coach T fine tuned her coaching expertise from being a 400-meter runner at Eastern Kentucky University.
“I saw the way the middle school athletes on her team competed,” Munday said. “I noticed most of her athletes were at the top. She was pushing them around that track and when they were done, she actually went up to them and talked to them about what they could have done better. She didn’t wait until the next track meet.”
At a recent track meet in Atlanta, her girls won heats in various races at almost every age group. The team’s success, however, does require support.
Coach T and some of the Mothers with girls on the team have had to fund-raise to pay for travel expenses. And because many of the Mothers have to work long hours, they cannot be as active with the team as they would like. This leaves Coach T working with the girls alone in most cases.
And yet, 11 of her girls have qualified to compete at the AAU Junior Olympic Games next week in Detroit, Mich., but need $3,000 to cover the travel expenses. Nicole Aghaaliandastjerdi, who has a daughter on the team, has started a gofundme.com campaign that has generated $1, 425.00 so far.
Tamika says it is critical that the girls compete at the race because of the national attention they will receive. Moreover, excelling on such a high level will help Coach T build the reputation needed to continue helping more young girls like Bradley earn college scholarships.
“This is something I am very passionate about,” Coach T said. “I ran track through high school and college. I had a good coach that picked me up and dropped me off. I pick up at least two girls every day right along with my daughter [for practice]. I feel like somebody did it for me, so…this is my calling.”
Donate to the Kentucky Fillies Elite Track Club here.