RICHMOND, Va. -- Long before the starter pistol fires, Robert Evans puts his athletes to the test while delivering a winning formula to reach the finish line in life.
“It’s not go hard all of the time its go smart,” Coach Robert Evans. “There is a lot of perseverance. A lot of dedication. A lot of commitment."
For nearly 40 years, Coach Evans has mentored young track and field athletes across metro Richmond.
“The main thing that track and field can do is allow them the self-confidence and self-esteem a lot of times is missing,” Evans said.
Evan’s East End Lightning goes toe to toe with the best of the best. At a competition in Detroit this month, his athletes ranked sixth in the country.
“It is exhilarating to be a part of the whole scene period -- not just for our kids, but for kids in general,” Evans said.
But don’t let the soft-spoken 60-year-old fool you. Coach Evans’ voice rises and bellows when he puts his athletes through strenuous drills.
His athletes may joke about his strict practices, but they said their coach’s dedication is unparalleled.
“Ever since I’ve been here he has been pushing me to do my best and be the best I can be,” Nirel Blake said. “You have to work hard to get where you want to be.”
Ray Loney doesn’t know where he would be without his coach’s guidance, love and support. As a fatherless boy with lightning fast feet, Evans helped him harness his talents all the way to a scholarship to Fordham University.
“He sees something in every kid. He is that kind of guy,” Loney said. “One thousand miles. I would run 10,000 miles for that man... without a doubt.”
Loney, now East End Lightning’s assistant coach, is giving back to the person who changed so many lives.
“He is definitely a blessing and a legend in our community,” Loney said. “A living legend.”
The East End Lightning team is made up of a little more than 100 athletes ranging in age from 5 to 18.
Additionally, Evans’ organization sponsors the Running of Cannonball Cooper which is Virginia’s oldest age group track and field competition.
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