Run Good and Keep Going, Part V
The Alumni Coaches of the GDS Running Programs
Scroll down to read Putting in the Work, the fifth installment in the Run Good and Keep Going series, in which we are sharing some of the stories of alumni coaches who have returned to GDS over the years.
Maya Braxton ’10 stood on a 900-ton, roof-top pedestrian bridge at Florida and West Virginia Avenues, six miles from GDS, discussing her civil engineering work with Moriarty Construction and GDS track and field. “It’s been amazing to construct a building in the city I grew up in,” she said. One of the benefits of coordinating installation of mechanical and electrical systems on a construction site, she explained, is that she starts and finishes her day early enough to coach.
Maya holds the current GDS school record in shot put and the third all-time best discus record. After her successes as a thrower in High School, Maya returned as a coach during the 2018-19 winter and spring seasons. Others profiled in the Run Good and Keep Going
series have explained their fondness for the GDS program and the strong community of friends built around track and field, and that’s true for Maya, as well. Yet, something else keeps bringing her back season after season. “I want to coach the person who breaks my record,” she said.
Like others before her, Maya fondly remembers the community of GDS track and field and is thoughtful about how current athletes are experiencing it. “Draper [Invitational] meets were always the most fun,” she said. “The throwing events were often first thing in the morning. I remember hanging out with friends from GDS and other schools afterwards.” The team continues to welcome new talent. “Last year, we had a bunch of new throwers on the team, which brought a lot of excitement,” Maya explained.
Tayo Jimoh ’10, another thrower alum who returned to GDS during the 2017-18 school year as an assistant coach, stayed in touch with Maya and GDS thrower William Goldberg ’19 this past year as he finished out his senior year. Maya and Tayo collaborated to support William both in his throwing—through video analysis and technical coaching—and the college application process. “We were able to share the excitement as he was getting into college,” Maya remembers.
Still, there are plenty of hours that are not exciting, plenty of hours of putting in the work. Maya has focused on developing three performance essentials in current throwers. First, she’s helping them get in shape with power and balance work in the gym. Then, of course, she’s focused on fine-tuning their form. “It means plenty of footwork drills, staying low, and moving quickly.” Shot put throwers snap 180 degrees as they “put” or launch a 4-5 kilogram metal shot at maximum velocity. Maya ensures they are making many practice throws both for the physicality (muscle memory) but also for the third essential element she’s bringing to the GDS program: mental preparation.
“It’s important that the throwers go out there and not get caught up in the competition. Sometimes it’s simply about focus and not psyching yourself out.” Maya describes a meet in which there was a large group of “rowdy kids behind the thrower circle.” Since then, she makes sure GDS athletes have plenty of practice throwing with distractions, mimicking large crowds or rowdy spectators.
“Maya is one of the most pragmatic people that I know,” says friend and former teammate Jes Christain ’10. “That’s an amazing quality to have in a coach. She's able to look at the strengths and weaknesses in an athlete and draw important conclusions, especially when dealing with athletes who are struggling to master the physical movements or strong mindset that it takes to be a good track athlete.”
Mira Brodsky ’20 shared her admiration for Maya and GDS track, noting the valuable and unique alum coach perspective Maya brings to the team. “Maya is a great coach because she was in my exact position as a passionate athlete/thrower at GDS. She understands how challenging it can be to be a focused, dedicated athlete while balancing the academic rigor at GDS, as well as extracurricular activities. When I was struggling to balance it all, she helped me come up with an abbreviated training plan, which gave me more time for school work. But best of all, she was always happy to talk and joke around with me, and I really enjoyed getting to hang out with her at practice!”
Maya expresses gratitude for the GDS program and her former coaches William and Anthony, who have welcomed her back as a team coach for the upcoming winter and spring seasons. Simply the fact that she’s still able to throw 30+ feet is a testament to her connectedness to GDS track and field. Maya continues to put in the hours with athletes in the gym and the throwers circle, coaching the next person who will break her record.
Ever hopeful, Maya paused as she walked along the construction site high above her city, then said, “Mira is close to breaking it.”
**** Next week's installment—Inner Strength—will be the final alumni entry in the series. The post will feature broken everything, grit, and alum coach Lauren Silberman ’08.