July 23, 2012 — Coral Gables — Under different circumstances, University of Miami track and field coach Amy Deem might have been poolside at the London Aquatics Centre giving instructions to Michael Phelps instead of walking the infield at London Olympic Stadium encouraging the American team of sprinters, hurdlers, and long jumpers.
That’s because Deem, head coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s track and field team, was a swimmer before she fell in love with running. She grew up in West Virginia, competing in swim meets. But her prowess in track quickly emerged, and Deem attended Ohio University as a 400-meter hurdler.
Two serious knee injuries derailed her promising collegiate athletic career, but not her lifelong dream of becoming a coach.
“I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else,” says Deem. “When I got injured, I was disappointed because I had a fairly productive high school career and realized that I wouldn’t be able to follow it up in college. So I started coaching at a high school in Athens, Ohio, and it worked out for the best, because it allowed me to do what I always wanted to do. It just started earlier than I expected.”
Deem served as an assistant track coach for the Miami Hurricanes while interning in the UM Athletic Department’s Compliance Office in 1988. After her internship, she stayed in Miami and in 1990 was hired as the head coach for women’s track.
The program, along with her career, soared: Six Big East Outdoor Championships, seven Atlantic Coast Conference titles, 12 NCAA national titles, numerous All-Americans and coach of the year honors, and a stint as head coach of the 2007 U.S. World Championship Team. She’s coached several All-Americans and five Olympians, including UM alumna Lauryn Williams, who won the silver medal in the 100 meters at the 2004 Athens Games. (To read Deem’s entire bio click here.)
Now Deem has augmented an already stellar career with an appointment of Olympic proportions. Last February she was named head coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic track and field squad—a duty she considers both a “tremendous honor” and a “challenge,” as she also maintains her responsibilities as a University of Miami head coach.
“It’s been hectic. Recruiting for the upcoming UM class started July 1, so I’ve been trying to manage getting ready for the Olympics while doing official in-home visits,” Deem explains, crediting her coaching staff for picking up the slack. She left for London on July 11.
Part of her job in London, she says, will be to eliminate as much stress and as many distractions as possible to allow her team “to focus on the task at hand: winning medals.”
Deem already knows many of the athletes on the team, having recruited them to UM as college students or coached them during the 2007 World Championships. Two members of Team USA, Williams and T’erea Brown, competed at UM under Deem. Making her third Olympic team, Williams is a member of the 4×100 relay pool. Brown will compete in the 400-meter hurdles, an event she won at the 2010 U.S. Championships.
“T’erea is only 22, which is young for her event,” Deem said. “It’s going to be a great experience for her. She’s trained extremely well.”
Deem has high hopes for a women’s track and field squad filled with elite athletes. “A lot of our athletes are in the prime of their careers, and that bodes well to bring home a lot of medals.”
The London Olympic Games begin Friday, July 27, with track and field starting Friday, August 3. To keep up with all of the ’Canes competing in London, log on to HurricaneSports.com or visit http://olympiccanes.tumblr.com/
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