What creates a successful track and field athlete? SPIRE understands that it’s a combination of effective training and world-class coaching. SPIRE is where academia meets athleticism, where dedicated leadership meets enthusiastic athletes, and where track and field Olympians like Tim Mack and Kibwé Johnson coach the next generation of Olympic champions.
SPIRE is a family and community, backed by dedicated coaches committed to the success of their track and field students…coaches like Olympic gold medalist Tim Mack who believe in a well-rounded athlete who will not only succeed in track and field, but in life.
Tim Mack, one of the most decorated pole vaulters in USA history, looks back on his journey to Olympic Gold. “After college, I would decide to put any chance of living everyday life on hold for ten years to relentlessly chase the dream of becoming an Olympian. After failing at becoming an Olympian in 1996 and 2000, I would vow to not only make the Olympic Team in 2004, but that I would win a gold medal in Athens.”
Tim began his struggle to achieve the dream, constantly battling the mental and physical challenges he faced daily. As Tim explains, “I had designed my training programs and trained alone for four years. I constantly battled with massive self-doubt and being inferior to my competition.”
Tim reached out to many experts, internally calling them his support staff. He also turned to his own imagination, redesigning his shoes to make him taller and building a sled to help him run faster. Through it all, he kept his eyes on the prize and encouraged his own success. Tim says, “I came up with my email address [email protected] and typed it for the four years leading up to the Olympic Games.”
Tim looks back on his incredible Olympic achievements now and realizes he learned a valuable lesson along the way. “Throughout this incredible prophetic journey, I would miraculously learn that devoting my life to win Olympic Gold would not be about the triumph but would be more about the struggle.”
Tim’s hard work and dedication paid off when he earned his spot on the US Olympic Team with a pole vault of 5.90 meters. Tim wasn’t done yet, though. In the 2004 Olympics held in Athens, he not only earned the gold medal, but he set records with his astonishing 19’6 ¼” (5.95 meter) jump.
Tim, SPIRE’s Director of Programs/Development, brings his 38 years of competing and coaching experience to his students at the athletic academy. He holds both a Bachelor and a Master of Science in Sports Management from the University of Tennessee, and, on top of his Olympic presence, has a long list of competitive titles including several USA and World Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Tim explains his coaching philosophy: “At SPIRE, we work with the athletes to not only improve in the short term, but we also work with athletes so they will continue to improve throughout their careers. With the many resources at SPIRE, we leave no stone unturned as we improve the athlete with well-structured strength and mental training programs and provide athletic guidance from our world class track and field staff.”
Tim continues, “I work with each pole vault athlete on a day-to-day basis to carve an efficient and effective pathway of pole vault technique. This is done by consistently working through a multitude of exercises in a personalized program that mirrors what I have developed from my own training as an Olympic gold medalist, as well as from training pole vaulters of all ages.” He goes on to add, “I try to instill in young athletes that instead of waiting for someone else to inspire them to do something great, that maybe YOU are the one you are waiting for to do something great!”
Kibwé Johnson, the United States’ best and most versatile hammer thrower of all time, is a relative newcomer to the SPIRE coaching team, signing on in February of 2021 to the track and field family. Kibwé is an Olympian credited with five US titles and four US runner-up titles, who retired from competition in 2017 after his final World Championship. He is highly qualified for his position at SPIRE, holding a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Management from Ashland University (OH) and certifications as an NCCP coach.
A two-time Olmpian, Kibwé represented the United States in 2012 at the London Olympics and would go on to compete in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro four years later. Kibwé holds the unofficial world record for the combination of Hammer throw (80.31m/263’5″), Discus (65.11m/213’7″), and Indoor weight throw (25.12m/82’5″).
Kibwé discusses the Olympic journey, explaining, “Being an Olympian is much more than earning your way to the greatest competition on earth. It is about the grind. The process changes you to your core. Even if an athlete started for selfish reasons, they are changed from within through the process of ‘Olympianism.’ This is what can be learned by anyone seeking to take control.”
He goes on to add, “A big part of being an Olympian is just getting up in the morning, and attacking each day with the same vigor and reckless abandon that is usually reserved for daredevils jumping out of perfectly functioning airplanes.”
Kibwé faced a daunting reality along his Olympic journey. “Aspiring and Olympic level athletes spend 4–8 years at minimum just to make one single Olympic team. Depending on your event, all of that time may be spent training and motivating yourself for what is sometimes as little as less than a minute of total competition time.” Still, Kibwé found himself consumed with the journey and making extreme lifestyle choices, such as temporarily relocating to British Columbia, to pursue his dream.
After his journey to the Olympics, there was the inevitable reality of feeling a bit lost. Kibwé describes his post-Olympic mind-set, explaining, “I trained for 10 years with the explicit purpose of earning my spot on the Olympic team. After competing and returning home, I found myself in a bit of a funk emotionally. Come to find out, there is something veteran Olympic coaches refer to as ‘post-Olympic depression’. The same, I’m sure goes for anyone who trains with the expectation of an appearance at a specific endeavor. When you achieve it (or not), you reach a ‘now what?’ stage. That’s where the magic happens.”
For Kibwé, his “now what” involved finding his home in SPIRE’s track and field coaching family.
He explains that he is excited to be part of SPIRE’s track and field team, saying, “SPIRE is home to the most comprehensive track and field complex in the world. Our specialty is high school students aged 14-18 with our industry-innovating emphasis on what it takes to train the whole athlete.” He added, “We also happily accommodate high school graduates, masters, and professionals hoping to earn a spot on the Olympic team.”
“After all that time in deep training with very specific achievement goals in mind, what I have come to understand is that track and field and its individual disciplines are a tool. A tool to discover more about myself as I make my way through this life. This is the true power this sport offers us. This is what SPIRE offers you.
“SPIRE is THE best place to begin learning at an earlier age the lessons that will serve you throughout life.”
Kibwé understands the SPIRE difference. “One of the things that sets us apart is that our world class coaching staff has the ability to integrate athletes of different age groups and ability levels where it’s applicable to the learning process. This makes for a more holistic learning experience.”
“In addition to sport specific training, SPIRE specializes in mental skills training, nutrition, and leadership/communication skills. All of these components are coordinated with long-term systematic athletic training.”
“Coaching the SPIRE student athlete is an absolute joy for me personally,” says Kibwé. “It’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to be one of the contributors to their lives as they mature into their fullest potential.”
SPIRE is well recognized for its track and field program but encourages athletes of all sports to join the athletic academy or take part in sports camps. This private school in Ohio provides the same high-level commitment to all sports including basketball, swimming, drone racing and esports.
For more information about SPIRE, including leagues, camps and clubs, reach out via email to [email protected] or by phone at 1-440-466-1002.