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As an assistant coach at UCLA, Chris Asher is on the practice track nearly every day. During a recent workout with a client, a well-known NBA superstar also was working out nearby and approached him.
“Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) came to the area I was coaching at,” Asher recalled. “He was doing his workout and when he saw me teaching technique for the start of the 40-yard dash he stopped his workout and asked me how to show him how to do it properly, saying that he had never been coached on how to do a proper start. I must say that I did enjoy that.”
Asher is looking for more experiences like that not just with professional athletes but with high school athletes from throughout California through his business, Gold Medal Excellence All-Sports Training and Conditioning.
The formation of Gold Medal Excellence for Asher came after a successful 15-year coaching career where he first served as an assistant track and field coach at Cal State Fullerton (1997-2002), then the director of track and field and cross country at Cal State Los Angeles (2002-2012) and now serving as the events management and operations director for track and field at UCLA.
At Cal-State L.A., Asher coached five individual NCAA champions in track and in 2006 his women’s cross country team won an NCAA regional title and placed fourth in the national finals.
Asher has also coached several elite athletes outside of college, including sprinter Joe Criner (20.14), Damein White (20.32), hurdler Derek Knight (13.20), current NFL player Greg Salas, former NFL player Reuben Droughns, current Major League Baseball relief pitcher Sergio Santos (Toronto Blue Jays), current National Basketball Association player Trevor Ariza (Washington Wizards) and 2005 Oakland A’s first-round draft pick Danny Putnam.
“I started Gold Medal Excellence while being a collegiate coach because I would always get approached by athletes or parents asking to teach them how to run properly, run faster and work on agility,” he said. “When trying to get faster, the first thing that comes to mind is a track coach and being a successful collegiate coach lends more credibility to it.
“While high school and club coaches are phenomenal, it is very difficult to teach proper running form and technique to a wide variety of athletes if you don’t have the know-how or even if you do have the know-how but you are managing 40-50 kids on your team. With that many athletes, it’s just too difficult to give everyone the personal attention that is needed to make them perform at the highest level.”
As a runner himself, Ashley has vivid memories of the Hawthorne High track program, which he was a part of from 1985 to 1987. In a seven-year stretch 1983 through 1989, led by legendary coach Kye Courtney, Hawthorne’s boys won a remarkable six CIF state team titles and set numerous state and national records, not to mention producing Olympic gold medal sprinter Michael Marsh.
“Kye Courtney was a phenomenal high school coach and he had some great teams,” Asher said. “It’s still mind boggling to me that Hawthorne ran the still standing national record time of 3:07.40 in the 4×400 at the 1985 Texas Relays. Being around the athletes at Hawthorne that I was around gave me a different perspective on who would be a really good college or professional athlete.”
In addition to Marsh, those Hawthorne teams featured sprinter-football player Curtis Conway, who later played wide receiver in the NFL but who Asher thinks would be a star running the spread option offenses of today.
“If he was playing quarterback in this new time period, he would be a guaranteed NFL starter,” Asher said. “You basically had a state record 4 x 100 relay team running around on the football field. I don’t think I have ever seen a better high school football player than Curtis Conway with maybe the exception of DeAnthony Thomas of Crenshaw. It would be real close choosing between those two guys but Curtis Conway was faster and bigger.”
Conway and other football players with a track background don’t have that many problems generating speed in their 40-yard dash, but Asher says it can be difficult for others, plus those in baseball looking to improve their 60-yard dash.
“For a football player, the hardest aspect of speed to train is definitely running mechanics,” he said. “Most of them just don’t know how to run properly. Once I am able to teach football players proper body position and posture, they all improve and become more efficient.
“For baseball players, many of them are muscle-bound from being in the weight room. When dealing with them, many of them are very stiff and tight and they tend to run that way. I feel with many of my baseball clients, I am working more on their athleticism with certain drills that I then incorporate into their running.”
Asher has had a lot of highlights in his coaching career and hopes many more are still to come.
“My best moment as a coach came last summer when I was the Sprint/Hurdles and Relays Coach for Team USA at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain,” he said. “There is nothing like working with a group of young men and women and having them succeed at an event of that magnitude. To hear the Star Spangled Banner being played while watching them on the medal stand is one of the ultimate honors in all of sports.”