For assistant track and field coach Louise Duffus, professional development in summer 2012 was not about learning a few new techniques at a resort. Instead, she was among an eight-member group who taught coaches and athletes in Togo, Africa, through Athletes in Action (AIA).
“The trip had two purposes,” says Duffus. “We worked with the Togolese Olympic Committee to help train the coaches and some of their elite-level athletes, as well as bring them a spiritual component about becoming not only a better athlete, but a better person.”
The AIA representatives spent mornings in the classroom teaching lessons and afternoons on the track at the national stadium putting those lessons into action. In the evenings, group members discussed their relationship with God.
“It was exciting to work with some of their athletes who got to compete in London in the 2012 Olympics,” Duffus says. “They were all so eager to learn, both about their sport and the spiritual aspect of our trip. At times, we almost had to force them to take a break from practicing.”
Duffus, the Huskies’ throwing coach, was struck by the contrast between the limited resources in Togo and the abundance in the United States. “Seeing how the people live there makes you feel guilty about having so much here and realize how much we take for granted,” says Duffus. “I do feel we made a difference in our short time with them and, hopefully, planted a seed, both with our sport and the gospel.”
In addition to guidance and memories, the AIA group left behind a tangible reminder of their visit — used running shoes and spikes. “For us they were just used shoes or spikes,” she says. “For them, they were the shoes or spikes that would help them to be competitive.” •