University of Miami

UM track coach Amy Deem to serve as assistant for Team USA at worlds

By Kristen Spillane

Coach Amy Deem is a chameleon of sorts. Whether it’s the Hurricane green and orange or the good old red, white and blue of the United States, the colors she sports reflect her dynamic role from collegiate to national coach.

Following her stint as a coach during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Deem will travel to Moscow as relay coach for Team USA  during the 14th IAAF World Outdoor Championships  from Aug. 10-18.

Deem will  supervise the women’s relay for head coaches Beth Alford-Sullivan of Penn State and  Mike Holloway of Florida.

“For me it’s a lot less responsibility, I just have the relays to focus on, and that is a huge responsibility, but at the same time it’s different than being the head coach of the whole national team,” said Deem. “I’m excited about it because I’ve worked with some of the girls in the past, but you know I’m looking forward to a little bit less of a role, more of a support role to head coach Alford-Sullivan.”

 Deem, who is from West Virginia, began her tenure at Miami in 1988 as a compliance department intern and volunteer assistant track coach.

 Now in her 22nd season as head coach, Deem holds the official title of Director of Track and Field and Cross Country.  In 2008, she joined the ranks of just six other women to lead both the men’s and women’s track and cross country programs at a Division I school.

Deem spent the summer of 2012 as head coach of the U.S. Olympic track and field team, bringing home a total of 14 medals: six gold, four silver and four bronze. Deem took the Olympic stage joined by three of her former UM athletes, Murielle Ahoure, T’erea Brown, and the gold-medalist member of the  400-meter relay pool, Lauryn Williams.

Whether the competition is  at the collegiate level  in South Florida or  international at the Olympics,  for Deem, it’s all about understanding the sport and the athletes, something she obviously does quite well.

“It’s the same passion, it’s just a different role and understanding your role,” said Deem.

“As director of track and field here, I’m fortunate to coach several of the top athletes in the world. As a personal coach I have a role, and as a national team coach I have a role. Each is challenging in its own way, and you know I think it allows me to be a better coach because I understand all the rules of track and field.”

 After such an impressive performance by Team USA in London, the quest for hardware is always a constant.

“Oh, the goal is always to bring home two golds,” Deem said. “The minimum is to bring home two medals in the relays. The U.S. expects to win and I don’t expect anything less either; obviously we want to come home with two medals, but I know my goal, and the athletes’ goal is to come home with two golds.”

Yet the challenge is not limited just to the competitors — traveling to Moscow is not exactly your ordinary commute. While many track and field athletes spend their summers competing throughout Europe, such international competition does require additional preparation.

Deem credits USA Track and Field with excellent preparation for its athletes, ensuring that travel  for international competition runs as smoothly as possible.

“But you know it does take time to adjust, especially for the younger athletes, they’re not used to training and traveling to Europe. It does take time to get used to time zones, and to adjust to those types of things, but normally, the athletes that have been on the circuit, on the national teams they travel all summer long to make a living so they kind of understand what they need to do in the summer,” Deem said.

With such an impressive resume, Deem still cherishes every opportunity to work with Team USA.

“I really love the interaction with some of the greatest athletes in the world. For me, when you stop learning, it’s time to get a new job,”  Deem said.

“The passion and the dedication and the commitment that it takes to be at that level, and maintain that level, for me that’s very motivating and it allows me to share some stories with my own collegiate kids and hopefully they buy in to that … but yeah tor me, the level of enthusiasm and commitment that they bring, because at that point, that’s how they make their living.”

Even with  years of  coaching experience at international competitions, Deem maintains a deeply rooted appreciation and connection  to her local Miami community. Joined by several of the Hurricanes’ runners, including Taneisha Cordell, Jasmyne King and Shannon Wright, Deem led the 2013 class of youth campers in the Morning Mile at Goulds Park on June 12.

Developed by Fitness International and sponsored by AvMed Health Plans, the Morning Mile is a youth fitness program adopted by all 42 of the Miami-Dade Parks’ Fit2Play Summer Camps. Campers begin the day with a morning mile walk, jog or run, laying the foundations of a healthy fitness routine and lifestyle.

“The community is very important to our program and obviously we’ve had a lot of great athletes from the Miami-Dade community, and they’ve helped our program to become very successful, but even more importantly I think it’s a great opportunity for our current student-athletes to interact with kids and give back, because they have so much to offer,” Deem said.