Coach Curtis Taylor

Influential Oakland coach lands job at University of Oregon

on September 30, 2013

For almost 30 years, track and field coach Curtis Taylor has been an Oakland legend. He’s led teams to state championships and helped hundreds of young athletes from the city get into college.

This month, the philosophical trainer who specializes in sprints, hurdles, and jumps, will be leaving the Bay Area to join the track and field coaching staff at the University of Oregon.

On Sept. 26, over 30 of Taylor’s friends and family gathered inside a white portable classroom at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) both to congratulate him on accepting the assistant coaching position at the University of Oregon, and to celebrate his contributions to the athletic and academic development of EOYDC kids.

For 18 years, Taylor has coached the EOYDC track team and in the process launched the careers of many state and national champion students.

“The reason why I started the EOYDC track club team was because I wanted to coach at a more community-based program,” Taylor said. “One of the tenets of this program was for student-athletes to have a 2.5 grade point average and have no discipline problems. Kids that came out of here had a lot of academic support.”

Many of Taylor’s colleagues, past and present student-athletes, and their parents, gave emotional testimonials at the reception on Thursday. President and CEO Regina Jackson of the EOYDC said she wishes nothing but the best for Taylor in Oregon.

“Curtis is already great, but he is going to be even greater [in Oregon],” Jackson said tearfully. “We’ve known each other since seventh grade. I just want to thank him for everything that he has done for the EOYDC.”

In addition to his work at the EOYDC, Taylor has also coached more than 50 All-American athletes at a number of Oakland high schools and junior colleges, including Bishop O’Dowd, Skyline high school, Merritt College, and most recently Laney College.

In 2007, Taylor was named the California State Junior College Coach of the Year. He was the Nor Cal Junior College Women’s Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and took the Laney Women’s track and field team to it’s first ever Junior College State Team Championship in 2010.

“His record speaks for itself,” said John Beam, the athletic director at Laney College. “These girls, just about 90 percent transfer to four-year schools. That’s unheard of. He makes a tremendous impact when they set records every year and he gives them opportunities that no one else is.”

According to Sasha Wallace, an incoming freshmen at the University of Oregon and a hurdler on the Ducks’ women’s track and field team, Taylor is really good at making the sport of track and field fun.

“I am blessed to have met him,” Wallace said. “He is the kind of coach that breaks things down and the little things matter to him.”

Wallace trained with Taylor in high school and said that, through him, she learned how to face any sort of adversity on the track.

“He taught me how to be really patient and to never give up,” she said. “He pretty much showed me how to hurdle and do everything that I never thought I could do.”

Taylor chose to stay and coach in Oakland for nearly three decades because he wanted to inspire Oakland student-athletes and enrich their lives.

“Curtis could have gone on to coach at the Olympic level,” said Nick Mazur, who was Taylor’s assistant coach at Laney College from 2009 – 2011. “He has made many sacrifices along the way so that young people from Oakland can get the opportunity for something better. He is an extremely caring, giving and warm person.”

Ultimately, the decision to move was bittersweet for Taylor.

“I wish that program was here in Oakland,” Taylor said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m really excited about the job, but hate the fact that I have to move away. Oakland is my home. I will retire in Oakland for sure, but I had to take this opportunity while it presented itself.”

Still, Taylor insisted that he is not saying goodbye to his Oakland track and field family or his hometown. He said he is only a phone call away and plans to return to the Bay Area in the future.

“I’m just a person trying to make a small bit of a difference,” Taylor said. “This is not farewell. I’m just leaving for a little bit.”

Image: After years in Oakland, Curtis Taylor is moving to Oregon. Photo by Narea Wilson, East Oakland Youth Development Center.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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