LANGLEY, British Columbia – The inaugural Complete Champion Coaching Symposium, presented by The Festal Café, Oct. 20, will feature former track and field star Marion Jones as one of the keynote speakers, as she tells her story from Olympic stardom to her highly-publicized downfall to her seeking forgiveness and redemption.
Jones, who authored the book On the Right Track: From Olympic Downfall to Finding Forgiveness and the Strength to Overcome and Succeed, will be one of nearly 30 guest speakers who will take part in the daylong symposium, which will target leaders in sport and the community. The Symposium is put on by the Trinity Western University Spartans Athletic Department and will be at the Langley Events Centre.
"Deciding to bring Marion to TWU may seem like a curious choice," said Spartans Athletic Director Jeff Gamache. "At first glance it may seem antithetical to our “Complete Champion” title. But the purpose of having the symposium is to educate coaches, parents, athletes and sport administrators about how to do sport and life differently. I hope that people come away from the symposium with ideas about how to coach and lead in such a way that if Marion had been their athlete, she would never had made the choices she did.
“Marion’s life story is a testimony to what can happen when we make poor choices based on fame and money. She pulls no punches as she shares about what led to her decision to use PEDs, but what is even more powerful is what her life has looked like now that she understands that her purpose in life is far more than to run fast. She is committed to helping young athletes, coaches and parents make better choices than she did, thereby avoiding much of the pain she and others around her have faced due to her poor choices.”
Trevor Ragan, who is the founder of Train Ugly – an organization “seeking to discover and share the science of learning and development” – will join Jones as the other keynote speaker for this year’s Symposium.
Shortly after Jones’ five-medal performance in the 2000 Olympic Games, she became a widely-criticized and controversial figure, who ultimately was imprisoned for six months in part for her usage of performance enhancing drugs. Along the way, she was stripped of all five of her Olympic medals.
However, since her imprisonment in 2008, Jones has sought to, as her book title states, “find forgiveness…overcome and succeed.”
At the core of her message in both her book and her speaking engagements, she discusses “learning to grow through pain; making decisions that will help us far into the future; overcoming failure and discouragement; and applying practical principles that point the way to personal and spiritual breakthrough.”
“What I appreciate about Marion’s story is her response to her terrible choices,” said Spartans Athletic Director Jeff Gamache. “She came clean, took responsibility for her actions, paid a significant price that was a consequence for her choices and is now spending her time sharing with youth and coaches about the devastating consequences of drugs and poor choices.
“We can all resonate with having made poor choices and our legacy is created when we choose how to deal with these choices. Marion did not run away and hide and she is not feeling sorry for herself. She has chosen to find a way to give back to society. I believe her story of redemption will resonate with many people who have needed to face their poor choices and decide what their future life will look like.”
Jones, who was recently interviewed on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650, will aim deliver this message to coaches, leaders, athletes and parents at the Complete Champion Coaching Symposium.
“A lot of people know me because of my athletic accomplishments and a lot of people know me because of the poor choices that I made,” Jones said on Sportsnet 650. “I try to give people hope. At some point in all of our lives, we make poor choices and sometimes it’s hard to bounce back from those. It doesn’t matter who you are…if you make a poor choice, there is a way for you to bounce back.
“I think why my story resonates so well with people is because…everybody can say at some point in their lives that things have been hard. It could be a divorce, or it could be a death in the family or a loss of a job or just a darn poor choice that you made in your life. Everybody…wants to have some tools as to how to bounce back.”
For Jones, it was during her imprisonment and in the time following when she “found her way.”
“There were moments certainly while I was locked up when I didn’t think I would be able to bounce back,” she said. “There were a lot of tears shed. There were moments where I was like, ‘I give up.’ But thankfully, I had faith in God and faith that I was put here on this earth for something more than just running fast. Once I realized that, things started to look up for me. I realized that…I have this ability to connect with people and motivate and inspire people.”
Along with Jones and Ragan, the Symposium will also feature, amongst others, Gareth Rees, who was the first North American inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, and Andrea Neil, who is a member of Canada Soccer’s All-Time XI Women’s Team.