This is an exchange with a wonderful man from the world of coaching. Hopefully, after reading this you will see the special qualities from a “Guy from the Caribbean”. Subscribe on the side bar and let me know what your favorite part of this interview was below in the comment section.
I met Coach Leslie Young back in 2004 when he arrived at Virginia State University. He seemed like a very confident man, young, the early thirties sort of gentlemen with so much passion for the sport of Track and Field. I walked onto the team after a conversation with him and since have been extremely blessed to know him, his family, and colleagues. I’m confident anyone who speaks of him, speaks highly. I chose to interview him because he was one of the best examples of a father I was able to witness within the window of my undergraduate tenure. It’s my pleasure to share this exchange of us catching up and diving into deeper topics.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview, how have you been?
Great Dennis, enjoying the life that God has blessed me with especially watching my four daughters and grandson grow.
Grandson! Wow, I’m assuming this blessing has come from your oldest daughter right? How is she doing? I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I’m sure she is as awesome as your other three.
Yes, my oldest baby she is 30. She graduated with her Dutch Criminal degree from a University in Holland and is back home working for the Dutch Government, my grandson Kellan turns two years old November 12th. He was actually born here in Petersburg. She came up to live with us during her pregnancy and he was born at Southside Regional Hospital.
She sounds well-traveled. That must have been a very awesome time to have her around. For her to take the time to share her pregnancy with you, I mean wow. That was very nice of her to do that. So how is Kellan? You been able to video chat with him right?
Having my daughter to share her pregnancy with me was special, words truly cannot describe the way it made my wife, and I feel. She did not have to come to the U.S. for her pregnancy, but she chose to do so.
Kellan is great! He is all boy! Being a part of my lineage, I cannot wait to be more involved in his life. Living in St.Maarten, video chat is my only way to keep in touch on a regular basis.
Who’s this Les Young guy?
For those who don’t know you, tell them who Les Young is.
I am the second born son of Dr. and Mrs. James Young. I was born on the Caribbean Island of St.Kitts, spent some time in St. Vincent and Later lived my formal years in St.Maarten. Here my dad has a church and has been the pastor for 38 years. I grew up extremely athletic and fell in love with track & field and basketball. Not only did I love to take part in sports but studying the why and why not of a sport intrigued me. I earned scholarships but was injured my senior year in high school.
Academically, I love learning. I received my B.A. in Sociology with a minor in K-12 Education and received my Masters in Sports Science with a minor in personal training. My coaching career started at a very young age and I was fortunate enough to be one of the youngest collegiate Head Coaches in Division Two in 1996 (Saint Paul’s College head of track and cross-country). Since then I have coached at Granby High School in Norfolk, Norfolk State University (assistant), and Virginia State University (Where I was blessed to meet you).
After Virginia State, I became the head coach at Greensville County High School (Basketball and Track) and now I’m at Dinwiddie High School where I coached my second daughter (Antonia) to an All-State Thrower and now will be coaching my third daughter this year in her ninth-grade year.
I have been married to the love of my life for 20 years. We faithfully worship the Lord together, for he is the head of our life. I am also an adjunct professor at Paul D. Camp Community College. I enjoy training and watching athletes develop their desire in a sport or discipline. I would say my greatest accomplishment remains to be my daughters and now, grandson.
Thank you for sharing that side of you. You mentioned your brother earlier, is he still in the in the Caribbean?
I actually have three siblings. My oldest brother is three years older than me and he has a Masters in Psychology and Economics. He teaches at a local high school and is an Adjunct professor at St.Maarten University. My sister has her Masters as well and is a principal at a local elementary school in St.Maarten. The youngest of the siblings the baby brother just completed his Master’s degree in computer engineering.
So what you’re really saying is, if I go to St. Maarten I have a place to stay? We spoke recently and you mentioned that you try to learn something from every situation in life. What have you learned from your siblings that affected your life?
My siblings are level-headed, well-rounded people. What I have learned from them is to always believe in yourself, put God first and trust the process.
Those are natural laws. It’s great that you’ve seen them through your siblings.
“I think of the things my daughters have accomplished…”
I had the opportunity to meet your family years ago. Catch me up on what is going on. You know, milestones and achievements.
Well, my oldest daughter is a lawyer she is living in the Island of St.Maarten just tried her first case and we are awaiting the verdict. Antonia (19) is now a sophomore at Norfolk State University. She elected to not participate in track and enrolled in a double major. For the most part, she is doing great. Leslie (14) is now in the 9th grade and has thrown 105 feet in the javelin and 99 feet in the discus. Jamie (12) is now in the 7th grade. She has thrown 80 feet in the discus and 70 feet in the javelin. My grandson is one and getting bigger by the day.
I am working at the same school with my wife, so I have now worked in all areas of education, College, High School, and now elementary. I always wanted to experience the full spectrum.
In terms of life milestones, It’s so simple. I think of the things my daughters have accomplished because they are my life.
It’s touching to hear how much your daughters mean to you and GEEZ, they have grown so much. I too, often think about my children in terms of their future accomplishments.
Working with your Spouse
So, You and Toni are working at the same school. How does it feel to be able to spend more time together? Also, not many educators go full circle in education, that has to be special. Which one has been your favorite?
Yes, it has been great working close to my wife and being in the same school system with my daughters. The reason I left my other school was to do exactly that and it is an unbelievable experience.
My favorite level will always be collegiate, being able to communicate at a high level at all times intrigues me far more. That is not to diminish the other levels. I have truly grown from my experiences in college, high school, and elementary school.
You are very competitive, I have a feeling you are going to dominate solely because of your approach to people. I wish you much success at any level you coach on because I know you are doing more than just coaching sports, you are investing in other’s lives.
The key with any discipline where a transfer of knowledge exists…hinges on the ability of the teacher to build a relationship first, then transfer the knowledge. I pray that I am doing that with all of my athletes.
“I knew the process was part of attaining the things we needed..”
Now, this always stood out to me but I never asked you about it. When you began coaching at VSU, you made a crazy round trip DAILY…up and down U.S. Route 460. What made it worth the trouble?
My passion for coaching and my eagerness to succeed. I knew that sacrifice was part of attaining the things we needed in our life. My father always spoke about the “process” or the “journey” to accomplish your goals. In hindsight, it was worth our many accomplishments at VSU and the lifelong bonds that we created, both my family and I. My girls love you all and they will never forget bonds we built throughout my coaching tenure.
Emotions of Coaching
I get sentimental looking back. There was something so pure about it. All the times I heard “I had to give that up” (a phrase uttered by one of our more talkative coaches after he shared a life moment), to coping with each battle, those moments stick. You consistently guided the team in a paternal way. How do you deal with the emotion of an athlete leaving the nest, graduating, and moving on in life after you’ve built a strong bond with them?
An athlete leaving the nest, graduating, and moving on in life is the desired outcome. I want them to be equipped to leave the nest, graduate and move on to become productive citizens and great leaders. Although I still get teary-eyed and emotional when they do, if I have affected them in a positive way and have added value to their life, then I have done the job God called me to do. I truly believe that is one of my callings.
So yes, it’s hard to see them go, but I take comfort in knowing that our lifelong bond allows us to pick right back up where we left.
If that isn’t the truth…what is? I felt the same way with our relationship and I love you for that. It’s special to pick back up with someone after a long absence. It’s a testament to the relationship and what was invested into it.
I have great parents and have had excellent coaches along the way, people that invested in me unconditionally… so I have no choice but to do the same to the student-athletes I meet.
The Successes of Former Athletes
Many of your former athletes are doing great things. Can you share some of their success stories?
Yes, most of my athletes are coaching between college, High School, or club coaching. The latest is your teammate Robert Davis, he just accepted the head coach position at Queens College in New York. I counted seven just from VSU that are coaches. Lamont Folsom, Willie Stanley, Maurice Brown, Vincent Watson, Glenroy Green just to name a few… all coaching. I have four athletes attempting to compete at the next level (Olympics or representing their Country/Island). The list goes on and on I am proud of all my student-athletes.
ROBERT DAVIS! That is my man-hundred-grand. I’m very proud of the moment he is in. He will be a great coach.
How many come back to seek your advice. I know your door is…well you don’t have a door, you are always open to help.
They all do Rob and I speak and are constantly in touch, Lamont calls all the time. They all do and it is great to talk about track and basketball but it is even better just to rekindle that bond.
Yeah, Rob is a special guy. Lamont has always been a jokester, yet he has a great heart. Great father too. I know they feel the same way as I do about you and our time on the team.
That bond is never-ending. Your other former teammates. Sederick Green and Ryan Sykes are both in administration – Sederick is also coaching again. One of my Lazers Track Club athletes is in the NFL, Detrich Wise Jr, playing for the New England Patriots. Man, the list goes on… God has been great.
So what about entertainment. What are you listening to? Back in the day it was Bob and George Clinton
Still Bob Marley and a wide selection of gospel music.
I like the free spirit of the Marley family. What is your favorite Bob and Gospel song at the moment?
I truly do not have a favorite, I just love Bob. To have a favorite will not do justice to his legacy, but I do love “Natural Mystic”. Gospel I like “Worth” by Anthony Brown, you have to truly listen to the words.
Worth? I’ll check that out.
It was about 2007 when I truly understood the significance of Bob Marley beyond the t-shirts. You make me want to listen to him now.
Words for Other Fathers
This has been great. So for other fathers…what advice would you give them about parenting and marriage?
Parenting as a whole is a God-giving gift that we should not take lightly. The fact that God gave us the ability to become a parent is golden, and we should be a good steward of that gift.
Marriage is a two-fold thing. We have to realize the pendulum swings both ways and as the old saying goes, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”. As a husband, my roles are to love my wife regardless and take care of her but still work together “with” her in accomplishing our family goals.
As I father I feel it is my job to love, nurture, teach, disciple and be there for my children. I take fathering very seriously. My children’s first example of a man is me so I am very careful how I influence them in that respect.
For me, as the father of four girls, I am their first example of what a father should be so I am very careful in demonstrating love first and let most of my decisions towards them be guided by love.
Impactful! I’ll definitely take those nuggets to heart. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I wish you wonderful days ahead as a father and coach. Is there anything you’d like to say before we end?
It is a blessing to have had the opportunity to learn from so many great student-athletes.