Ball State professor to coach U.S. Paralympics track and field team
Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology
July 20, 2012
Lawrence Judge, an associate professor of physical education at Ball State University, has been named an assistant track and field coach for the U.S. Paralympic team.
Ball State University's Lawrence Judge has been named an assistant track and field coach for the U.S. Paralympic team that will compete in London this summer.
The Paralympic Games are an international, multisport competition for athletes with physical disabilities, modeled after the Olympics. This year, the Paralympics will run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, opening 10 days after the conclusion of the London Olympics.
Judge, an associate professor of physical education, will coach ambulatory division athletes in throwing events, which include the discus, javelin and shot put.
"These are athletes who are going to be throwing from an upright position but may have a prosthesis or some other kind of physical disability," said Judge, who also coordinates Ball State's online athletic coaching education program.
Judge has been working for some time as the personal coach for two U.S. athletes who will travel to London with high expectations: Jeremy Campbell, 25, a resident athlete at Central Oklahoma University in Edmond, and Scott Danberg, 50, of Cooper City, Fla.
Campbell, who was born without a right fibula (or calf bone), is the current world record holder for the F44 discus toss at 63.45 meters and won two gold medals at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. F44 is the competition classification for athletes with a single amputation below the knee.
Danberg, who competes in the F40 class for short stature athletes, won the bronze medal in the discus throw at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand. He will be competing in his fifth Paralympics.
"We're hoping those two will lead the charge for the U.S. team in the throwing events," said Judge.
As their personal coach, he is constant contact with both. "I talk to them on the phone daily," Judge said. "Neither lives here in Muncie, so we're constantly exchanging videos and emails and sometimes Skype calls, and then I try to go see them at least once per month in person."
Disabled athletes older, more mature
Judge has 18 years of experience coaching NCAA Division I track and field and cross country athletes, including a long tenure at the University of Florida. He has trained eight Olympians, 10 NCAA champions and more than 100 All-Americans.
He said coaching Paralympic and Olympic athletes is similar in most respects.
"It's all about function and what sorts of positions athletes are able to get into," Judge said. "You just have to mold the technical model to the athlete. Coaching Paralympic athletes requires additional knowledge and application of biomechanics. It certainly has challenged me and caused me to think outside the box."
One of the biggest disparities between Paralympic and Olympic athletes, Judge said, is age: The disabled athletes tend to be older and more mature, which requires a different approach than dealing with teenagers.
He calls on the persona of basketball guru Phil Jackson, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"With older athletes, you have to modify your coaching style a little bit and be more of a Phil Jackson kind of coach, where you give technical and training advice and listen and then give more feedback instead of saying, 'It's my way or the highway.'"
Now, Judge said, he and the team feel like they're on the final approach to London, fine-tuning their techniques and preparing to compete on a world stage. That feeling was confirmed when he arrived home one recent afternoon to find two boxes of official gear from USA Track and Field on his doorstep.
"It just hit me," he said. "Wow — this is real."
Teaching from London
Judge's online Ball State students will have a chance to benefit from his Paralympics experience, too. He'll conduct his coaching education classes as usual from London, incorporating his daily experiences into the course work.
Among those experiences: participating in the games' opening ceremonies, living in the athletes' village, and — Judge hopes — attending some medal ceremonies.
"I plan on doing a little bit of blogging and sharing pictures and anecdotes with our students to bring this experience home as much as I can," he said. "This is such a great opportunity — I'm just excited to have a chance to represent the United States of America and Ball State University. I'm looking forward to it."
By Vic Caleca, senior media relations manager