For Kirk Parker, track and field isn't just a means to see which athletes are faster or stronger, it's a way to give local children confidence and discipline.
That's why he is so passionate about his Parker Track Club, which trains athletes from Limestone County, Madison and Huntsville.
“We started this about 30 years ago and went out for a little while,” Parker said. “The last four years, we have been back in business, and it has been a pleasure to work with so many local kids.”
Parker Track Club members recently competed in meets in Clarksville, Tennessee, and Powder Springs, Georgia. Joe Quez Parker, a rising seventh grader at Athens Middle School and Kirk Parker's grandson, won the 80-meter hurdles in the Powder Springs event, running an event record time of 13.01 seconds and besting the No. 2-ranked hurdler in the nation in his age group.
“We are definitely proud of our kids,” Kirk Parker said. “All year, we've had at least 25 kids training with us.”
Many of the athletes have qualified to participate in the American Games to be held Aug. 2–3 in Lynchburg, Virginia. Parker would like to take as many to the competition as he can, but he needs funding to be able to do so.
That is why the club is asking for donations to allow the young athletes to compete against top athletes from around the country.
“We are hoping to carry at least five kids there,” Parker said. “... Our goal is to raise $2,500. Our kids have worked too hard not to be able to go to the American Games.”
Parker said winning is just a small part of the importance the track club can play in the young athletes' lives.
“The greatest thing we get out of this is seeing the happiness on the kids' faces,” he said. “It's not even about winning. Competing is the most important thing."
He said students stay busy during the summer, keeping them off the streets while teaching them valuable life skills.
"That's more important than winning the medals," Parker said. "They are gaining self-discipline. They can take this and apply it to their everyday lives. It's teaching them, 'If you can do this, you can do lots of other things.'”
A GoFundMe has been set up at https://bit.ly/ParkerTrackClubGFM for anyone who would like to donate. Parker can also be reached at 256-874-8244.