George Temple volunteered to help coach track back in 1995 when his daughter attended Scotlandville Magnet High School. Twenty years later, his grandson is a student at the high school and Temple is once again a volunteer track coach.
During that time, he has worked with runners, particularly middle-distance runners, at four other high schools in Baton Rouge. Each year, he spends $600 to $800 of his own money helping whatever team he’s coaching. He’s bought awards for teams that weren’t getting an awards ceremony. He’s raised money for uniforms for a track team that didn’t have enough and had to share clothes during meets.
On Thursday, Temple got something for all that generosity.
Volunteers in Public Schools gave him its 2015 Crystal Apple, awarded to a standout person or organization volunteering in East Baton Rouge Parish’s public schools for at least 10 years. Temple, who owns a moving company, beat out four other veteran volunteers to win the coveted honor.
After hearing the biographies of the people he was up against, he was surprised to hear his name called to collect the Crystal Apple. He gives a simple reason for continuing to volunteer.
“I enjoy it. That’s the thing,” said Temple, himself a former track star from Grambling State University.
What he really enjoys is when he finds a runner with talent and ambition, someone he can help lead to a championship or to land a scholarship to college.
As one of four assistant coaches at Scotlandville High, he focuses on boys and girls running 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters. The runners who succeed are the ones who run more than their peers.
“If you’re running 3,200 meters, you’ve got to put in 25 to 30 miles a week,” Temple said. “If not, you’re wasting your time.”
Temple also works hard to persuade his teenagers to learn the fundamentals of running technique. He said at best he’s able to persuade one or two standout runners to employ proper technique and then uses them to persuade their peers to try it themselves.
Since he owns his own business, with his wife, Sharalean, he is able to devote more time to track than he otherwise could. She said he’s so devoted that he routinely passes up celebrating her birthday or their wedding anniversary.
“When it comes to track, I come in second,” she said, smiling.
“The problem is they always fall when it’s a district or regional meet,” her husband responded.
As a teenager, George Temple was a sprinter, running 100 to 200 meters. Like many young men who run track, Temple’s hope was that he could use it to become a football player. But he said his parents wouldn’t let him try out for football, so he focused on track instead.
Now, as a track coach, he has to wait nervously each year to see how many football-playing runners will emerge unscathed from that brutal game. He routinely has potential standout runners sidelined by knee and other injuries sustained as football players.
His own grandson, Triston, 16, chose football over track during his sophomore year, much to his grandfather’s chagrin. Now, he’s pinning his track dreams on his 8-year-old granddaughter Mya, who skipped running practice Tuesday to see granddad collect his award.
Volunteers in Public Schools also awarded Golden Apple honors to: Patricia Ho, who volunteers at La Belle Aire Elementary; James Johnson, who volunteers at Scotlandville High; Language Helpers, whose members volunteer at Highland Elementary; and Joe Skiles, who organizes volunteers at Parkview Elementary.
To sign up as a volunteer through VIPS, visit vips.ebrschools.org or call (225) 226-4702.
Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.