MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Melvin Anderson came to Minnesota to play football for the Gophers, and that meant a tutorial from Lou Holtz.
“The master motivator,” Anderson said. “They called me ‘Melvin Luther King’ on the team because I give them speeches. I discipline with speeches. I got a five-minute speech, a 10-minute, I got a 30-minute!”
Only Anderson’s game is to develop track-and-field athletes. His program, Track Minnesota Elite, has a goal: provide a summer program that will lead you to a scholarship.
“Our goal ultimately is using track to help kids get college scholarships, to ultimately become and live a vibrant, adult life,” he said. “It’s not about track and field, it’s about what does your future look like 20, 30, 40 years from now. And we’re going to use track to get there.”
It has worked for people like Chanhassen’s Jedah Caldwell, who now runs at the University of Kansas.
“Caldwell came to us running like a 26-5, but this was at 13 years old. But we’ve seen the hard work and the ethics, and she was long,” Anderson said. “From that point on, there’s a blueprint. OK, it’s hips and core and conditioning and run mechanics and experience.”
Before they were destined for basketball stardom, Nia and Sidney Coffey were running and learning to run from Anderson.
“Sidney was a track all-American long jumper, and Nia was an all-American 100-, 200-, 400-meter runner. She was one of the best in the country,” he said. “So Nia could have went any way.”
In fact, he believes there are many prospects that won’t be good enough to play basketball at the next level, but they do have the talent to excel in track.
“A lot of times, kids who got good skills but don’t have the size [for] like a sport like basketball, they end up in the smallest school in Nebraska, in South Dakota, and they don’t like it, they don’t stick and stay — versus the same kid who can jump 23 feet. You can go to the University of Nebraska, Iowa. Some better experience, more resources.”
Anderson and his wife have three children: one a Division One football player at Wisconsin, the other two on scholarship to run track at the University of Connecticut.
“They were part of the original figuring this out. But part of the process was academics, athletics, all-season training, good behavior,” he said. “And they already have me and my wife to follow that blueprint. My wife ran track at the [University of Minnesota].”
His plan is bigger than teaching kids to run. His umbrella project, Determined Youth to Succeed, is about fighting childhood obesity and creating a healthy lifestyle early.
“Just telling me eating fruits and vegetables is not enough. I need somebody to walk me through a process long enough for me to change my behavior,” Anderson said. “It’s 12 to 18 months if we’re trying to get to authentic change. Otherwise you have these spurt programs when people lose weight and then it kind of goes away and then they go the other way.”
Send time with Anderson and you find a man with energy, hoping he can convert kids into athletes, and those athletes into well-educated adults that can live a good life.
“This is my ministry. This is what I’ve been put here to do,” Anderson said. “That’s why I have a true passion, and that’s why we’ve been doing this for 18 years. And I got a lot of the dedicated staff. We’ve got 20 coaches.”