By Ka’Deem Wynn for Youth Runner Magazine.
Florida track star Tyrese Cooper has taken the middle and high school ranks by storm, first truly mesmerizing audiences in the summer of 2015. The first thing everyone began noticing outside of his time was the three letters plastered across the front of his chest:
Since then, Cooper has broken over 20 records during his freshman year of high school alone, which include meet, state, facility, national, and even world youth records, and has come to be known as that 'one kid' who is going to pull off something crazy, along with being a somewhat of a celebrity on the sidelines.
However, with Cooper probably being the main face of the program, it’s easy to forget that it’s not just him, or his brand. In fact, there’s a lot more MGX’ers down in Florida.
‘MGX’ or Miami Gardens Xpress, has become one of the premiere youth track and field club teams not only in the state of Florida but the United States as well. For the kids that join, many who are from the surrounding Miami Gardens area, the club team is a home away from home; a place where they can be constructive, disciplined, and truly make something of themselves, even at a very young age.
The track program, which is non-profit, has taken in and trained over 200 athletes, all ranging from five to eighteen years old since its start in 2005, when it was known as North Dade Track Club. It wasn’t until 2008 that the program was changed to its current name. At the time, and for a few years, the teams would practice on a grass and dirt track at Miami Norland Middle School.
Fast forward to 2017, and the program is still alive and kicking. It now participates in the FLYTAF league and competes at AAU and USATF Junior championships.
Since its start, MGX has broken 19 individual and team (relays) AAU national records, eight AAU Junior Olympic records, and in 2013, they were the ESPN AAU Club National Champions, becoming the first Florida team to win the title. They were also named the Generation Nexxt Track and Field Club of the Year in 2014.
And at the center of it all, since the beginning is Darius “Coach D” LawShea.
“People say that I have a gift with this thing,” he said. “Maybe I do, but I’m just able to get in these kids’ minds that they can do anything.”
Yes, a great majority, if not all coaches feel this way when it comes to their athletes, but LawShea likes to take a look at the evidence of what’s been accomplished in his time at the helm.
His secret? He simply does what makes sense.
“I don’t use the textbook style of training when it comes to track and field,” he said. “There’s no bible on training for track and field, and a lot of people think that there is.”
He goes on to add that, yes, he trains each athlete the same physically, but mentally, each individual is different, and training for each individual may vary. You can’t train kids like robots who flawlessly follow every command given. They have to believe in the coach’s plan just like the coach believes in the athletes.
“I figured out that these kids believe in me, and believe in what I’m selling them,” he said. “And what I’m selling them is greatness, and the opportunity to be great. We strive for greatness so that our athletes may achieve their goals.”
Evidently so. Jamal Walton, who’s been with MGX since he was a young child and is now a senior at Miramar High School, won the 400 meters at the 2015 World Youth Pan American Games in Canada, placing his name and the team’s name on to the international spotlight, much like Tyrese Cooper has, and also boasts a personal-best of 45.70.
LawShea says that it’s all a process, one that starts with a simple phrase that embodies what it means to run for MGX: Mind, Body, and Soul.
With that process, he adds, is the critiquing of himself. He said that he doesn’t feel that he’s done his job if he begins coaching a kid that’s already one of the fastest. He takes a look at the slowest kids, or the kids that aren’t always up with the others, and works with them to make them believe in what they’re doing, essentially turning the “slowest kid” into the “fastest kid,” and that’s truly the beauty of it all.
“My greatest accomplishment with being at MGX is that the kids came, and come to me as they are,” he said. “Instead of it being like high school coaches trying to recruit the best kids, mine start with me and they grow with me. I helped build them to where they are today, and it just makes me proud to see them achieve that level of greatness.”
Yes, Miami Gardens Xpress has created a powerhouse and looks to produce some of the best youth athletes in the state, as well as the nation, but their work goes deeper than the surface. LawShea and MGX look to motivate athletes to aspire to achieve leadership, self-discipline, sportsmanship, integrity and a sense of community through the competitive activities affiliated with the sport of track and field. As the athletes develop both athletically and academically and grow through the years, they are constantly encouraged to achieve their personal best through determination, discipline, enjoyment and with the strong support of their peers, family, and community.
Oh, and they still like to run fast every day of the week and twice on Sundays.