While in college, my basketball and track coach was a gentleman by the name of Tommie Smith. For Tommie Smith to join the faculty of Oberlin College in 1972 was significant for two reasons. First, there were not many African American faculty members at Oberlin College at all in the early 1970’s, I think one in the Education Department and one in the Sociology Department. There were a few other instructors in the newly created African American Studies program but they had not achieved tenure yet.
The second reason it was significant that Tommie Smith was hired to coach Basketball and track is because four years earlier he and a gentlemen by the name of John Carlos had “embarrassed” America at the Olympic Games held in 1968 in Mexico City when during the playing of the National anthem they raised their fist in protest of how Black American were being treated back home. This act nearly guaranteed that they would never be heard from again, but the administration of Oberlin College dared to be different and hired him.
Of all the events that Coach Smith oversaw, the relay race was his specialty. He took special time and energy to develop his relay teams into some of the best in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The relay race is of high interest contextually because it is not just an ordinary race. In order to be affective you literally must run it without paying any attention to anyone to your right, your
Left, in front – One of the mandates of Coach Smith was that no matter what happens, when it is your time to run, “never look back”.
Coach Smith would remind his runners that by looking back you rob yourself of your best performance and negate your potential. He even used to teach you how to run a relay and how to receive a baton from the previous runner without looking back.
May I suggest to you today that in life, looking back can cost you your future; it can reverse your direction. It can psychologically slow you down; it can mentally cause you to lose your focus. It can physically distract you and emotionally derail you.