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Scott Kendricks realizes Olympic dream as son’s coach

The 1968 Summer Olympics were the first to be held in Latin America as they took place in Mexico City, Mexico. They were also groundbreaking to one kid in the rural Delta of north Mississippi.

Scott Kendricks watched those Olympics from his home and from there he was hooked on the sport of track and field. Most kids in Mississippi took to football or any of the other traditional sports, but the allure of track and field stuck with Kendricks.

“I was a real track nut growing up,” Kendricks said. “I remember going to my first track meet when I was 7 years old. I just fell in love with the sport. I remember watching the Olympics with my father. … Something about the Olympics. Obviously football is a big Mississippi sport, but they don’t have it in the Olympics. The whole world is watching for two weeks. Plus I could run.”

Upon leaving the Marine corps, his goal was to come to Oxford to teach history and coach track. He found the opportunity in 1999 when he joined Oxford High School as the new track and cross country coach. It became a perfect fit for 14 years as Kendricks stayed on with the Chargers until leaving in 2013 to take a coaching job with the Ole Miss track and field staff.

It is the last four years of his coaching career in Oxford and his time spent at Ole Miss that have proven the most important to Kendricks as it is the six-year span that he coached his son, Sam, who is now on his way to Rio de Janeiro as the first Oxford High alum to become an Olympic athlete.

The elder Kendricks knew his son was not the biggest or the fastest athlete he had ever coached, but the technical aspect of the pole vault event gave him confidence Sam could excel.
Excel he did.

Sam won state titles his final two seasons at Oxford and progressed from seventh grade to his senior season more than his father-turned-coach could have imagined.

“When he was young and was the smallest guy out there, everybody beat Sam,” Scott said. “Until he was like a senior in high school. Then when he got to college, everybody beat him again for like two years. As a dad, I was just proud he was able to do something well and consistently well.”

Following along
From there Sam became a member of the Ole Miss track team, and that is when his father had to make a choice to either stay on at Oxford and not be able to continue coaching his son, per NCAA rules, or take the opportunity and move across town to join the Rebels’ staff.

It was not a choice Scott made lightly knowing he would be leaving a program at Oxford he had been with for so long.

“It was a hard decision because I loved coaching cross country and track at the high school, but NCAA rules will not allow you to do that,” Scott said. “It was a situation where Sam and I had been working together and we knew we were just about to reach a big breakthrough point. I talked to my wife and I said, ‘If I want to do the best thing that I can for him, I need to make this move.’ She agreed.”

The father-son duo of 11 years has paid dividends with Sam earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team after winning his third consecutive U.S. pole vault championship last month in Eugune, Oregon. Scott will travel with his son next week to Rio de Janeiro and be able attend his first Summer Olympics. Scott will be in the stands watching as his son competes on Aug. 13 and 15, but the realization of watching them on his television screen 48 years ago to now watching his son compete in them is not lost on him.

“I dreamed of going to the Olympics as a kid, but I realized I’m not good enough,” Scott said laughing. “All of a sudden, my son is good enough. That’s even better for me. That’s even better for me as a father is that I’ve actually been part of helping him get there.”