In the beginning, Elijah Talk wasn’t quite college-recruit material. But he was bold and ambitious, and freshman year, he walked on to Ashland University’s track and field team.
By junior year, he was named team captain. By the time he graduated from Ashland University, he was a seven-time Shot Put All American.
Talk credits his success to his ability to listen to his coaches.
“I didn’t know any better,’’ he said. “Whatever I was told I would do, and results followed.’’
Now a new assistant coach for the Queens University track and field team, Talk said that he encourages this mentality because “it keeps individuals focused.’’
That focus was honed under former Olympic hammer thrower and gold medalist Jud Logan, current head track and field coach at Ashland University, renowned for producing excellent throwers. Now that coaching experience has come to Queens, and Talk is eager to share his wisdom and coaching philosophy, which centers on trust and execution.
“A bad coach believed in is better than a good coach that doesn’t have his team”, said Talk, quoting Coach Logan.
In other words, Talk said, the quality of the coach-player relationship is more important, in the end, than the coaching itself. This, he said, is the key to Ashland’s track and field success, and he wants to bring that culture to Queens’ track and field team.
Talk grew up playing a variety of sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and, later, track and field. When a fall football ACL tear sidelined his spring baseball season, Talk took up track and field. But he struggled to excel. He recalls being mediocre at shot put and not many schools recruited him.
“Against Jud Logan’s better judgment, he allowed me to walk on Ashland’s team,” said Talk. From that day forward, he was determined to prove himself worthy.
In addition to determination and discipline, Talk wants to bring a higher standard of excellence to the Queens’ track and field team.
“He is a great technician; he understands what it takes to throw far,” said Jim Vahrenkamp, former head coach of the Queen’s University track and field team. Coach Vahrenkamp believes that Talk is excellent for this position because he has been there before as an athlete and can connect with athletes at that level.
“He is able to explain the reasoning behind exercises,’’ said Martin Knauer, a senior on the men’s track and field team at Queens. “Talk is someone who is able to communicate the reasoning behind exercises, and for me, that is a very convincing coach.” Knauer’s specialty is shot put, and he is excited to have Talk on board.
Talk believes that creating a culture of hard work, discipline, and high-performance expectations can be the key to a successful program. “(At Ashland) it was weird not to make nationals,” said Talk. Setting this new standard is what Talk strives for.
As team captain, Talk led by example. “Try to be the best one in the group and hold people accountable.” Talk believes that these are leadership skills transferable from his competitive years to coaching and that he wants to build a culture of unity and acceptance around these principles.
Graduating from Ashland with a minor in coaching and having several work opportunities as a coach before coming to Queens, Talk’s knowledge as a coach is undeniable. He says that this team has a lot of potential. With a lot of hard work this fall, he says he predicts more than one shot putter will make it to nationals.
In the end, Elijah Talk hopes he will have made a difference.