Setting the Pace

Running brings a community together

Patrick Hall never ran as a child because of his loose knee joints. So learning how to use his body at the running clinic held at NYU Abu Dhabi, and enjoying sports at age 16 is a big thing for him.  

It’s not just a physical change that Bess Hall sees in Patrick and his brother Owen, who are enrolled in the clinic. “I’m seeing more confidence in them, more willingness to leave the house, and to explore new ideas and skills.” she said.

These are their Mount Everests. Some climb literal mountains, while some of us have other mountains that we climb.

Bess Hall, parent of child with autism

Coaching With a Purpose

NYUAD Associate Athletic Director and Interim Director for Health and Wellness Wayne Young works as a volunteer coach with Patrick and several other athletes with Goals UAE, a non-profit organization that organizes extra-curricular activities for children with autism. 

The athletes who participate have an opportunity to represent the UAE in the Special Olympics in 2019, if selected.

Young found his calling in running in high school. “I got cut from the baseball team, and they said I should go run track.” 45 years later, Young is still running. 

Starting out with running clubs, Young got better with his techniques and started evaluating running technique. He then started coaching high school track teams, and eventually got certified as a road running and triathlon coach. As a coach, his goal is to get people to be lifelong runners through proper running techniques.

Athletes receive instructions from coach Young during training at the NYUAD indoor running track. Courtesy of Cassie Hambleton

Sports, Inclusion, and Dedication

Young believes sports bring about discipline in life, no matter what sport it is. He has seen it first-hand in fellow soldiers during his military deployment as an infantry officer with the United States Army. “My best soldiers are dedicated athletes,” he said. Their dedication to their sports gets transferred into their attitude when serving the army too.

The importance of the Special Olympics is not only encouraging everyone to participate in sports, but also in allowing athletes to build confidence and have higher aspiration in their lives.

For Cassie Hambleton’s homeschooled children, participating in Young’s running program also served as bragging rights for her teenage boys. Unlike being in a school, homeschooled children have lesser opportunities to join sports teams and group activities. The training program is a rare opportunity to share camaraderie with fellow athletes.

Hambleton encourages her sons to become advocates through their participation in sports, which have seen the Hambleton boys participating in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon in Abu Dhabi previously. 

They are the voice for the people who can’t speak up, as not all autistic people have that platform. It is their chance to advocate for others.

Cassie Hambleton
Running program athletes with NYUAD coach Wayne Young. (L-R) Michah Hambleton; Jonah Hambleton; coach Wayne Young; Issac Hambleton; Joel Hambleton. Courtesy of Cassie Hambleton

One of the most common request from new runners is the hope to gain speed but “you don’t have to run as fast as you think you have to,” Young said.

Runners get stronger and become better runners by running slowly, he explained. Focus on running a specific amount of time first rather than speed. The more time you run, the more endurance and strength you build. “All of a sudden, you’ll run a five kilometer run and it’d be faster than you know,” Young added.

One Coach Fits All

A typical training session includes warm up, drills to fire up the muscles, as well as specific training workouts for endurance or speed.

Young enjoys helping people become better runners, even if it means having a different coaching approach for each runner. Being a coach for 30 years, Young has learned that everybody is different and takes to different types of coaching. Some runners take time to gain trust, so Young would run for an hour with them, coaching them along the way. Other runners prefer direct instructions.

“I learned what works and what cues to give to different people,” Young said.

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will be held in March 2019.