Ken Dudley just wanted to give his sons a competitive edge in youth football, so he signed them up for track and field with DC Speed, the premier youth track club in Washington, D.C. The club needed more coaches, and Dudley had prior coaching experience, so he volunteered to coach the 11-to-12-year-olds.
Four years later, Dudley is the new head coach of DC Speed and looking to propel the District to the forefront of youth athletics through track and field. Children from ages 6 to 18 can join DC Speed, and the year-round track club already has 120 youth athletes for the 2016 outdoor season.
“Right now, the kids aren’t learning proper form and the proper way to play these sports. That’s what we’re here for,” said Dudley. “We know eventually we have to hand these kids off to another coach, so we want to have these kids prepared to the best of their ability to be handed off and to be exceptional.”
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Dudley attended Hampton University and John Hopkins University. In 2000, he founded his company Majestic Builders, which renovates and builds houses in the Washington metropolitan area. Now, as a father of four children—Kenny Jr., Bryce, Daniel and Julia—Dudley spends most of his free time providing D.C. youth with the resources to build character, confidence and self-esteem, on and off the track.
“You get out what you put in. I try to hold the kids accountable, just like I would an adult,” said Dudley. “When we give them specific directions we expect them to execute. We expect all the kids to also have fun.”
The team regularly participates in team-building exercises, such as traveling to Terrapin Adventures for a rope course and game nights involving the whole family. As a family-oriented team, DC Speed also supports its athletes in other activities outside of track and field, including school plays, community service and other sports.
DC Speed, founded in 2007, is managed by an executive board of parents and volunteers. Cynthia McEwen, who serves as the board’s president, said Dudley’s ties to the D.C. community, as a resident and business owner, made him an ideal candidate for the head coaching position.
“It’s important for us to make sure our leadership is in the community and understands not just some of the challenges we face, but also has stakes in what we want to do here in the city, in terms of how we give back and what we can do to enhance the children whose lives we touch,” said McEwen.
Despite being a nonprofit organization under the Department of Parks and Recreation, DC Speed’s biggest challenge is finding a facility to house its program. This season, the club is practicing at Banneker Recreation Center in Northwest D.C., and in previous years, they bounced around between public high school facilities in the area. Finding a year-round facility is important because the athletes don’t just run track, they also throw javelin and shot put, and do long jump, high jump and triple jump.
While board members reach out to D.C. Public Schools and Councilmembers Brandon Todd and Kenyan McDuffie try to secure a long-term facility, Dudley is focused on teaching kids how to enjoy track and field, as well as mentoring them in their everyday lives.
“My business model is to try to make my clients feel like they’re No. 1. I try to follow that (at DC Speed) and have the coaches follow that too,” said Dudley. “Whether I’m working with 10 kids or five kids, I want every kid, at the end of the day, to feel like they were the only kid on that track that I worked with.”