By Denise Spann, Florida MileSplit Correspondent
In the eyes of many, the Coronavirus ruined the most anticipated year in sports. However, for Dunbar High School's Coach Guy Thomas, this pandemic came at just the right time.
After attending the Adidas Boost Boston Games with an athlete in 2018, Thomas and Adidas mutually expressed interest in an internship with PURE Athletics, their premiere training group.
"I guess they saw my enthusiasm about track because every workshop they had, I went to it," he said. "On my third day, one of the representatives and one of the coaches said, 'hey have you ever thought about doing an internship with Adidas?' ... That day we flew out and they said they'd contact me on what happens next."
Two years went by after that conversation, with no update on the opportunity. Thomas had given up on hearing back, until he received a random phone call in the middle of May.
"I didn't actually believe it to be honest with you," the sprint coach said. "I was in actual disbelief. My wife did most of the talking because I had it on speakerphone."
Thomas was given very short notice to report to the national training center in Clearwater, Florida - a three-hour commute from home - to work and unexpectedly reunite with Coach Lance Brauman for this 10-week internship.
The last time Brauman and Thomas saw each other, it was 1989. The two ran track and played football together at Palatka High School.
"I've known him pretty much my entire life, so it's worked out pretty good," Brauman said. "It has been a full circle moment. I'm enjoying this opportunity as much as he is, I think."
Thomas is now in his third week with the PURE Athletics and the coach claims he's already learned so much about the different phases of each sprint, front-end and back-end sprinting, how to correct an athlete's defects in their mechanics and more.
"The first day was filled with so much information, so much knowledge," he said. "It's like going into fertile soil. The environment is just all track and field. The lifestyle, how they dress, even when they're not training, they're talking about track and field. I was like in heaven."
In this time, Coach Thomas said he's gained more access to the athletes, putting what he's learned to the test.
"He's already done a really good job," Coach Brauman said. "I'm just hoping that as much as he's helping us, that we're helping him get a better understanding of what the sport's about at a higher level. But, also to be in a position where he feels comfortable with a professional type of athlete."
The constant opportunity to work with the likes of U.S. sprint standout, Noah Lyles; Jamaican veteran, Nick Ashmead; Olympic gold medalist, Shaunae Miller-Uibo; Great Britain's Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and others, make what he's learning that more impactful.
"All of them really just embraced me and took me in, which made me feel welcomed," he said. "It also took some of the stress off me. It was intimidating first walking out there with guys that have gold medals in world championships, and here I am, just a high school coach."
Thomas has also been able to build strong coach-athlete relationships.
"Nick really took me in, and he has about 10 years of experience," he said. "Every day we talk, he tells me everything, the mistakes he's made, what to look out for, you know everything."
Through this program, Thomas has tried pinpoint what he wants to improve in his coaching.
"I've always been a coach that's done certain things and never asked myself why," he said. "Being out there has shown me that I not only know what I'm doing, but why I'm doing and the science behind it. That's what I've learned so far while being here, I've learned the why."
With seven weeks left in this opportunity, Thomas is mostly looking forward to passing his newly discovered techniques down to his high school athletes at Dunbar.
"It's so hard for me to not send them the videos that I get every day," he said. "I feel like I have some athletes that can go out there and actually learn a lot. To run at that level, even if they can't compete with them, just the fact that they're running with them, it gives them an edge psychologically."
As for the next steps in his coaching career, taking his expertise to the professional level seems more possible.
"I'm just taking it one day at a time," Thomas said. "When the opportunity comes to work at the college or the pro level, I think by working with these top caliber athletes that will put me in a better position. It's giving me the edge over a lot of people. Working with Noah Lyles, it doesn't get any better than that. Working with Shaunae Miller, it doesn't get better than that."