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Coach Ed Temple, center, and Tigerbelles sprinters Wyomia Tyus return home from the Olympics in 1964.

HBCU Olympian Talks About Coaching In The Segregated South

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Coach Ed Temple, center, and Tigerbelles sprinters Wyomia Tyus return home from the Olympics in 1964.

When people start to think about the Olympics, a few thoughts comes to mind. Record Breaking feats, Medal Counts, Locations, Sports, and even political significance. But when it comes to Olympic Success, every great athlete has a great coach. Edward Temple from Tennessee State was one of them.

A Complex Environment

When Temple became the coach of Tennessee State in 1950, things were very different. During that time, coaches had to teach classes and coach at the same time. That is bizarre compared to today’s standards. Thousands of college athletic departments are dedicated to the business and requirements of the athletic competition. But back then, Temple stimulated students brains and their athletic abilities.

Racial Issues were a problem at the time as well. Tennessee is a state full of Civil Rights history. The Nashville Sit-Ins. The Nashville Race Riots. The Clinton, TN integration conflicts. The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The list goes on and on. The Civil Rights movement was alive and well during this time. And for Temple, coaching an HBCU track team during this time was difficult. When traveling in the south, the athletes had to “hit the field” just to use the bathroom. Competing in a region full of Jim Crow laws was almost impossible.

From a broader perspective, female sports did not really get proper funding and respect until Title IX came into play.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (US Dept of Education)

This was a huge moment not just for college athletes, but for any athletic organization in the county. Governments and educational institutions were forced to have equal funding for female sports. But unluckily for Temple, this law did not become effective until almost halfway through his coaching career.

Despite the various circumstances, Temple developed a hard track program. He established 3 a-day practices in the summer heat. He consistently trained his athletes to be the best. Temple named his team “The Tigerbelles”. The Tigerbelles won 34 National Titles in his 44 years as the head coach. His expertise led him to the Olympics.

Read more here.

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