15th in the country, and he won the Iron Horse Award for most outstanding athlete in outdoor track.
The fact that Kennedy Sr.’s coach gave him a chance meant so much to him. Kennedy Sr. said he wasn’t that good at first, but he had heart and he worked hard.
“When I came out of New York I was not the top runner. When I went to John F. Kennedy Sr.in the Bronx, I was one of 60-something kids on the team and I was just getting started coming from freshman to sophomore, and all of a sudden I broke loose. I made the varsity team by my mid- sophomore year,” Kennedy Sr. said.
“He stood with me, man — he pushed me. When I was having issues and problems in the streets he kept on me. He’s the one that got me to college.”
Kennedy Sr. tries to emulate Goldberg in the way he coaches and mentors his team. He credits Goldberg for much of his success.
“He’s been a mentor to me, and he’s been like a father- figure. He’s a great man overall,” Devon Hines, one of Kennedy Sr.’s assistants, said. “A lot of times you come across people and they say they (will) do this or they can do that, but he shows action. If he says he’s going to do something he does it. With the kids I just see that he loves them, he loves the sport.”
“A lot of the kids, they come in there with problems, emotional problems or whatever and he’s just like, ‘Okay we’re not going to focus on track. I’m going to talk to you and we’re going to see what the issue is, and we’re going to take care of it.’”
Kennedy Sr. tries to teach his kids – since many of them face an upbringing similar to his – that they can do better than what they have. Kennedy, his wife Ange- lyn Kennedy and their son Benjamin “BJ” Kennedy Jr. volunteer as a family. BJ has been running since he was five. Now he attends Troy University on a scholarship where he’s studying sports therapy.
Angelyn and Ben Kennedy Sr. met in 1982 and have been married for 24 years in August.
“He’s good. He’s good at coaching the kids in a couple different disciplines, especially the jumps and the throws,” Angelyn Kennedy said.
Kennedy Sr. works at the Newton County sheriff’s office as a detention deputy and his wife Angelyn Kennedy works at Salem as a school teacher. Between the months of January and July the Kennedy family is busy with track and field.
All of the Striders’ activities are paid for out of the Kennedys’ pocket, with some help coming from the parents.
“It is a burden. We take a lot of our own personal money to put into this,” Kennedy Sr. said. “I have some parents who’ve been helping out giving some of their money to help, but it’s still a lot. We’ve got to pay for our own hotel, traveling and gas. We travel to these places, and it’s a lot, but we do it for the love of the kids.”
“What I’m trying to do for these kids is give them hope,” Kennedy Sr. said.
Kennedy Sr. wants his kids to grow up and be able to make contracts instead of signing them, and that all starts with getting an education.
“I’m trying to do something for the community to get them more involved into athletic sports,” Kennedy Sr. said. “Even with the kids that get involved some of these parents are not involved with their kids. I want to wake these kids up that there is more out there than the streets and drugs, because kids who are on a low totem pole feel like they can’t go anywhere.”
“Some of these kids have never been any- where,” Kennedy Sr. said. “The last couple years they’ve been somewhere. The kids have gone to South Carolina, North Carolina, last year we were in Florida. So we’ve taken some of these kids and encouraged the parents to get these kids and let’s go