Running Toward the Competition
Endurance… Strength… Agility… Teamwork... These are not just words. They define the aspirations of some of Texarkana’s most talented young athletes. Coach Henry Black established the Black Mambas track team three years ago to teach Texarkana’s youth to run toward competition and to never shy away from it. Coach Black aspires to provide kids the opportunity to see a bigger world, and he is using this age-old sport to open the door.
The Black Mambas team works on leadership, discipline, and integrity through strenuous practices and accountability. These are skills they will need far beyond track practice and track meets. In a world that sometimes lacks stability and accountability, Black wants to provide a solid foundation and encouragement. “We take any kid who wants to run, and we put them up against other kids who will challenge them and their speed,” he said. The Black Mambas track team allows him to reach kids through running. “We do it to show them what is out there, and that life can go beyond Texarkana.”
Beyond the Black Mambas, Coach Black also spends his days with kids, coaching PE at Theron Jones Early Literacy Center. “We try to make a difference in the lives of Texarkana youth,” he said. “They are faced with so many issues at such an early age. We get to act as coaches, mentors, and big brothers and encourage these kids to make good choices. We try to teach our kids to deal with adversity on the track and in life, reaching kids any way we can.” The approach is simple, but profound.
“Last year was our first year competing,” Coach Black explained. “We started practicing in January and had our first track meet in Florida in March.” Throughout the season, the team competes in nine track meets. The season ends with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior Olympics (JO) National Championships. However, not every competitor qualifies for the Junior Olympics, and some do not want to compete at that level. Coach Black feels it is essential for his runners to see the competition beyond Texarkana and to recognize their potential. Running is beneficial, but that is not all of it. “Most kids do not get to leave Texarkana, and they have never been to Florida. The best part was seeing a mom, dad, and kids excited over seeing different landmarks and experiencing the ocean for the first time.”
Coach Black has three kids of his own that compete for the Black Mambas. Coaching one’s own children can pose a challenge. “I do not take it easy on them,” Black explained. “There are kids who look to them to be the example. So, they do not get any slack. I hold them to the same expectations and standards as the others, which is not always easy.” However, it was a conversation between Black and his son that was pivotal for them both. It stemmed from his son making comments regarding how tough the competition was. Black was able to use this moment to explain to his son that life will be a series of competitions, whether for class rank, a job, or track. Raising kids who can handle that adversity and to excel in life is what any parent wants for their children. Coach Black hopes to use track as a tool to deliver those experiences to his own kids and his team as an opportunity to push them and help them grow.
According to Coach Black, perspective is key in building relationships with these athletes. Their lives are not always easy. “You never know what happened at home,” he said. “I try to remember that, especially during practice, if they are having a bad day.” Each athlete brings a set of obstacles, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional. This team allows the opportunity for strong role models to meet with kids amid obstacles and walk with them as they learn how to navigate. It is a safe place to work through struggles, and they are given a sense of purpose. It is the goal of the program to focus on the whole child, physically, socially, and emotionally. They are building a team of coaches, mentors, and parents dedicated to teaching kids how to succeed in life.
Studies have shown that participation in organized youth sports and exercise programs promotes improved physical health, helps to maintain healthy body weight, improves sleep quality, memory, and mood, promotes better decision making, lowers risk for depression, and increases coping skills and the capacity to learn. The Black Mambas track team serves as the vessel for these kids to expand themselves and affect the world around them for good.
TEXARKANA BLACK MAMBAS TRACK CLUB
Through their involvement in Track & Field, athletes will:
- Improve their physical conditioning and overall health as we encourage a healthy lifestyle
- Learn skills related to Track and Field: basic and advanced fundamentals
- Build a positive self-image through individual and team achievement by setting and reaching attainable and personal goals
- Learn to cope with adversity
- Be part of an organization that promotes self-esteem, self-worth,
- a sense of accomplishment and the development of friendships
We teach our youth to run toward competition and not to shy away from it. In competing against other children from around the United States, we know there are faster and more advanced athletes; we continue to work harder and push towards excellence as we teach our kids to be competitive in everything they do. Texarkana Black Mambas is staffed with a team of coaches, parents, community leaders, and volunteers who realize children will compete for the rest of their lives in high school, college, and on the job. We are teaching our children how to succeed in life through organized sports, and eventually, our children will compete on a national stage for sports and win in life.
Texarkana Black Mambas Track Club focuses on the whole child, physical, social, and emotional. Being a part of a team promotes self-esteem, self-worth, and a sense of accomplishment. Studies have shown that participation in organized youth sports/exercise promotes improved physical health, helps to maintain a healthy body weight, improves sleep quality, improves memory, promotes better decision making, improves mood, lower risk for depression, increases coping skills, and increases the capacity to learn.
As Texarkana Black Mambas Track Club works to cultivate athletes, we will also prepare these youth for the highest level of competition at the AAU Junior Olympics (JO) National Championships. Our athletes will compete at local and regional track meets during the spring and summer in preparation for the National Championships that take place in July. Many of our athletes have had little opportunity to travel outside of the Texarkana area. Texarkana Black Mambas athletes will travel to compete in many states, including Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. This allows the opportunity to compete against other athletes with similar measuring points in Track and Field in preparation for the AAU Junior Olympics (JO) National Championships and to see life outside of Texarkana which we hope in return will motivate them to work harder and develop goals to work towards for their futures.
Every year over 8,000 athletes compete at Nationals under media coverage. In 2021, the Texarkana Black Mambas sent 11 athletes to represent our area.
Texarkana Black Mambas promotes and encourages excellence in education and giving back to our community. Our athletes are recognized for their academic success at school, as well as excellence in conduct. These athletes are awarded a certificate of achievement that highlights their academic excellence. Texarkana Black Mambas will complete a community service project each summer to learn the value of serving their community.
Photos by Chelsey Gillion & Tyrone Dodson
- El’Lanah Black
- Tonijiah Nard
- Eric Winkler
- Meisha Johnson
- Aliyah Sanders
- (L-R) Greyson, Richard, Taegan, and Peyton Bowers
- Members of Texarkana Black Mambas Track Club