Empowering the Young for Life
By David Hahn
Jim Spier has been a fan of track and field since he was a high school student in the late 1950s. When he attended track and field events as an adult he got interested in the Junior events (under 20) and noticed that the Junior teams did not represent the makeup of the top high school track and field athletes in the nation. Together with his friend, Mike Byrnes, they did some digging, asking questions and studying the process. What Jim and Mike learned is that many young high school athletes could not advance to higher level sanctioned events. On their own, they launched an effort in the mid 1980s to identify and promote promising young high school track and field athletes. This effort eventually led to the founding of the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation (NSAF) in 1990.
“We are always here to help athletes have a chance to participate.
Mike and I saw early on that there were a lot of junior athletes in track and field who simply could not get to meets and participate. We dedicated ourselves early on to helping these young people to get to events,
get the guidance they needed, and to compete,” explained Jim.
The official mission of the NSAF is to help students live ” healthy and active lifestyles, and to prepare them for success.” This inspirational goal is made into reality for thousands of high school athletes through the year round efforts of Jim and other top leaders of the NSAF who work to develop
and promote a series of national track and field events and trainings here and abroad.
From these early efforts by Jim Spier and Mike Byrnes to promote junior track and field events in the mid 1980s, the NSAF has grown to become one of the nation’s premiere sport event sponsors, training organizations, and non-profit organizations designed and committed to the development of young people.
Today, the NSAF promotes the largest high school indoor and outdoor track and field meets with the New Balance National Indoor (4200 participants) and Outdoor (4800 participants), as well as a Cross Country Festival, a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Cross Country Event, a Caribbean Invitational, and various clinics and training events throughout the year at various locations….all to help young athletes. Thousands of high school students participate each year in
NSAF events and clinics.
The many great things about the NSAF come from the character and inspired work of the NSAF staff, led by Jim Spier, CEO, and Joy Kamini, COO.
Jim’s work as CEO of the foundation takes him around the world to exciting international locations, and he has the good fortune to work with a dedicated and professional staff, a “well-oiled machine” as he describes them. But his primary motivation for his efforts as leader of the NSAF is for the simple and profound joy of helping young athletes live positive, healthy, and inspired lives.
Joy Kamini is the Chief Operating Officer. Interesting professional and organizational challenges helping to operate some of the world’s premiere track and field events for young people, and personal professional career fulfillment as part of her work as chief legal counsel to the NSAF, are some of the benefits described by Joy from her work at the NSAF. But, the get-up-and-go that Joy displays for her involvement comes from something far more important. “I feel like I have an immense extended family, and I thoroughly enjoy being part of their lives, seeing them develop and grow and become even more positive and inspiring people. I love being a part of that,” exuded Joy.
Jim and Joy are joined in their mission by a dedicated professional staff of volunteers and about thirty to forty experienced event staff who are paid small stipends to make this all work.
The efforts of Jim and Joy and the NSAF staff have been very successful, success which is best shown through the numerous examples of young athletes from high school who were able to compete because of the accessibility of NSAF events.
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