Taylor Denton | Contributor
Featured Image: Rudder motivates his athletes to be their best on and off the track. | Courtesy of Muad Issa
Raymond Rudder — the head coach of the York track & field team — is tenacious, motivational and inspirational; he has impacted his team in a tremendous way.
Rudder was born and raised in Barbados. His love for track emerged when he joined a track club in his teenage years. This was where Rudder experienced the personal and athletic growth that comes with being part of a team.
His appreciation for the sport continued into his post-secondary education as he studied in Cuba to be a technical track & field coach.
When Rudder moved to Canada, he soon began volunteering for York. He saw it as one of the ways to get involved in the sport. He soon progressed from being a volunteer to head coach.
The transition was like “second nature,” says Rudder. “I know the sport well and what it takes for athletes to excel and succeed. I didn’t find it extremely challenging. It was me continuing to be who I am and knowing what I know and getting it across in different ways and I think that the athletes saw that I had a different perspective.”
Rudder’s impact has been felt throughout his team. One of his athletes, short sprinter Diana Boa, expresses her admiration for her coach. “At first, what struck me was his determination. It was really inspiring for me to see someone put a lot of time and effort into a program, and it really inspired me to reach my full potential,” says Boa.
The team has even created a slogan, #TheRayWay, that they have printed on T-shirts to express the gratitude they have for him.
“It was in a presentation in my first opening meeting as an interim head coach,” says Rudder. “I was sitting down and planning my welcome back meeting for rookies and veterans when I thought: ‘What am I doing? Why am I following the same format the previous coach left behind? Why can’t I do it the way I see fit?’”
At the end of his presentation, he concluded with the catchy slogan, and it has stuck ever since. “From that moment they heard that more than anything else I have said. From there, things just took off. It was not planned, it was me trying to say, why not try it ‘my way.’”
The team has grown since Rudder became head coach. Part of his goal is to ensure his athletes experience athletic growth outside varsity sports. “No athlete under my watch will not know how to advance in the sport or become a national team representative.”
Along with being a head coach, Rudder is also a father of two young daughters whom he hopes will one day find a passion in track & field.
But, he ultimately believes the key to passing down his legacy is through mentorship and guidance. “I often say, ‘A better you is a better me.’ Someone had to mentor me to be who I am today. If I have the opportunity to mentor an assistant coach, that’s where I can say I am making that positive impact, especially in the area of track & field. I want to see that the sport continues to evolve and transform, and that we’re keeping up with the different trends and changes of the sport.”