PINOLE (CBS 5) — An East Bay Sheriff’s Deputy who spent years keeping order in juvenile court is now spending his retirement helping kids stay on track.
Sam Burns has coached track since he founded the Hilltop Speed Track Club in 1993. He has helped people such as 11 year old Kyla Tharpe. “I like learning new things about how you can run and go faster,” she said.
It all began when Burns started coaching his own two sons in Richmond, but more kids kept jumping in until it grew into a nonprofit.
Today, Burns oversees track practice several times a week for nearly 60 kids ages five to fifteen at Pinole Valley High School in Pinole where he is head track coach.
“You see when they know they’re doing well,” Burns said, “They smile a little bit more. They bounce a little more. They talk a little more.”
It’s because of Burns’ work that students aren’t just learning the sport; they are developing discipline that extends to the classroom. Mothers such as Kelli Tharpe have seen her daughter Kyla blossom under Burns’ watchful eye.
“When I look at her and her ability to get her homework done without me having to remind her, get on her to have it done, she usually has it done,” Tharpe said.
La Tanya Chilton, mother to 11-year-old Alyssia Jones, also agreed. “I’ve seen a lot as far as her behavior. She’s more focused in class,” she said.
Jones boasted that she gained confidence having trained with Burns for three years. “When you work hard and know what you need to do, you can do it,” Jones said.
Every year, many kids make it to the national championships, which take them all over the country, from Oakland to Washington, DC. Burns raises thousands of dollars a year with the help of parents running a concession stand at the Oakland Raiders’ home games to fund the student trip.
“They get to travel, go to restaurants, stay in hotels,” Burns said. “They learn a lot of different things. It becomes like a family atmosphere because we do a lot of things together.”
Burns retired after 25 years in Juvenile Court as a Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Deputy. Today Hilltop Speed Track Club is affiliated with the Richmond Police Activities League.
Burns continues to teach from positive example as he himself earned track and football scholarships to attend UC Berkeley. He credits his coaches for making sports fun. “They taught me the love of it and that’s why I still do it and because I remember how well I was taught and treated when I was running.”
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