Much to Larry Judge’s dismay, his parents made him start track and field when he was in eighth grade.
His parents encouraged him to pursue throwing, which includes shot put, hammer and weight throw. But he wasn’t a natural at it, and he struggled.
“I was one of those athletes who had to work very, very hard to achieve success, so things didn’t come easy to me,” Judge said.
And that patience paid off for him once he started coaching.
Judge has had athletes make the Olympic or Paralympic team every year since the Sydney games in 2000, and he’s known as the country’s premier coach, according to bsu.edu, in throwing events. He was chosen as an assistant coach for the Paralympic Track and Field team in Rio.
“It’s a huge honor [to coach Olympic athletes],” Judge said. “You get the opportunity to represent your country and to help young people achieve their dreams and goals. It’s certainly a wonderful opportunity and certainly a privilege to be able to do that.”
An Indiana native, Jude started his coaching career at Indiana State University when he graduated. During Judge’s senior year, he wrote the workout for the throwers, then the year after, he transitioned to be their actual coach.
“It was something I had a knack for — the opportunity became available, and I got into it,” Judge said.
He coached collegiately for 18 years: first at ISU, then he moved to become the assistant coach at the University of South Carolina and then at the University of Wyoming before finishing out his collegiate coaching career in 2005 at the University of Florida.
After that, Judge moved to a different collegiate experience: teaching. He’s been at Ball State University since 2005 as a professor of kinesiology, associate chair of the School of Kinesiology, and coordinator of the Graduate Athletic Coaching Education Program.
But that doesn’t mean he’s stopped coaching.
In August 2013, USA Track and Field appointed Judge as the national chairman of coaching education. And in Spring 2016, Judge took assigned leave to be able to go to the Olympic Training Center and coach.
He’s coached eight Olympians and three Paralympians, including discus throwers Jeremy Campbell and Jared Schuurmans and shotput thrower Felicia Johnson. Many coaches have an entire team of Olympians, said Amanda Brooks, marketing and communications manager for USA Track and Field. But Judge works with only a few athletes at a time to make them as strong as possible.
Campbell, who won gold in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, said Judge is always committed to his athletes and will do whatever he can to help them.
He’s worked with Judge for seven years now, and he’s learned that Judge cares a lot about his athletes and their performance.
“He’s a purist; he cares about quality,” Campbell said. “He demands a lot, which is obviously a good thing.”
Along with having high expectations for his athletes, Judge’s patience also gives him the chance to bring an athlete from good to talented enough to make the Olympic team.
“So often in today’s society, people want things very quickly,” Judge said, “and I think athletes are no different.”