Name: Neb Talley (pictured in green)
Region: Winston-Salem, NC
Team: Moore Magnet Elementary
Number of Seasons Coached: 3
Neb Talley is Let Me Run's Head Coach at Moore Magnet Elementary in Winston-Salem, NC. As the Philanthropy Chair of his Chi Psi Fraternity at Wake Forest, Neb helped bring the Let Me Run program to the local elementary school two years ago and has kept it running ever since. Neb's fraternity brothers serve as assistant coaches and running buddies for the Let Me Run team and also fundraise to provide scholarships that give underprivileged boys the opportunity to join the team.
Neb's Site Coordinator Nissa Vogel says, "Neb is an ideal role model for the boys and for me. He demonstrates through his actions and words what it means to give back, to pay it forward, to demonstrate kindness and compassion to everyone he meets. He has said to me and the boys multiple times in multiple ways that he was blessed with a strong family that have always been there for him and modeled for him strong character and strong values. He hopes to impact these boys by modeling these same values for them. Neb consistently sees the positive in the boys, in stressful situations, and in life. He is a gift to the boys and anyone that is in his life."
Neb, what inspired you to become a Let Me Run coach?
I have two passions that made me realize that this program was a natural fit for me. One, I am extremely dedicated to physical fitness. I go to the gym at least 5 times a week and was the captain of the track team in high school. This gave me the tools to be able to teach these young boys how to excel as young runners. Also, I am passionate about helping develop character in our youth. Although I never had the chance to take a formal role in doing this like LMR has let me do, I always sought out people that I could mentor and use what I know now to help guide others.
What brings you back season after season?
The main reason I come back each season is how much pride I feel on the day of our season-ending 5k. After working with each group of boys for a whole season, it is an inexplicable feeling to see how much they have grown and how thrilled they are to put their training to the test. Whether I notice this through a parent explaining how much their son has enjoyed the program or hearing it from one of the boys themselves, there is no better feeling than knowing that myself and the other coaches have made an impact on these boys.
Tell us about how you’ve recruited other coaches and running buddies.
All of the coaches and running buddies come from the Chi Psi Fraternity. Since I was the Philanthropy Chair at the time that the program was introduced, I took it upon myself to not only have the Let Me Run boys benefit from the program, but also have brothers of the fraternity benefit by providing an opportunity to get involved in our local community. Initially, we had a group of 10 or so assistant coaches who volunteered to come to 2 or 3 practices over the course of the semester. While some coaches came to more practices than others, almost all of them would go out of their way to speak highly of the program. Many of them emphasized how fun it was working with the young, lively group of boys and that it was humbling to be able to share their wisdom with the young guys. This helped promote the program and garnered more and more interest to participate each season. Now, we have about 20 guys that are interested in being an assistant coach. To put it briefly, I don’t have to recruit very heavily because the other coaches speak so highly of the program that more and more brothers get involved.
What’s the dynamic between your elementary team and college coaches?
I remember when I was 10 years old, I thought college students were the coolest people on Earth. In this country, we romanticize the college years and start to desire that lifestyle from a young age. That being said, the Let Me Run boys have a ball working with the college coaches. They ask us endless questions and, although they often have short attention spans, they love to hear what we have to say and the advice we have to give. The only problem that I have during our discussion time is calming the boys down because almost all of them are jumping to participate. The boys frequently ask when Coach Jack or Coach Rob is coming back because they remember each and every one of them. They even give us nicknames sometimes. For instance, I was “Coach 1 Chain” my first season as a coach because the boys saw that I wore a necklace every day to practice. After working with teachers and staff at the school that usually have kids of their own, I think it is a nice change of pace for the boys to have the opportunity to learn from college students with a different perspective.
What would you tell parents about the program?
I would tell parents that it is a wonderful opportunity for these young boys to be a part of a team that is meant to help them grow in a broad range of ways. They grow as athletes by learning how to push themselves to reach their own goals. They grow as people in general by discussing various topics like being responsible, being a dependable friend/teammate, and learning how to apologize. And they learn that it is okay to express emotions even though oftentimes boys are expected to act tough and veil these emotions.
What’s the most rewarding part of coaching?
My favorite part of every season is towards the end when I get to hear from the parents. It is very seldom that a boy will come up and tell me that the program has really changed him. I usually get a “I’ll miss you coach” or a “Do we have practice next week?”. But, a parent won’t hold back in telling me the different ways that their son has benefitted from the program.
What have you learned from your runners?
Upon arrival at college, a student's mindset quickly shifts to prioritize taking every step possible to have a job once their 4 years is up. We obsess over our GPA’s, network for internships, and switch our majors with aspirations of not ending up back in our parent’s basement. When I go to practice with the LMR boys, I remember how it felt to be in their shoes. Yes, our parents told us to do our homework and preached about the importance of an education, but at that age our main concern was to have fun however we could do that. When I walk into the classroom to take the boys outside to see them dancing, laughing, goofing off, I remember that sometimes it’s best to step back from responsibilities and have some fun. These boys always remind me to take time to enjoy your day in whatever way works for you.
What would you tell a boy who is unsure about joining Let Me Run?
I would ask him two questions. Do you like to have fun? Do you like to learn on your feet instead of in a chair?
I would be honest and tell him that we do have discussions centered around teaching them how to build on their character, but we often do so in creative and fun ways. In addition, any free-time at the end of practice means time for flag football, sharks and minnows, or whatever game the boys want to play!
As a college student, how does it feel to be a role model for younger boys?
I always jump at the opportunity to be a mentor because I can share what little wisdom I’ve gained thus far. As a college student, the younger boys really look up to us because many of them voice their aspirations of being in college, maybe even as collegiate athletes one day. So, I always get questions about Wake Forest athletics. The first season, we actually had the chance to bring the boys on campus for a little field trip. I am not exaggerating when I say that is the most excited group of kids that I have ever seen. These young guys really idolize college students and the thought of being there themselves one day, so having a bunch of college students themselves mentoring them helps inspire them that they too can make it there one day if they work diligently!
Tell us about the biggest transformation you’ve seen in a runner.
During my first season, I worked with a boy who had, at the age of 10, already won in a battle with cancer. On top of that, he had autism, which made it difficult for him to relate with the other boys. His father came to almost every practice to be supportive of him because he was especially emotional, as you could imagine. He very frequently cried during practice because he was scared of being the slowest runner, but I kept telling him that all I expected him to do was to race himself and aim to improve. While he never was quite as fast as the rest of the group, he always pushed himself through pain to do better than the last practice. I ended up being his running buddy for the 5k at the end of the season. Although we were the last of the boys to finish, I cannot remember a time where I felt more joy than when I saw Aidan’s face as he was met by the cheers of everyone at the finish line. He proved to himself and everyone else that he could do what he thought he could not do at the beginning of the season.
Through coaching LMR, what transformations have you seen in yourself?
Above all else, I have seen myself become a more patient individual. When you work with a group of 10-15 rowdy 4th and 5th graders, you have to learn how to not get frustrated when things do not operate smoothly, because they often won’t. I love all of the boys that I work with to death, but they are still at a stage where their attention spans make it difficult stay engaged during our discussion time. Additionally, for a lot of the boys, I have to constantly push them during our runs to keep exerting effort because they get bored of running and start goofing off. In doing all of this, I have to remain patient and keep the end goal of making a meaningful impact on these boys in lives!
How has coaching Let Me Run impacted your fraternity?
The guys have loved having the opportunity to work with young guys and share their experiences/wisdom with them. Each time I bring an assistant coach for the first time, I can almost guarantee that they will comment on how much fun they had on our ride back to campus. Around 20 brothers, which is more than a third of the fraternity, have had a chance to work with the boys and all of them speak highly of the program. I think it is a chance for them to take stress-relief break from their weeks and work with some lively kids, a chance to help them develop their leadership skills by coaching, and a wonderful opportunity to give back to our local community by investing their time in these boys.
What would you tell other fraternities about coaching Let Me Run?
I would tell them that the program benefits the fraternity just as much as it does the boys. It has truly been a humbling experience for all of the coaches and we are looking forward to another great season!