Augusta Christian Schools coach Keith Walton coaches several sports and is in charge of strength and conditioning.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Augusta Christian Schools coach Keith Walton has been an eyewitness to the improved racial relations in Georgia's private school system.
As an Augusta Christian student athlete, Walton often was intimidated to play at all-white schools where opposing players would bait him with racial slurs. But as one of only three black head coaches in the Georgia Independent School Association, he has seen the color of his skin become "no big deal."
"In our league, the majority of schools were formed because of desegregation," the 11-year coach said. "You've got David Emanuel and Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Burke - all of those schools formed because of that. As a player, it was quite evident they were formed because of that.
"When I come back as a coach, it was obvious they were afraid of what they didn't know. Once they got to know me, it was totally different."
In a way, Walton considers the frightening times of his youth a gift. The steadfastness and confidence he gleaned from the experience he has been able to pass along to minority athletes under his care.
"We have other minorities that go to school here, and when we go to schools that have the rebel flag they'll say stuff like, 'Coach, let me walk beside you,"' he said. "I tell them, 'Y'all don't worry about it. It's not that big of a deal."'
Although he is the girls' head basketball and track coach, and assistant football coach, Walton primarily is the strength and conditioning coach for all of Augusta Christian's athletic programs.
He teaches weight training at the school and has witnessed the program grow from only a couple of students to several dozen. His largest of four daily classes contains 45 students. Walton's training methods are so successful, his program will be featured in the spring issue of Bigger, Faster, Stronger magazine.
The training method the 31-year-old has concocted focuses on function and motivation.
"We don't deal in beach building, where you workout to look good in a bathing suit," he said. "Our lifting is functional. We want to get faster. We want to get stronger. We want to jump higher. We want to take what we're doing in the weight room and apply it to the sport a kid is training for."
The training has resulted in some football players posting 40-yard dash times of 4.5 and 4.6 seconds, Walton said.
Student athletes begin working with Walton in the seventh grade, and that's when he starts encouraging them to work hard for that one special day.
"We tell our kids that they are lifting for the last game of their senior year," he said. "You want to be the fastest that day. You want to be the strongest that day. You want to jump the highest that day. You want to win that day. For us, that day should be the day we play in the state championship game."
A soon-to-be father - Walton's wife, Lynette, is pregnant with their first child - Walton has heard some of college athletics greatest motivators, such as Lou Holtz and Rick Pitino, while attending Southern Weselyan University. But Jesus is the greatest motivator the world has ever know, Walton said.
"The greatest leader of all time, to me, was Jesus Christ," he said. "From day number one (students) hear that come out of my mouth. From that day on through the rest of the season, I'm encouraging my kids to think about what Jesus would do in their situation."
Augusta Christian athletic director Bruce Lane believes Walton to be one of his greatest coaching assets because of his religious convictions.
"I think he's a great spiritual role model for our kids," Lane said. "He's a very genuine and loving person, not only in terms of how he treats the kids, but in his relationship with the Lord. He's not ashamed of his testimony. He is the same person wherever he's at."
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