USATF celebrates Black History month in February with weekly features on African-American athletes, coaches and administrators in the sport. Chair of USATF’s High Performance Division, Olympic gold medalist and sports agent Michael Conley shares his story with contributor Tom Surber.
It’s been said that a man whose occupation allows him to do what he loves never works a day in his life. If that’s true, Mike Conley’s life and career can only be described as a perpetual vacation.
Conley, who fell in love with track and field as a youngster, rode the wave of his passion to a competitive career in track and field that stands prominently for its variety and level of excellence.
Considered the best combination long and triple jump artist the world has ever known, Conley soared onto the national stage by winning 16 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles (6 LJ, 10 TJ) while at the University of Arkansas.
By the time his career came to an end, Conley ranked top ten in the world 10 times in the long jump and 14 times in the triple jump. A two-time Olympic triple jump medalist (silver in 1984, gold in 1992), Conley was a five-time World Outdoor Championships team member, winning the bronze medal in the long jump in 1983, triple jump silver medal in 1987, bronze in 1991 and gold in 1993. His American indoor triple jump record of 17.76m/58-3.25 set in 1987 still stands.
After hanging up his competitive spikes, Conley worked in the USATF National Office in Indianapolis as Executive Director of Elite Athlete Programs and currently works as the agent for his son, star NBA point guard Mike Conley, Jr. Mike Jr. is currently in his eighth season with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he’s recognized as one of the NBA’s leading point guards.
Conley Sr. currently serves the sport he loves in a volunteer role as USATF’s High Performance Division Chair, where it’s his task to work with many others to ensure that his tremendous accomplishments as an athlete -- and those of other U.S. all-time greats – are surpassed someday by future generations of American stars.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of working at USATF as a volunteer, and also in my current job as an agent,” said Conley, a 2004 National Track & Field Hall of Fame inductee. “It’s the same satisfaction in helping the young up-and-coming athletes adjust and prepare themselves for the professional, elite and Olympic world.
“I get a chance to help people make decisions in relation to the sport as it relates to the resources that are given to our athletes, and that means a lot to me,” Conley said. “I think I do have a lot to offer knowledge-wise and experience-wise, and I’ve had some ideas for a long time in how to improve things, and for me it’s really cool being able to have the opportunity to stay involved. I appreciate my peers electing me for this position, and I definitely take that seriously. It means a lot to me to be able to give back.”
Conley’s vast experience as an elite level athlete and administrator serves him well as USATF’s High Performance chair, and he’s eager to use his knowledge and experience to help athletes maximize their potential and reach their goals on the world stage.
“The beauty behind it is having the understanding of everything that’s going on,” Conley said. “Basically how an athlete feels, how to relate to an athlete, how a volunteer feels, and also working in the National Office and knowing all the hard work that goes on there, and also understanding the United States Olympic Committee dynamics.”
Led by Conley, the USATF High Performance Division is dedicated to doing all it can to improve Team USA performances in Olympic and World Championship competition, and with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro quickly approaching, Conley joins the rest of the world in anxiously waiting to see if Team USA will once again dominate.
“I think competing on this side of the globe helps a lot, and I think our athletes have prepared and will do well,” Conley said. “I’m excited about it.”
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