By Justine Goode and Meagan Wang
Track practice is just ending. A slight breeze gently stirs the thick, warm air as the last few runners finish their cool down laps.
Coach Joanna Hayes leans over the rail to give advice to one of her hurdlers as fellow coach Quincy Watts yells after one of his 400 meter runners to swing their arms.
Both coaches have enjoyed successful athletic careers, winning multiple Olympic and World Championship medals, but it is ultimately their distinctive personalities that have won them the respect and affection of their athletes. Watts and Hayes are known for bringing intensity and focus to their workouts, but are equally famous for their trademark humor.
Both coaches have been involved in sports from a young age. Hayes began running at age nine and knew by age 12 that she wanted to go to the Olympics. When she was 18, she started running on the track team at UCLA, where she first met Watts.
“I was in love with Quincy. But you grow up and you get smart, and you donât anymore,” Hayes joked.
Watts said he got into sports “a little late,” beginning running at age 12. However, he went on to play basketball and football in high school, and became a wide receiver at USC.
Despite being an Olympic gold medalist in track, Watts says that his favorite sport is still basketball.
“But he sucks at it,” teased Hayes. “He likes it, but heâs not that good at it.”
“Youâre not to answer the questions for me!” Watts said indignantly.
Turning away from Hayes, Watts switched tones and began to recall his Olympic experience.
“I can still remember standing on the podium and all I did was kind of basically reflect on my whole life,” he said.
Watts won the gold medal in the 400 meter and 4x400m relay at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, also setting an Olympic record.
Hayes then reminded Watts that they have something in commonâshe also set an Olympic record for the 100m hurdle race at the 2004 Olympics.
“Except mine still stands,” she taunted.
Watts had his medals stolen shortly after he received them and now keeps them in a bank vault.
“They said the guys kind of looked like you,” teased Watts as Hayes rolls her eyes.
“Mine are in my closet,” she remarked.
In addition to coaching, both Watts and Hayes give back to the community in several different ways.
Watts is very conscious of the “youth of America,” a phrase he repeated frequently (“You keep saying the âyouth of Americaâ like itâs some kind of club,” commented Hayes) and he helps to fight childhood obesity. He is currently involved in the Kids Fitness Challenge, encouraging kids and their families to exercise.
Watts is also an entreptrenuerâhe co-owns Neo-tone Apparel, a clothing line geared towards injury prevention, along with former Harvard-Westlake track coach Johnny Gray. Watts is also involved with the clothing line Fandomwear. When asked about it, his eyes immediately lit up.
“Oh yeah, Fandomwear!” he yelled excitedly, before adding in his best salesmanâs voice, “Itâs a new line, having fun with crazy jerseys. Fandomwear is there for everybody.”
Hayes added that she has her own nonprofit organization, the Joanna Hayes foundation, for children living in challenging situations.
In addition to helping her community, Hayes emcees for various track and field meets.
“And sheâs also performing at LA Live in comedy, sheâs opening up for Steve Harvey,” Watts added.
“No!” Hayes yelped immediately.
“I think Iâve always been a coach, like when I was in high school and I would be warming up for my event, and Iâd see a girl doing it wrong, like her drills, I would always try to help her out, even my competition,” Hayes said. “So as I got older I just started helping younger kids and I just really enjoy teaching.”
“Whether Iâm helping out in basketball, whether Iâm helping out on the track, I love coaching, itâs what I was born to do, you know?” Watts said. “I love being an entrepreneur, but aside from that, I love at 2 p.m coming out and giving my time.”