Influencer Wendell Prince: a positive coach

Interview February 2019

Wendell, can you share some information of your family life?
“My name is Wendell Prince. I was born in Curaçao, I have one sister and 2 brothers. I have a son and he lives in Holland.”

As a former athlete, you have always been interested in track and field from a young age on.
“Yes, when I was 12 years old I started. I ran the 100, 200 and 400 meters and did the long jump.”

Where did your drive come from?
“My dad was also an athlete and he used to be one of the top athletes of the Netherlands Antilles. When I was about 12 years old my dad told me to come along with him with my sneakers and to go with him to the Rif Stadion. We were living at Roodeweg those days, so that was not so far from the stadium. A top trainer/coach from the Southern University of Illinois, mr. John Stotlar an American came to Curaçao those days giving clinics in baseball, basketball, track and field. There is where I was introduced to track and field. As my dad was a member of the local sports organization, he was very involved and he introduced me to Mr. Stotlar. And Mr.Stotlar asked me to run some 400 meter dash and that first time I was out of gas at the end of the training. That is how I got introduced to track and field. And Mr. Stotlar kept inviting me, although I was one of the youngest back then in 1958, in those days OGEM now Aqualectra had chimney stacks sending smoke on the field, we were training in the sand with no starting blocks, so we had to dig holes in the sand to take off when we sprinted, so the conditions were not easy, but that didn’t stop us. In those days I also got help one of the top sprinters those days called Mr. Bloem, he also helped me with sprinting tips.

But it was hard at the beginning, and we weren’t members of any club yet. So Anthony Miguel a friend of mine, a specialist in technical numbers as speer and disc, decided to start a club “Olympic”. He became president of the club and I became the vice-president and we got a lot of members from the local neighborhood that competed and the club kept growing and so did also our influence in the Local Track and Field Association, basically we re-activated the Curaçaosche Atletiek Bond.

We organized courses to become jury members, and at a very early age I started to coach. The reason for this was, that I developed an interest in books my father had, so before I went to Holland for my higher education I learned a lot, simply by reading a lot on track and field. So I became aware that in other countries they didn’t dig holes as starting blocks. So I decided to import starting blocks, one from Great-Britain and I was unique because I was the only one that had one from aluminum that was very light btw. In 1960 my parents went to live in Santa Rosa, so to train I had to take the bus with my starting block under my arm. But then I also wanted spikes. I told myself that these had to be from a cow leather, as via my father I knew that Adidas had these special spikes. They were lighter that other spikes, so I send a letter to Adidas making a request to order these spikes, but they told me that there was already an agent in Curaçao so I should approach the agent and he wanted to stop being an agent anyway, so he helped my approach Adidas to make me the sole agent in Curaçao of Adidas.

Wendell Prince – Sport Museum

This happened and at the age of 16 year I ordered my own special spikes and but also ordered for other athletes their spikes and Adidas bags and I didn’t earn so much with this as I wasn’t commercially motivated. But by 1964, I had ordered so many goods from Adidas that they gave me a golden spike made from kangoroo leather which became a collectors item as Adidas didn’t make a lot of these spikes. It is now exposed in the Sports Museum. So basically things just happened, I became an athlete via my father, then a coach after I started reading my father’s books and I became an importer of sports goods for athletes and this continued until I went for my higher education to Holland to earn a degree as a head-teacher.”

Do you have or had any other hobbies?
You know, I was very involved in aviation also. When I was 13 years old I became member of JLB (Jeugd Lucht Brigade) and within soon from assistant to ‘sectie commander’ over 12 cadets. So we got lessons in different subject matters related to aviation like aero dynamics, air traffic controlling and after some years I even became an instructor of sorts because it was obvious that I had leadership talents and I was passionate and very active. Every week I was flying along in airplanes and I got so involved that I wanted to become a pilot myself and even applied to go to the Rijksluchtvaart school, but I failed the test because I was wearing spectacles and in those days you didn’t make the cut if you wore spectacles. But anyway as a teenager I was at JLB during the weekends and doing track and field during the week until I went to Holland to study to become a headteacher in 1966.

My father was the one who has mostly influenced me, he was my role model. He himself was a very active person, attending lots of courses like Dale Carnegie, the author of “How to win friends and influence people” And I used to take these courses as he was following them, so this was very helpful for me as a leader. So I grew up learning how best to approach people and stop worrying and start living and also evade negativity and focus on the positive side of things and this I passed over to my son also, but also to Churandy Martina, since he was 14 years old, as one of the athletes I had coached over the years, as he was living close to my house in Santa Rosa and we talked a lot in the car going to the training.

Recently I had a presentation for the organization for motor sport and as former Go Cart champion, I talked to a group of 16 drivers who had passed an advanced driving course. And I elaborated on the mental part of being a go cart driver. I focused, on the mental part of driving, because I am a firm believer of training your mind and of having positive expectations. As a coach I teach self hypnosis as this is one of my other hobbies. At the age of 15 and 16 years old, I was interested in para-psychology and self hypnosis and on techniques on how to visualize better and calm your mind. Some of these athletes meditate, like Shurandy. When I was in Holland, I was once in a training camp and I had to convince a skeptical teacher with some of my co-students as an example that hypnosis exists. This had such a big effect on my teacher, that he was always talking about how hypnosis, when used properly, can benefit people.

When I came back to Curaçao I started a new track and field club called Excelsior and this club also grew a lot. And as I was also interested in computers, I became a computer teacher.”

When you were in Holland, did you continue to be an athlete?

“When I was in Holland, I continued doing track and field the 100, 200 and 400 meter dash and relays in The Hague where I lived and studied, but I also wanted to be a coach. So when I came back to Curaçao in 1968, I focused on becoming a better qualified coach and followed my first course in 1976 in Mexico. I was 31 years old and my son was 2 years old. In those days there were lots of trainers coaches from the Russian communist bloc, that went to live in Mexico after Cuba stopped being a communist country. With the help of translators, me and Anthony Miguel stayed in Mexico for three months and we stayed in a student complex with very poor sanitary conditions. Lots of attendees left the venue, we stayed and survived these hellish conditions, because the trainers were top and the best of the world. And I really did my utmost to learn as much as possible, and all my grades were 10. I was taught far jump, high jump, pole-vaulting I even got private lessons so I learned a lot.”

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be as passionate as you are still at age 74 to still be a coach?
“Well it started first from books and after that first year I went to more advanced courses in 1977 and 1978, so as I grew and I started teaching. In preparations for the Carifta games in Bahamas 1985, I gave my first international course, which included participants from the Caribbean but also from Canada and parts of Europe. But then I also taught at Puerto Rico and that was at the highest possible level there is, where the best meet the best.”

What makes you different from other trainer/coaches?
“What makes the difference ultimately is my attitude. I have this drive within me, that I want to be the best. I want to do everything better than everybody else. So I won a medal as best instructor in Puerto Rico. In 1992 I became a lecturer, this is when you pass the practical and theoretical part of the course, and I became what is called director electorate. This is level 1 and gives you the authority to teach in other countries. My mentor until today is Loren Seagrave and he is one of the best in the world and at times we jointly give clinics especially in sprinting to international athletes. I am on the world list of Lecturors for the NACACTFCA (North American Central American and Caribbean Coaching association), with Victor Lopez as president, whom was the head coach of the USA during the Carifta games held in Curaçao in 2018. I am the vice-president of that association. So I still read, attend conferences, I still teach and have a life long subscription for the New Studies in Atletics magazine.”

What are your strengths?

“Mentally, I always want to be the best. I am a perfectionist. I have developed a lot and I am still developing new techniques based on new insights on biomechanics of a human body.

Like in 2012 in Bahamas Frans Bos from Holland had a presentation and talked about “wip from the hip”-technique where athletes as Hussein Bolt and Shurandy Martina used their strength in an optimal form when they touched the ground and he told me that now he understands what drills were used to develop this technique which I called “fast clow” and I also developed and teach.”

When would you stop as a trainer/coach in track and field?
“Well, as long I have life and health I will not stop, because I want to be the best I can be and this is what I tell all whom ask me this question.”

So you did most of your coaching and training of different generations of athletes during after hours when you were still at work?
“I did almost all in after work hours until 1-8-2011 when I retired as a teacher. It was only once, when I was coach/trainer of Shurendy Martina together with Bob Kitchen from January till August in 2008, I was on leave from my work as we prepared in El Paso Texas were Shurandy was studying until after the Beijing Olympics. So I am passionate about track and field it is such a big part of my life, so that is why I could do most of the coaching during after school hours.”

Can you mention some of the athletes that you have coached, trained and mentored?

“Jairo Duzant, Nathanael Esprit, Churandy Martina, Athwinson Luis, Brian Mariano, Curtis kock, Rachmil Van Lamone, Hensley Pualina, Kim Rossen, Dimitir Julie, Aldrich Jack, Nasya Ramirez, Dominique Zwiep, Dudly Boeldak, Nargelis Statia and so many other youngsters that I don’t even remember their names, but they always greet me when they see me and I am proud and they are proud that they have been to my training in the past.”

Could you tell us about go-carting and how important that has been as a hobby or interests that you are passionate about?
“This hobby started small. I went to a demonstration of skelters or go carts, that was announced via newspapers when Arie Mulder and Leo Van Veen from Aruba came to promote this sport in Curaçao . I was already very much in speed. I love it. I had a Toyota Sports car that was speedy, so I went for a test drive and this caught my attention. I bought a go cart myself in February 1974, that I loved so much that I kept it in my living room and I bought a station wagon especially to transport my skelter. Those days Koral Tabak had a small racetrack and I always studied how to best to take the curves and drove rather slowly. By the mid of 1975 we had our first race in Curaçao and there where two distances, one sprint and the other one an endurance race. In the sprint I came number two behind Pedro Maria from Aruba in those days the best of the best and in the endurance race I even beat Pedro Maria and it was my first race that I won.

We started Curaçao Carting club, but then we were not always able to access Koral Tabak, so we look for a new venue and found one close to the airport, which was convenient because of the noise these skelters make. It was 38 acres big and we, after approaching the government had to start a foundation “Stichting ter bevordering cart sport” and the government gave us the lease over this property and we build with the help of Curaçaosche Wegenbouw, one of our board members worked at CWM, a race piste that complied with international standards for go-carts. We build a cantina and in the cantina I had long talks with Arie Mulder a go-cart driver that had competed in Europe and I learned so many things from him. He taught me lots of tips and tricks and the rest was history because I became champion 5 years in a row and competed internationally Aruba, Venezuela and Mexico. Later on I used my experience to share it with others pro-bono. What is often forgotten is that the sports requires technical driving skills especially in the curves and it requires a very good conditioning of the body because it requires endurance to become a winner. But as we speak the go-cart or skelter sports has fallen deeply. If there is one thing I would have done differently in this sports, it would be to design more clear and strict rules and what is and what is not allowed to do with the skelters to create a level playing field. Those with money can get an advantage that can’t be bridged by drivers with a less solid financial backing.”

Do you still practice the sport?

“Yes, especially when I am in Holland I go with my son in an indoor cart piste.”

If you as Wendell, would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
Sport, I am a sports and life coach, I love communicating with other people.”

How would you describe Wendell in one word or one sentence?
“Positive, a positive thinker and I always have positive expectations and can keep this feeling up during the whole day.”

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
“My farther as I mentioned before. My father knew so many people if I picked him up and bring him to the bank for example people would pass by especially to greet him, he was liked and respected. My humanity and my loving kindness towards other people, I have from my mother, she had such a great heart where she knew so many people and she could relate with so many different kinds of people. But she also always commended me on “me being a technical genius”, because whatever technical challenge came up at home, she would call me and I would fix it, always. So I was fortunate and blessed to have my father and mother as role models.

In track and field my role model and mentor till today is Loren Seagrave. He is one of the most knowledgeable persons internationally and for him to accept me to work with him, I consider a priviledge and great honor. I once, when I was at the beginners level, gave him a small hint during a clinic of a mistake he made and he accepted that feedback and as of that day he invited me to give clinics together with him. He once even trusted my with the responsibility to train a top sprinter from Nigeria in Puerto Rico. This proves to me how much confidence he has in my abilities as a coach/trainer and as a person and also that what I am doing, is appreciated.”

Where they always positive role models or where there also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
I am a positive and also a honest person. I once had to disqualify as a member of the jury at one of the relay post, my own 5 X 200 meters team during a Waaigat run. No body else was there and I still did it. Integrity is important to me and not every one is like that. I have also experienced trainers, luring athletes away from me. I am in this for athletes, so it do feel sorry for these athletes when I see that their performance diminishes. After Olympic, I started another track and field club Excelsior especially focused on youth and we became so successful that we could represent Curaçao with athletes from Excelsior only. But this didn’t happen, so we decided to start a new track and field federation and I was suspended as a coach. So I stopped as a coach for a while until an athlete, Nathaneal Esprit approached me to train him and as I am a coach for athletes, I put my pride aside, got over it and decided to become an active coach again. My intentions are always positive and I hold no bad feeling towards no one. I keep smiling and greet also those that might have played some tricks on me.”

What are some of the challenges, lessons learned, that you have encountered in your life when you ultimately discovered your talents and strenghts?
“Well, that what we just discussed when people try to trick me, I use it as a stepping stone to grow and stay on the high road.

What was a defining moment in your life, a setback that later turned out to be a great blessing?
That was when Nathanael Esprit asked me to coach him. He wasn’t making any progress at the trainer coach that was coaching him. That was a defining moment. You know, I used to train and coach his mother. I had introduced weight training for women athletes, which was unusual in those days, but as I was studying the international developments I knew that in other countries this was happening. So once during Games of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijkspelen) in Holland, Maurina won from a Dutch athlete that was competing at the European level and that was a big surprise and a great moment in her career and my career as a coach.”

Where do you want to be 5 to 10 years from now with your life?
“A better coach at an even higher level. You are never to old to learn. I read books, visit conferences and I have a subscrition for live of a track and field magazine. But I also develop my own techniques and drills and I want to keep sharing my knowlegde and skill with others.”

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 15 years years from now?
“When we meet, they feel great. For example once I was in Santo Domingo for the center american championships in track and field, the head coach of the Jamaican delegation came up to me and told me the following: “One thing I never told you, you changed my life.” I had given him a clinic in Puerto Rico.

Another atlhete from Dominica also told me the same. And after one of our joint clinics with Loren Seagrave and a instructor from Nigeria, in the feedback forms the participants told Loren that I came out as the best instructor, while I know for sure that Loren is more knowledgeable then me. But that is the way I am, I love to Uplift my students and hope to impact their attitudes that is very helpful also in other areas of their life.”

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
“Stay optimistic because in the end optimism wins. I love helping people to stay optimistic.”

Anything else?
“Yes, I am a member of the Hall of Fame for Sports in Curaçao and I have a condecoration as Officer in the Order of Oranje Nassau. I want to be a role model, inspiring others to also get these same types of recognitions.”

As the core group of Share2Uplift we love and deeply respect Wendell Prince, whom as an international renowned track and field coach has been and still is so influential in the past generations of athletes whom he has trained and coached. We definitely consider him one of the 250 ethical leaders of our Island, that continuously works at influencing people’s mindsets for the better in our society.

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