Since 2013, Marty and Vicki Wilkey have coached the boys and girls cross country teams at Zionsville Middle School. This year, the couple was selected by the Community Foundation of Boone County’s grants committee to receive the Lionel Dubay Youth Sports Award.
According to the CFBC, yearly nominees for the award are selected for their impact on youth sports in the Zionsville community. The recipient pays it forward by selecting a Zionsville youth sports organization that will receive the $500 donation.
The Wilkeys were selected to receive the award due to their dedication to creating a team culture marked by community, friendship, determination and trust. They elected to donate the money to the Zionsville Middle School cross country team.
“We feel like we’ve been blessed by running our entire lives,” Marty said. “It’s part of us, and it gives us joy. We do our best to share that same experience with the kids.”
Marty said when they first started at ZMS, there were just 12 boys and girls on the cross country team. With support from the school, he said they’ve been able to build the program up to around 100 total boys and girls.
The two have spent the last few years reinforcing a collaborative environment for the children by taking on a unified approach to their coaching, Marty said.
Marty said he and Vicki plan to use the money from the grant to host an event at ZMS in 2023 that will bring Boone County cross country teams together from both public and private schools.
“The focus will be on just getting out there and actually enjoying the sport and being together,” Marty said.
Vicki reiterated that a goal of their coaching is to extend beyond the competition of the sport to instill a lasting feeling of confidence.
“When I was growing up, having people outside of my home that believed in me was so important,” Vicki said. “You never know how that might help someone. You plant that seed and it can grow. When they get older, (those children) might just plant it for someone else.”
Marty said they often talk to the kids about the importance of persevering through the difficult times and the hardships that might come their way, whether they’re running a race or navigating difficult moments in their lives.
“We try to give the kids experiences where they can learn that success and that confidence as they go on,” Marty said. “They can start appreciating those hard things and feeling proud of themselves when they do well. We don’t worry about the wins, that just kind of happens as a byproduct.”
Most of all, Marty and Vicki noted the significant impact running can have on the lives of the children they coach. The Wilkeys said they hope the confidence and perseverance they try to instill in ZMS runners provide them with skills they can carry beyond their middle school years.
“Our life has been shaped by running and competing, even now, as well as all the people that have come into our lives,” Marty said. “We tell the kids that in this journey, you can have plateaus, you can have phases where you may not run for a period of time and you might come back to it, but running is always there to offer some value.”