Tropical Park is best known for picnicking families, dog walking, pickup softball and soccer, high school football, equestrian and tennis, and Santa’s Enchanted Forest.
Add Olympic training ground to the list.
Early risers who stroll the winding walkways of the large municipal park off the Palmetto Expressway may have noticed elite-looking athletes training on the track every morning. Those sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers are Olympians, getting ready to head to Tokyo to represent the United States, Haiti and Liberia.
U.S. sprinter Fred Kerley (who finished third in the 100 meters in the Olympic trials), U.S. long jumper DaMarcus Simpson, Haitian-American hurdler Mulern “Meme” Jean and Liberian-American hurdler Ebony Morrison have all trained there under coach Joey Scott, a speed and conditioning specialist who founded Tru Fit Athletics.
Since moving to Homestead in 2007 after retiring from the track circuit as a hurdler, Scott, 43, has trained numerous Olympians, world and national champions, NFL players, baseball players, basketball players and boxers.
Scott has been in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the past few weeks helping prepare former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder for his upcoming fight against Tyson Fury. Scott, a former Golden Gloves boxer, has been close friends with Wilder for many years.
He also spent 10 years coaching sprinters and hurdlers at Belen Jesuit school.
Scott has coached three-time Olympian Ronald Forbes of the Cayman Islands, U.S. world indoor bronze medalist 400-meter runner Shareese Woods, and world junior 110-meter high hurdles champion Antwon Hicks. He also coached his wife, Tahesia Harrigan-Scott, a two-time Olympian and multiple record-holder from the British Virgin Islands who won the 2008 world indoor 60-meter bronze medal.
He coached the Cayman Islands track team at the 2012 London Olympics and is the Haiti track coach for the Tokyo Olympics. He partnered with Kerley’s other coach Alleyne Francique to prepare the U.S. sprinter for the trials and Olympics.
Scott is known for his passion and energy, and says coaching is his dream job.
“I didn’t know I was going to become a coach, I kind of fell into it, but I love what I do,” Scott said. “My job is going to oval office and coaching, whether it’s football players, basketball players, elite track athletes, youth, doesn’t matter. I love helping athletes exceed their expectations, and I had great mentors.”
Brooks Johnson, Harvey Glance and Scott’s father, Nicholson Scott, were his role models. He started training athletes at the University of Miami track, did speed work with UM/NFL players Santana Moss and Willis McGahee and helped baseball star Alex Rodriguez regain speed after a hip injury. He then moved his base to Belen, and then to Tropical Park before the 2012 London Olympics.
Belen was known for distance running, and Scott helped develop the sprint and hurdles program.
“When I first got to Belen, I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do with these kids. I’m not Jesus.’ But I realized that most of those kids who had success under my tutelage didn’t have confidence,” he said. “When I got there, I am uncut and raw. I demand greatness no matter who you are. They didn’t believe they were fast, and I didn’t accept that.”
Belen went on to excel at the state championships, winning the 4×100 relay and the hurdles.
“That’s what made my journey with Belen so special,” he said. “Those kids had talent and didn’t know it and proved there is more than meets the eye.”
Scott tailors the workouts for each athlete’s body type, strengths and weaknesses.
“Anybody can read books, get a certificate, stand there with a whistle and call them self a coach,” he said. “But I notice if an athlete’s hamstrings are underdeveloped or if he has hip mobility issues. Are they tall, short, compact, elongated? What is their mental state? Each athlete needs a different program.”
Morrison, 26, was depressed, battling anxiety and considering quitting when she met Scott in 2018. The Robert Morgan High alum, who competed for Killian High, had graduated from University of Miami in 2017 and was unsure what to do with her life.
Her junior year at UM she ran one of the fastest times in the world. But she struggled her senior year, calling it “a complete mess.” Morrison said she was defeated mentally, lost her motivation and was ready to call it quits.
Then she met Scott.
“Joey has completely changed my life,” she said. “I had no motivation, no hope. I was depressed, first time dealing with anxiety. He was the one who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He is so passionate and when you’re around that kind of energy you have no choice but to mold to it.”
Morrison said Scott helped her mature and evolve into a successful professional athlete.
“Working with Joey I’m learning so much about what the pro circuit is, how you run circuits in Europe, the point system, world rankings, things I knew very little about in college,” she said. “I’ve traveled to countries I never thought I’d be in. I’ve learned to be on my own. In college you’re coddled. You have the trainer, training room, your coach right there easy access, everything on a platter. But in the real world, in pro track and field, you’re on your own and Joey is the reason I’m going to Tokyo.”
When: July 23-Aug. 8
Athletes expected: 11,091
New sports: Karate, sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding. Baseball and softball return for first time since 2008.
TV: NBC, also streaming on NBCOlympics.com and Peacock
U.S. athletes to Watch: Simone Biles (gymnastics); Caeleb Dressel (swimming); Trayvon Bromell (track); Katie Ledecky (swimming); Sydney McLaughlin (track); Heimana Reynolds (skateboarding); Allyson Felix (track); Noah Lyles (track); Eddy Alvarez (baseball, Marlins).