By Daily Bruin Staff
April 29, 1998 9:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 30, 1998
PEOPLE: Olympic gold medalist Jeanette Bolden demands excellence
from her team, showing her mettle on and off the track
By Rachel Munoz
Daily Bruin Staff
It was a long night, but that was a good thing. After over a
month of insomnia, Jeanette Bolden, the head coach for women’s
track and field, was very pleased when the clock read 6:50 a.m.
instead of 3:30 a.m.
She happily rose out of bed and jumped into the shower for what
she calls her "most relaxing time and the only time (she) has to
Soon thereafter, her day at UCLA begins.
Instead of walking into an office with a briefcase, usually she
walks out onto a track in tennis shoes. This is where she will
remain often until noon, spending up to 30 hours a week there.
But she couldn’t be found on the track this Tuesday at noon. She
was at a press conference with USC for the upcoming track meet this
After a slew of speakers, Bolden finally had her opportunity to
talk about her expectations. She hopes that her athletes will
perform at their best on Saturday.
"It is the Olympic games of what we do in collegiate track and
field," she said.
She should know. Bolden won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics
for the 100-meter run. This was a high moment in a running career
that began only nine years earlier.
Bolden’s first experience with sports actually took place in a
"I was born with asthma so I was late in developing in
athletics," she said. She learned how to swim in the sixth grade
and wasn’t introduced to running until three years later.
"I took my sister to a park to enter her into a track team and
she joined and they asked me if I wanted to join too," she
From that point on, Bolden kept on running, joining the track
team in high school and winning the 100-meter race at the High
School State Meet held at UCLA.
In her last year of high school, she continued to run but was
not heavily recruited, so she changed her focus to going to college
and becoming a communications student.
She attended Cal State Fullerton for one year but then
transferred to Cal State Northridge the next year because a friend
had told her about the great track coach.
That track coach was Bob Kersee, who only one year later would
go to UCLA and eventually end up as head coach for the women’s
track and field team between 1985 and 1993.
One thing he brought with him to UCLA was Bolden. She won the
first two NCAA track titles for the Bruins in 1982 and 1983. She
graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
After graduating, Bolden took 1984 "off" to train for the
Olympics. She spent her mornings at the beach, training or doing
aerobics and continued the training in the mid-afternoon. The
evenings usually consisted of aerobics, visualization or team
Bolden remembers the countdown for the 1984 Olympics that was
broadcast on TV every night. It produced so much anxiety for her
that she got to the point where she no longer wanted the TV on, and
said it was nice to get out of Los Angeles before the games to
places such as Japan and Hawaii.
The year of training paid off, and during the 1984 Olympics held
in Los Angeles, Bolden won the gold medal for the 100-meter
After her win at the Olympics, Bolden continued to run
professionally while speaking publicly for the pharmaceutical
company that made her asthma medicine.
Her time in the World Class level was very different than her
collegiate running. "There is no safety net like in college," she
said. "You don’t depend on anyone but yourself."
In 1988, ranked No. 9 in the country, Bolden tore her Achilles’
tendon at the trials for the Olympics, requiring surgery and
forcing her to give up the opportunity of participating in another
In 1991, Bolden found her way back to UCLA to work under her
one-time coach and mentor, Bob Kersee. She inherited the job as
head coach for women’s track and field at the end of the 1993
After the hour and a half-long press conference, Bolden headed
back to her cubicle office on the second floor of the J.D. Morgan
Center. Here she spoke to fellow coaches between the dividers while
taking bites out of her sandwich and making phone calls.
The pace doesn’t stop as she heads to a downstairs room to view
a tape of last weekend’s meet with one of her athletes.
Soft-spoken Shakedia Jones learns what she has done well and
what she needs to work on. But Bolden doesn’t just tell her, she
shows her what needs to be done, taking off her shoes and
demonstrating the correct movements.
"It’s almost like putting everything in order," she tells Jones.
She offers her math analogy to explain all of the movements that a
runner must learn in order to attain correct positioning while
"It’s about business when you walk out there today at the
track," Bolden finished.
Bolden is serious when she says business. In her last four years
as head coach, she has led the Bruins to an undefeated mark of 35-0
in dual meets. During this time she has also led the Bruins to
three Pac-10 titles.
Three seems to be her lucky number. She has won three Pac-10
Coach of the Year awards – in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
She insists that she has no secrets to running a good team, but
believes that she inherited a good program from Bob Kersee.
She also attributes much of her success to the other coaches she
works with: Art Venegas, Monte Rucker, Eric Peterson, and Bob
But Bolden does hold a philosophy about her athletes: "I don’t
treat them like female athletes. They are athletes." She admits
that she doesn’t put up with any whining and does not do well with
In fact, pain is something that her athletes have known well
while training under Bolden.
"It’s up to her to push you to limits that are painful," said
Joanna Hayes, a third-year sociology student who runs hurdle races.
"She gets on my nerves, but she is a good coach. No one can like
their coach all of the time."
Teammate Cicely Scott, a fourth- year English student, prefers
Bolden’s methods. "We wouldn’t want a sappy coach without a
backbone," she said. She admits that though Bolden yells a lot,
this really is the only way that any of the runners would respect
her, not to mention hear her while they are running on the
Bolden knows that she is demanding and tough, but she does
possess compassion. However, the hardest thing for her to learn as
a coach was patience.
"I try to step back and allow people to grow," she said. She
doesn’t like to tell her athletes the same thing time and time
again, so she allows them to learn from their mistakes.
"Execute what you have been taught," she finds herself often
Deanna Rotuno, the women’s track and field manager, sees the
technique that Bolden uses for her athletes every day.
"What I find really interesting is that she can be a strict
coach, but adds humor into her workouts," she said. "The only thing
she demands is respect."
After watching Jones’ races, Bolden runs back upstairs to change
her clothes and leaves the Morgan Center for the weight room. There
she quickly stops to talk to Craig Sowers, the strength and
conditioning coach for the team, to discuss the last five weeks of
the lift program for the girls.
A few minutes later, she is in the training center, strolling
through the many tables where a few of her athletes are receiving
massages or other work on their muscles. When she runs into various
members of the team she lets them know that practice has been
postponed until 4:15 p.m.
Through the center’s glass doors she reaches Bruin Walk and then
crosses the bordering grass of the track. She plants herself in the
middle of the track, giving herself a bird’s eye view of all the
runners and events that are happening on the track. She often claps
and yells words of encouragement to the distance runners
Bolden understands the pressures of being an athlete at UCLA.
Over everything else, she doesn’t like to see her girls get hurt
because of a boyfriend or a bad grade on an exam, because they
often bring it to the track.
"We know she cares about us," Hayes said.
What Bolden does like to see is people achieving their goals. "I
get really geared up to see young people grow and develop," she
These ideas extend beyond her athletes. Bolden is currently
working on a youth program to help inner-city kids with their
college prep classes and taking their SATs.
"I’m working on a project to bring the college experience up
close and personal," she said. "We are all put on this earth to
give something back to the community." She also would like to
become more involved in UCLA’s programs for inner-city kids.
An easy practice for the athletes on the track then turns into
time in the weight room.
Bolden takes a different route and heads back to her office to
spend a couple more hours on the details involved with being a
coach. She sends a letter of intent to a recently accepted student,
makes sure that there will be food for her athletes at Saturday’s
meet against USC and BYU, checks on the team dinner scheduled for
Friday night at Jerry’s Deli, and of course, checks the Pac-10 list
to see how her girls are doing for the day.
At 9 o’clock, she finally heads home to her husband of nine
years and their 7-month-old rottweiler puppy.
Perhaps one of her favorite parts of the day won’t begin until
11 p.m. – "The Jerry Springer Show." She openly admits that she is
addicted to the show and doesn’t care if the fights are staged.
In the little spare time that she does have, Bolden enjoys
reading and writing scripture verses in a journal. She also finds
relaxation in working at her family’s bakery. Sometimes she even
likes to do absolutely nothing.
As for the future of the head coach of women’s track and field,
Bolden isn’t planning on going anywhere.
"I’m going to coach until my poor little finger gives out on the
stop watch," she said.
Photos by GENEVIEVE LIANG/Daily Bruin
Jeanette Bolden is the women’s track and field head coach.
Bolden gives her team members a pep talk before practice to kick
them into gear for the weekend’s meet against USC.
Bolden lies on the leg of one of the team members to help her
stretch it during exercise.