When the head coach for Team USA Karate and winningest karate practitioner in the United States opened a training facility in Chillicothe, he made a set of promises to his hometown community: The facility would be a hotspot in bringing in elite athletes to Chillicothe, the facility would be open to the community as well as world-class athletes, and the athletes the facility produced would be pillars in the community, enriched with integrity and discipline.
Tokey Hill began making good on the promises this past week as he conducted the Developmental to Elite Annual Sport-Karate Camp, his first training camp at his new Team Tokey Hill facility in Chillicothe, this past week. Three of the 10 attendees used the camp for preparation for the 2013 Junior Pan American Karate Championships in Medellin, Colombia, where they will rejoin 77 other members of Team USA Karate.
“We’re working on basic skills and mechanics for the athletes going to Colombia,” he said. “We’re working on athletic development, speed, power, plyometrics and technical skills. Not only just the ability to kick and punch but strategies (such as) floor/ring management and mental application, as well.”
Hill, who won the USA’s first gold medal in Karate in the 1980 WKF World Championship in Madrid, Spain, said the number of elite athletes coming to Chillicothe to attend his camps will continue to grow. He expects 40 to attend his next camp in September.
“These athletes are your 1 percent of the 1 percent,” He said. “They’ll travel everywhere and anywhere to gain experience. We advertise it to all the national coaches around the country. It’s one of many camps that are going to be conducted out of this facility.”
Four more camps, some of which will include international competitors, will be conducted at the facility before the end of the year. Hill’s facility includes dorms for participants from out of state or other countries. Hill’s hope is this partnership with other camps will lead to a goodwill exchange in which these countries will host Team USA Karate members in some of their camps.
Hill said what he wants the community to realize is the camp’s greatest priority is to create upright individuals.
“The main thing is for the community to understand we have a grassroots program here that isn’t based on creating champions but on creating pillars in the community,” He said. “The character (building) blocks that sports, especially martial arts, creates is huge. It was for me. It changed my life.”
Hill was coached and mentored by one of karate’s greats, Don Madden, who developed many members to Team USA Karate and still continues to coach and produce more athletes in Chillicothe. It was karate’s discipline and the positive qualities Madden instilled in Hill that kept him on the right path during his career. Now, Hill wants to do the same for his athletes.
“I left here and was right smack-dab in the middle of New York,” He said. “When you become a world champion at anything, it creates a lot of opportunities. A lot of people want to be around you. A lot of people want to get you involved in things that might not be a positive impact: parties, alcohol, drugs, women. They do what they need to do in order to entice you to be there. You have to have the discipline to say no, and karate provided that for me.
“When I was at the top of my game and then have a career-ending injury, I hated the world,” Hill said. “I hated everybody. As fast as you were there, you’re gone because the next guy is in line.”
Hill said though competing at a professional level was taken away, karate’s character-building qualities still existed. He decided to provide others with the benefits karate had given him both on and off the mat by coaching. After traveling the world as Team USA’s head coach and being selected four times as Team USA Coach of the Year, Hill decided to ease back on his busy schedule and concentrate more on his hometown.
“I’m trying to give back to a community that gave me so much,” Hill said. “A lot of guys helped me along my career path, like my mentor Don Madden. I could have easily taken a bad turn, so I owe a lot. This is one way of me giving back.”
For an athlete or a coach, there always has to be a goal. Even for a former world champion and leader in his sport, Hill still has his own goals.
“In a sporting world, I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I’ve been it. I’ve done it. I’ve lived the dream. I’ve been on the podium. (However), there’s never enough for us. That’s the problem with us. We always want more. Whether it’s coaching or training, you want more. My dream is to take one of the native Chillicothians and take them to the podium, and we have some really great kids here.”