January 2024 Athlete of the Month
By Del Moon, NSGA PR Specialist
Vickie Liddell, 67
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
We all know the story about the old woman who lived in a shoe with so many children she didn’t know what to do. Vickie Liddell had 10 children, but she knew just what to do with them – nine participated in track and field competitions. And when Vickie retired, they inspired her to take up running and jumping for the first time as a senior athlete.
“People have said that nursery rhyme to me before,” she says with a laugh. “But the kids came one at a time and were provided for one at a time. It really wasn’t a chore.”
Vickie says two of her first three children naturally gravitated to the sport, and the rest were drawn in due to an ice storm in Arkansas in 2000. “We were without power and frozen in for a week, huddled at our fireplace. We read an article that said ‘Are you tired of cabin fever? Come out to track and see what you have.’ It was an AAU track club using indoor facilities at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (UAPB), and my husband James said, ‘Let’s go see what it’s about,’” she recalls. “So we went out there with our six youngest still living with us. They all got involved.”
She then proudly shares that all participated in high school and Junior Olympics and two of her daughters continued to compete on scholarship at UAPB. “My son Joshua was in National Junior Olympics for three years and went on to play football at Arkansas,” she says. “Jelicia, my 32-year-old, started her own track club after college in Jacksonville, Florida. The only child who didn’t do track was Eric, and he played baseball and went into the military.”
There weren’t sports opportunities for girls in Vickie’s high school, but her turn came when she retired from a 22-year career as a high school band director and music teacher. “All of my kids are also musicians,” she proudly adds.
“I enjoyed watching the kids compete, but I didn’t recognize I liked running until I started trying track and field myself,” she says. She convinced Louis Moss, the same AAU coach that trained her children, to teach her the ropes. He had never coached a senior, but his concerns melted as Vickie quickly took on her tasks.
“I wish I had about 40 kids like her,” Moss told the Arkansas Gazette-Democrat about Vickie. “She has what you look for in an athlete. She’s got that competitiveness. She’s gonna be on time. She’s got confidence.”
The results speak for themselves. Since first showing up in late 2019, Vickie has already amassed 68 medals in her 65-69 age group (62 gold, four silver, two bronze) which includes one gold, three silver and one bronze earned at the past two National Senior Games.
She was thrilled to win a national long jump event in 2023. “I was ranked fourth in distance beforehand with the other long jumpers, so I felt I had an opportunity,” she recalls. “But I was still pleasantly surprised when I won. I love to fly through the air!”
Vickie is happy she took the first step, and so are her children. “They love what I’m doing. Two of my children are my go-to coaches besides Louis, and it depends how I’m feeling who I call,” she says laughing. “If I want to push myself, I call Jelicia, who will tell me I got to get it done. But if I feel like taking it easier, I call my son Joshua, who will tell me ‘You know, mom, you have to enjoy life. Just do what you can do.’ I’m blessed to have them and Louis to help me.”
The fact that her children all learned to play in school marching band and also ran track brought up a parallel question: Did Vickie think she was coaching physical fitness as well as music to all of her students over the years?
“I understand now why I wanted to do track. In band, teamwork is important but there’s physical exercise in practicing and marching,” she says. “In the summer I would always make them do laps to get into condition. I jogged with them and told them if I beat them, they had to do another lap,” she says with a chuckle. “My own kids came through my band program, and they even recruited some of their athlete friends to join the band. I joked with their coaches that all of my kids needed credit for PE because they worked more than their own athletes!”