Meet the New York mom who coached students to the junior Olympics – with no experience

Inexperienced mom coaches kids to Olympics

In our series A More Perfect Union, we aim to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. In this installment, "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Michelle Miller introduces us to a New York coach who's using sports to inspire students to go after their dreams


Deborah Thomas didn't have a background in track or javelin throwing, but after starting a club to give her daughters something to do together, she now boasts a group of 30 students. The group includes 10 junior Olympians, six national all-Americans and five USA Track and Field record holders.

The club, which Thomas founded seven years ago to bring track and javelin to the area, is called "In Motion." One of her students, 8-year-old Bria Gaspard, has already placed first in competitions.

"She's a great coach, and I wouldn't be doing track if she wasn't here," Gaspard said of Thomas.

Stephane Fortune got into college on an athletic scholarship because of the club. "I call her Mama Thomas," Fortune said with a laugh. "She's a great coach and a great person to me. And, like, she's like another mom to me in a way."

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Stephane Fortune speaks about "Mama Thomas"  CBS News

Thomas runs the team like a family because that's how it started. The mother of nine said she started the club because of her daughters. "Kids only do and follow what you show them," Thomas said. "If you give them a purpose and you give them a reason, they're gonna go far."

After raising two biological children and her niece and nephew as her own, she became a foster parent to a girl named Brianna. When Thomas learned that Brianna had four other sisters, one foster child became five.

"I wanted her to be happy," Thomas said. "And one of the ways I could do that is to get her sisters back with her."

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Thomas' daughters speak about the impact their mother has had CBS News

"Without your mom, where do you think you guys would be?" "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Michelle Miller asked the girls.

"We wouldn't even be doing track," one girl said. "I don't think we'd be anything."

"She made an investment in you guys," Miller said.

"And now we're tryin' to show her that we're not gonna let her down — that we're gonna take her all the way up with us," one of the girls responded. "So, when we become millionaires, she's gonna be comin' with us, too."

The club costs $150 per student, but Thomas makes adjustments for students who can't afford it. She said she's not sure when she's going to retire since she still has so many kids to help, but she already has two grandchildren who have started throwing.