Bahamian legendary athlete, now coach, ‘Superman’ Leevan Sands is headed to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).
In two short years, he has made the jump from a mid-major program to the prestigious ACC – a power five conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I.
Sands was one of two coaches hired by Florida State University (FSU) Athletics, and another was promoted to the coaching ranks, with immediate effect as the Seminoles transition into the 2021-2022 season.
Sands, a four-time Olympian and former Olympic bronze medalist, who still hasn’t officially retired as an athlete as yet, comes over to FSU from the University of Northern Colorado where he served as assistant coach with responsibility for the jumps for two years. He will take on the same duties for the FSU Seminoles – a major NCAA Division I program – with additional responsibilities for scouting and recruiting.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of such an amazing track and field program,” said Sands yesterday. “It feels great – it truly does. This is a good opportunity and I’m looking to take advantage of it. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be this soon, but I am accepting it with open arms. I’m looking forward to the challenge. FSU has a great history and great athletes and I’m grateful to be a part of it. Thank you to Coach Braman and staff for this outstanding opportunity.”
Sands, now 40, helped make history for Northern Colorado, training two jumpers who qualified for the NCAA West Preliminary Round – Tyler Thimsen and Welrè Olivier. They finished 29th and 30th respectively, failing to advance to the final, but it was the first time that two Northern Colorado jumpers advanced to the NCAA Division I west preliminaries and Sands was the man who guided them there.
“It’s an eye-opener to see the progress that some of the guys made, particularly Welrè, coming in as a freshman and winning conference. They were ranked number one and number two in the conference,” said Sands. “I’m used to developing kids but at FSU you have some guys who are really jumping, so it’s going to be a challenge. There is one guy who jumped over 8.30 meters (m) – 27’ 2-3/4” – in the men’s long jump. That’s really getting out there. When you have guys who are already jumping that far, all you have to do is to help them improve.”
One of the female jumpers, Alonie Sutton, received coaching from Sands’ while she was in high school at Smiths Station High School in Smiths Station, Alabama. She is a 6.39m (20’ 11-3/4”) jumper in the long jump and a 13.37m (43’ 10-1/2”) jumper in the triple jump.
“Last year was a challenge because of COVID with some athletes testing positive, programs being shut down and athletes not being able to compete. That was a huge challenge but that’s pretty much how it was for every team,” said Sands. “This year presents a new challenge. I’m here now going over a list and calling athletes trying to get them into the program. Here, we’re looking at a wider scope of athletes. These are kids who have division one potential and who are producing. Being close to the Caribbean gives me a good chance to look at athletes from the region and see if they will be able to contribute to the program. This season is going to be a challenge for sure, but I’m optimistic.”
Sands competed for 13 years for The Bahamas on the senior level, highlighted by winning bronze at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France, and again at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, in the men’s triple jump.
Seminoles’ Athletics Head Coach Bob Braman said Sands is one of the most talented young jump coaches in the country.
“He’s been one of the world’s best triple jumpers for a generation, having made four Olympic teams,” said Braman. “Leevan had an immediate impact at Northern Colorado and he will be a great coach for our talented jumps program.”
Sands currently holds The Bahamas’ national record in the triple jump outdoors, a mark of 17.59m (57’ 8-1/2”) that he did for the bronze at the Beijing Olympics. Sands also won the silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games and bronze medals from the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 North American, Central American, and Caribbean (NACAC) Championships.
Sands graduated from Auburn University in 2005, finishing a collegiate career in which he was the 2003 NCAA Long Jump Champion and the 2004 NCAA Triple Jump Champion. In 2004, he was named the SEC (Southeastern Conference) Scholar Athlete of the Year.