Mance, from prankster to Olympian

BY foxsports • July 19, 2012

The Olympics weren't on the mind of Kelly Mance when she decided to put her son, Josh, in track 10 years ago. Track, after all, was a necessity, along with basketball and football. She never imagined it would end up in her son heading to London for the 2012 Olympics as a member of the U.S. Track and Field 400m relay team.

At the time, Josh simply needed something to do.

"He was a busy-body. Oh my gosh," Kelly, a single parent, recounts.

She had to keep a serious eye on Josh. Growing up, he always had something up his sleeve and was quite the prankster as Kelly recalls.

"It was so bad," Kelly said. "He decided one day to be like the Little Rascals and it would be really funny to put peanut butter on door handles and screens and see what happens when everyone walks in the house."

The lists of pranks for Josh, 20, growing up are too numerous to count and when it comes to the peanut butter incident Kelly alleges, Josh has no recollection.

Growing up as the youngest of five kids, Josh needed to keep up. It was a ploy to get attention from Troy Jr., 28, LaToya , 26, Roger, 23, and Rayonna, 21, -- his older siblings.

"My brothers were partners in crime and, of course, I get along with them both but I would always be, usually, the odd ball out," Josh said. "That kind of made me more mischievous because, you know, you're the lone wolf so you want to get attention so you'll be up to your pranks…I would always do little things to make them mad or make my sister chase me around the house."

Regardless of the reason, he was always up to something.

"Him and his sister had this thing where they would see who would stay up the latest," Kelly said. "So I couldn't go to sleep because neither of them would sleep."

Josh's antics weren't only at home. They extended to the classroom. While Josh was in elementary school, Kelly quit her job as a full-time social worker and started doing hair so she could make her own schedule, due in part, to needing to be available when she would get a call from school administrators because of Josh's need to get a laugh out of his classmates.

"To make the teacher upset and make the class laugh, that was my main pranks," Josh said. "It was fun for me (but) that got me in a lot of trouble."

He was also competitive which he showed during tests. However, instead of racing to finish first with the correct answers, Josh and a classmate would race to see who could finish first and bubble in answers in the best shape of Pokemon.

Kelly, meanwhile, needed her own answers. Josh needed something to do with all of his energy. So she enrolled him in track, the same year she signed him up for basketball and football.

Basketball was Josh's favorite. Although he was good at track, he wasn't too interested. At the age of 10, he qualified for the Junior Olympics but didn't want to run in the meet in Florida.

"I just wanted to have fun, see the animals and chase the lizards," Josh said. "I wasn't even concerned about the Junior Olympics."

Only after some coaxing from his mom did he decide to run. He finished second to last in the 800m prelims and didn't qualify for the finals.

Kelly, thinking Josh would be sad with the results, was concerned. Josh wasn't.

"He ran off of the track and went straight to the iguanas," Kelly said.

It wasn't until Josh got to the eighth grade that he began having more success on the track and then became more serious.

However, his seriousness on the track didn't immediately lead to seriousness away from it. He was still the prankster. But, he realized the adverse effect of it. As he got older he realized his leadership skills were being used in vain.

"I'd say (to my friends) 'let's all do this'," he said. "They would say 'OK, that's really funny.' We'd all do it and laugh and would all get in trouble."

Today he uses leadership skills for good. When people are away and no one's watching, he's giving back.

"I go downtown LA a lot and I go to Ralph's and buy a couple of cases of water," Josh said. "(I'll) just pass them out to the homeless and give them some food.

"Every now and then, I'll tell my friends 'Let's go give to the homeless,' and they'll say 'Yeah, I'm down' and so instead of the negative persuading, let's try to do something positive."

The art of giving is something he picked up from his mom. Christmas time with the Mance's wasn't all about receiving gifts. As a single parent to relieve some of the financial strains of Christmas, Kelly would give them money to shop for a sibling they selected in a Secret Santa. The goal was for kids to really put thought into bringing joy to their particular sibling despite having a limited amount of resources.

"Josh was always grateful and happy," Kelly said.

The 2012 Olympian is a long way from putting peanut butter on door handles but he still can be counted on for a good prank or two. At the end of the day, that's who he is –full of humor and able to keep the mood light. It's helped him throughout his career and is a key component to him making the Olympic Team.

"Humor has been a strong part of me for a long time," Josh said. "I've always kept a positive mood and that's been the greatest thing about it."


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