——– Original Message ——–
From: brooks@spikesandflats.com
Date: Fri, January 01, 2010 10:15 am
To: blog@spikesandflats.com

The last edition of this stuff was focused on how we too often get stuck in a time warp of arrested development and progress. Near the end I made a slovenly and lazy mistake. In making the point that Dawn Harper was arguably the 4th best 100 meter hurdler in Bobby Kersee’s training group in 2008, yet she won the Olympic gold in 2008,  I listed Michelle Perry as the 2008 gold medalist. This obvious mistake was immediately caught and commented on by the “Gotcha” Birds. Apologies to both Michelle and Dawn. Bobby had me work briefly with Michelle in 2004 at the U.S. Pre-Olympic training camp in Crete, when she was still a heptathlete on the U.S. Olympic Team and we have remained close every since. So I was fully aware of her accomplishments from 2004 onward. Now on with further development of the point I was trying to make in that overall effort.
The whole discussion centers around the fact that we all too often demand and expect too little from ourselves as coaches and athletes. This is all too often the fault of the coach who does not have sufficient confidence in him/herself to make the demands necessary on the athlete and the coach involved. Coaches often find a comfort zone and tend to remain static in that area for most of their career. We think that the present represents the ultimate and acceptable level of accomplishment and get stuck in a static time warp. As a rule, a coach will establish their level of competence within the first 5-7 years of their career. It is no coincidence that we see the same coaches in America providing the overwhelming majority of our Olympic medals. If you exit, Tom Tellez, John Smith and Bobby Kersee from the Olympiads of the 80s, and exclude Tellez, Clyde Hart, Bobby and John in 90s, plus take away Hart, Kersee, and Smith during the first decade of the 21st century our medal count drops to a totally unacceptable level. At the 2008 Olympics, athletes that Kersee and Smith coached were involved in slightly more than 33% of the total U.S. medal count. If you add athletes Clyde Hart coached, the tally is up over 50%. That is three coaches who  account for more than 50% of the U.S. medal count !! With more than 40 Olympic events and more 100 U.S. Olympic athletes, these three produce 50% of the medals. At a recent convention of college coaches in Orlando, Florida, more than 1000 coaches were in attendance. The fact as few as 3 coaches can, and do, produce these figures speaks volumes about how much room and need the coaching cadre has for growth and real excellence.
All of the above named coaches have several things in common, but the most glaring and striking commonality is the fact that all of them have coached people to world records. That means at some point they have shrunk time and space down to the point where athletes they coached skipped over and became today what a lot of other athletes will achieve some time in the future.
I have often tried to make the point that track and field specifically, and athletics in general, can move forward expediently if we learn and benefit from the lessons and history of other fields of historic endeavor.  In 1917, right in the middle of World War I, the Russian ( Bolshevists ) communists, led by Vladamir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, found themselves victorious over the royal czarist regime of Emperor Nicholas II. The Marxist/Hegelian doctrine and dogma ( DIALECTIC ) that Lenin/Trotsky and the communists/socialists were supposed to be strict and faithful adherents to, called for them to follow the historical and orthodox mandate of Dialetic Materialism. For Marx and Hegel it was an historical certainty that the revolutionary progress to the utopian society of communism/socialism, should/would  in accord with the concept of Dialetic Materialism which for them was a historical fact and dogma. It goes  as follows:
( 1 )At the beginning there would be a society based upon agrarianism
and the exploited labor of those who worked the fields and farms
( 2 )The next phase of the dialetic would occur when the society became
highly industrialized and the exploited workers would unite and rebel
against the factory owners and the repressive government that supported
( 3 )The united and exploited workers would overthrow the government
and nationalize the industry and through the “dictatorship of the
proleteriat”,  create a utopian democratic society that would extract “from
each according to their ability” and give “to each according to their needs”
Under Marxist/Hegelian rendering of inevitable history, this was an irrefutable dogma and doctrine. Lenin, as the leader of a revolutionary movement that supposedly subscribed and adhered to strict Marist/Hegelian theory, in October of 1917 found himself in a very difficult spot. If he were to strictly adhere to Marx and Hegel, he would be bound to allow the second of the three phases of  Dialetic Materialism, namely a highly industrialized society, to come into place and wait for the united workers to rebel against the exploitive industrialists to establish the utopian socialist state. As it turns out, Lenin was not about to adhere to what was dictated and mandated by orthodox dialectic  doctrine. He was not about to relinguish power and control and allow Russia to evolve into a democratic capitalist, industrial society. His expedient doctrine and reinterpretation was to “Telescope History”. Namely, he was going to compress history is such a way as to make the independent and stand alone middle phase unnecessary. The industrial phase and the socialism phases would be merged into one, negating the need to turn over control to industrialists and capitalists. He essentially took what was supposed to be an orthodox, three phase process, and reduced it into a two phase process, saving time and effort and his rule.
Coincidentally this is essentially the same process we have seen with some successful coaches and athletes, especially in the sprint events. The orthodox litany as far as foot action was: ( 1 ) Touchdown, ( 2 ) Support, ( 3 ) Pushoff. The “front side” mechanics as practiced by Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene was based upon shortening the process. This meant combining and compressing phase #2 and #3 into one action rather than two. This meant less elapsed time on the running surface. This resulted in reduced contact time on the surface and a faster overall time for the event, and dominance of the event by the best of thsoe who could “telescope” the process .
Glen Mills, who coaches Usain Bolt, like Lenin/Trotsky defied the orthodox . In the past it was pretty much ordained that good Jamaican sprinters  ( Donald Quarry, Billy Miller, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Berton Cameron, etc. ) would matriculate to the U.S. for school and training. Glen Mills was one of those who led the way away from that orthodoxy in terms of keeping the good Jamaican talent on the island and developing it there. But more important, he was able to see beyond the current orthodoxy as it related to performance. His mind and imagination took charge and control of the moment and found a way to compress and telescope performances that we will see often in the future, to being unique and special for today. He was able as a coach to make the necessary demands on Bolt to perform in a futuristic fashion today instead of waiting for tomorrow. Like Lenin,
he had a once in a life time opportunity thrust upon him. He could “go with the flow” or he could seize the opportunity and turn it into something historic. It is clear that the results he has attained are more successful than Trotsky’s and communism turned out to be, but the creative seizing of the initiative and opportunity are parallel. He has been able to shrink and compress the time it takes to get to sub 9.6 for the 100 meters and sub 19.30 for the 200 meters. He has been able to successfully bypass the hubris and gravity of orthodoxy and fully exploit the talent he has been given rather than allowing it to wallow in mediocrity. He has been able reach out and grasp for today what is promised and supposed to take place tomorrow. That opportunity to shred time is out there for every coach and athlete in the sport on one level or another.
In order to overcome the inertia that keeps us bound too much to the present, track coaches and track athletes need to look and see things around them outside of the sport that have a direct bearing on their quest for excellence and success within the sport. There are lessons and beacons to guide and support us,…. all around us. The one thing we can not do is to rely upon “common knowledge” and the dialetic dogma that currently dominates most of the sport. The saying that ” The Future Is Now” is most accurate when applied to our sport and what is possible and doable within it. “Coaches Unite” and throw off the chains of mediocrity should be our chant and mantra, and until that happens, then the Smiths, Kersees, and Harts will continue to account for a disproportionate amount of our Olympic and World and Championship medal count, and the Glen Mills of the world will out Lenin us. For three of them to make such an inordinate contribution to our overall success at the Olympics and World Championships speaks volumes. Our new mantra and chant should be ” Track coaches of America unite and throw off the shackles of mediocrity”. But this will not happen unless we develop a broader base of demand, expectation, and confidence. We will not develop these things unless we look outside our sport for guidance and inspiration.
May 2010,……. indeed be a NEW YEAR !!!!!
Brooks T. Johnson
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