It is still a mystery to me why I have my phone “on” all night. But when I remember I have a 20 year old who still lives with us and has a compelling enthusiasm for staying out late, it makes more sense. When the phone rings at 5:00am I snap awake with a start and look at the 310 area code of the caller, and immediately know who it is and my anxiety morphs and  ebbs into intense irritation.

Man do you know what time it is back here ?

Yeah, you guys are three hours ahead of us out here on the best coast.

Best coast my ass !  At this time of day there is no best anything but sleep.

I am on my way from Fresno to a warehouse outside LAX.

That is supposed to make a difference ?

No, man it aint about that.

Then what is it about for Christ sakes ?

That last thing you did.

What last thing ?

That Zen thing.

That Zen thing ?

Yeah that Zen thing !

Okay, what the hell about it ?

I was talking with couple of my track buddies about it and we don’t get that Zen thing.

That is because are  ignorant and uniformed .

Yeah, well one of my buddies said that he heard about something like that when Phil Jackson was out here coaching the Lakers. I told him I would have Zen too if I had Kobe Bryant and Shaq to work with. I could Zen anyone in the game at any time and not worry about who was going to win.

Phil was in Chicago before he came to L.A.

Yeah I know, and I could  Zen like crazy too if I had Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, and Dennis Rodman on my side.

The more you talk, the more you reveal your unimaginable  ignorance.



Just because I don’t know what Zen means ?

No, man it goes way beyond that. For example calling me at five in the morning to talk is about as ignorant as it gets.

Man, you’re wrong there.

Yeah ?

Yeah. It maybe inconsiderate, but it ain’t ignorant, stupid or dumb.

Just a matter of opinion.

Well my opinion is you just throw words like that around to sound smart and confuse people with that complicated crap you be serving up. Listen,…..let me tell you something.

Enlighten me.

I just know two Zens ! Yeah, I got me two Zens of my own.

Really, I am truly impressed. Can you share with me the two Zens you know.

Yeah. I know fro-ZEN and citi-ZEN.

Hang up the f—-g phone !

Not yet man. I told you my two Zens, let me hear YOURS !


Yeah, Nigger, I want to hear YOURS ! You so dammed smart,…go on  TELL me.

Why I got to be a Nigger at 5 in the morning ?

Because in reality you are really twenty four hour Nigger.

Well let me tell you something about this twenty four hour Nigger,…… if you weren’t 3,000 miles away I would Nigger your black ass to death.

Yeah, well that still don’t mean you know what you talking ’bout. Tell me what Zen means.

You want me to give you the definition of Zen ?

Yeah, I just passed Bakersfield on I-5 and have a lot time left between here and LAX. So break out your dictionary and read it to me.

Zen – a Japanese Buddhist sect which holds that the truth is not in scriptures, but in man’s own heart if he will but strive to find it by meditation and introspection. I memorized it from WEBSTER’S NEW DICTIONARY

I don’t know what kind of MEDICATION you and Buddha are on, but…..

No fool, not medication,…. MEDITATION . I ain’t wasting no more time with you. I’m hanging up on your ignorant ass.

No,no,no,….wait man. Just one more question. How does that connect with track and field ?

It means that the real truth and values of the sport are to be found in what comes from enlightened and three-dimension thought and analysis. It is a process that takes in all the relevant values and forces that impact performance. It means you have  to both understand and go beyond the surface science and bring in the other more subtle and less easily known aspects of human performance.

Is that the “psycho” part of the psycho-somatic thing you talk about ?

No fool,… Zen is both psycho and somatic and a hell of a lot more.

So ?

So ? So?

So what ?

So in order to get the best performance, all of the relevant values and factors have to be addressed and somehow covered if the coach is going to help the athlete get the best performance.

Give me an example.

Well when I was at the University of Florida as an assistant coach, I could sit the athletes down and dictate the workouts and have them go out and do them. Then I went to Stanford and I had to change things around a bit.

Yeah you had to get hip to the west coast culture we have out here.

No fool,… that is not it.

Then what the hell is IT ?

The kids I had at Florida came primarily from an oral culture . Secondly there was a built-in  respect for the position of coach. Coach was more than a title. It carried weight in the South. Anyway I could vocally communicate what I wanted and it was generally accepted and done. When I went to Stanford, the athletes there got there because they were very good with the written word and things of academic value,and  a lot of what they learned to value in general, emanated mostly from the printed page. The result, was I had to make sure the workouts were printed out, as well as explained. The title thing wasn’t that big, so coach was subordinate to content in order to get their attention.

Bunch of smart-assed white kids !

They were not necessarily smarter than the kids I had at Florida. The basic intelligence levels were very similar. The difference was the stamp and emphasis their culture had put on them and what they really understood and valued. The biggest difference I saw was time management skills. The kids at Stanford were better at efficient and effective use of time.

What kind of time are you talking about ?

For example, we were returning to San Francisco from Mt SAC  and they announced that our flight was 30 minutes late. Of the thirteen athletes in the group, eleven of them took out some kind of reading material and used that time get in some extra work. The same 13 kids at Florida, most  would have scattered and looked around for something to do, like get a snack, browse, or something probably figuring there was too little time to study. The Florida kids were not less bright than the Stanford kids, they just handled free time differently. So I had to learn to apply and address time issues differently in order to get the very best out of them. So my coaching had to be influenced by values and issues not necessarily found in the coaching “literature”.

Does that mean “literature” is the same as Zen “Scriptures” ?

Yeah, ….Jesus, at last a breakthrough !  Yeah,….. that is exactly what it means.

Okay mister “All That”,  how do you explain the success a lot of coaches have who have never heard of Zen and don’t even care about it even if they did ?

If you recruit someone who already has their prerequisite  Zen in order and who is also talented, then the Zen need of the coach is not such a big thing. But keep in mind that it is the exception, rather than the rule,that the #1 kid in high school becomes #1 in college and/or beyond. TRACK AND FIELD NEWS did a study years ago and the odds were one in 15 that a kid who was #1 in high school would attain the same status in college. Felix, Richards, Richardson, and  the Merritts are the overwhelming exceptions. People like Oliver are more the norm.

Wow ! That means we are wasting a lot of talent. So how can America be #1 at the Olympics and World Championships if we lose so much talent along the way ?

We can only enter three people in individual events and four in the relays. So we only have to salvage a very small number out of the huge talent pool that exists in America. It is a lot like Russian roulette. We just keep spinning until the winning chamber comes up.

Well I guess I got that Zen s–t down.

No fool you don’t. I just gave you one example, there are as many examples and Zen need areas as there are issues that come up and impact performance.

Yeah, well,….if you don’t mind, I’ll settle for what I already got. I’m closing in on the Grape Vine on I-5. Things can get dicey in this 18 wheeler going through there. So I’m out.

Out !

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

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