Miles Dewey Davis is a trumpet player from Alton, Illinois. His father was a successful dentist and his family was essentially black bourgeoisie. In the early 40s he came to New York City to study at The Julliard School of Music, one of the most prestigious schools of music in America.. He desperately wanted to be a jazz musician, got involved in the bebop music scene, got hooked on heroin, fighting heroin, he fell off the jazz radar screen for a while only to emerge in the middle 50s with what is considered the quintessential jazz quintet of all time ( Miles – trumpet, Red Garland- piano, Paul Chamber- angel head bass, “Philly Joe Jones – drums with fatback, and John Coltrane- tenor saxophone) Jimmy Cobb would substitute for Philly Joe Jones when the group toured. One of the first and most successful early recordings of this group was called “Miles Ahead” . If you want to get the full essence of what is to follow, listening to the title cut of the “Mile Ahead” album will certainly help with the nuances and layered meaning and significance.
It has often been mouthed that 90% of competitive success at the elite level is mental. However, it has been my observation that there is rarely enough understanding and emphasis dealing with this area commensurate with the significant position it holds for competitive success in track and field. I subscribe to the idea that psychology is in many instances the “winning edge” as far as success is concerned at the outer limits of any endeavor: athletics, art, acting music, theatre, politics, and so many other pursuits. I often share with athletes with whom I work, ” The longest and hardest distance we will ever and ultimately have to cover is between your left earlobe and your right earlobe. ” Or,…… how many ” Miles Ahead” do we have to traverse with each athlete before we reach the optimum mindset, for the event and the athlete’s skillset.
In order for the coach to properly get a handle on the psychology involved, there must be something of an inventory taken of the psychology required for the event and the basic psychology and mind map of the athlete. For example, often we find athletes who possess what we call “instant reward syndrome” as opposed to those who have the capacity for a “delayed reward syndrome”. Athletes with “instant reward syndrome” need immediate feedback and sanction,….positive or negative. These athletes are “now” centered and focused and are impatient for results and evaluation and especially approval. Athletes with “delayed reward syndrome” can prepare longer without having to have reward or results. They will accept long term planning and programming. As a rule, “instant reward” athletes have a mindset that is more compatible with the sprints and ballistic events, although this is not always the case. Their emphasis on “now” and the willingness to roll the dice right now, is certainly a plus in these events . On the other hand, athletes who are willing to train at a high level for an objective that is months away, obviously do better in events ( distance and some field events ) where preparation for peak performance in the event requires prolonged preparation.
I have often heard coaches say, “If that athlete would move up to a longer distance, they could do so much better.” That is only true if the athlete has the proper reward syndrome required of that event. No matter what the basic gifts may be, an “instant reward” person is not equipped to do well in a “delayed reward” event. The additional catch is the fact that athletes determine whether they can adjust to the requirements of another event,….not coaches ! There is no way an athlete with an “instant reward syndrome” is going to successfully move up to the 800 meters, no matter what the physical gifts happen to be.
Once upon a time I was coaching two very gifted and talented athletes at Stanford University. I almost ruined the career of one because I coached and trained them the same. Further the race strategy was the same, which was  was to get the race down to a one-on-one affair and beat the person isolated ut as the chief competitor. That was the competitive ploy I employed with marginal success as an athlete, and naturally thought it was best for everyone else who wanted to do well. Patti Sue Plumer was made for this type of training and race strategy. I would identify the person I felt she had to beat in order to win and train her to dominate the critical area of the race where it would come down to one-on-one. This is what we term a “goal oriented” perspective.
Establish a personalized objective and have at it. Regina Jacobs on the other hand, was “task oriented” at the time I worked with her. If I tried to get the race down in her mind to her and one other person, she did not enjoy the success she did when she was asked to perform certain tasks and keep the whole affair dispassionate and impersonal. ” Regina, go out in 63-65, then give me a 65-67, bear down a bit for the third lap in order to stay at 65-67, and then kick like hell to the finish line.” Later, I must say, I thought I saw some “goal oriented” motivation when it came to her and Suzie Favor- Hamilton. Thank God she was able to realize the shortcomings of my training for her and move to someone who had a better grasp of how she needed to be coached. Patti Sue went on to become ranked #1 at 3000/5000,made the Olympic final in the 3000 in 1988, and the Olympic final in both the 3,000 and 1500 in 1992. Bottom line, ” Different strokes for different folks.” because one size definitely does not fit all.
One of the most essential, misunderstood and mis-applied mental concepts, is the level of demands and expectations of the either the athlete or coach, or both.  In establishing goals and objectives for an athlete there are many things that must be taken into realistic account. The first has to do with the mental profile and orientation of the athlete. As we have stated above, an “instant reward” mindset will not allow for maximization of results in a “delayed reward”. A person who is trained and coached as a “goal oriented” person, will not do well if their basic psyche is “task oriented.
I have managed to totally screw up the type/font thing and do not know how to adjust it back to where it was. Accept this for now and the rest will follow when I can get someone to help me out.. Being a cyber cretin really has real drawbacks.
Brooks T. Johnson
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