THEM THAT GETZ,…… SHALL GET

Last weekend I did a clinic for high school coaches in Missouri and was very impressed with the number of attendees ( approximately 700 ) and the overall event management.   However, it was doing one of the breaks between sessions when I was approached by a small group of coaches who wanted to share with me who they thought  were the best coaches in the country. I tried to be patient and tolerant as they gushed out the same over-rated, and all too often repeated, names that I have heard too many times before. When  asked for my opinion I blurted out, “How many of these guys can GETZ ?”

What ?

How many of these people you just mentioned can GETZ ?

After a pregnant pause, one of them tentatively offered, “You mean the jazz guy ?”

Yes, I mean the jazz guy !

I heard he was a good saxophone player, but I never knew he coached track and field.

He never coached track and field. But,…….let me tell you what he really did that made him one of the very best at what he did, and almost totally escapes the people you have just laid out there. Stan Getz was playing in big bands as a teenager during World War II. He was 17 when he got his first big band professional job. Keep in mind that this was during the time when big bands ruled popular music. He was hired for two reasons. One he was very technically sound on his horn and a great sight reader who could memorize charts and arrangements almost instantly. Secondly, because of his age he was draft exempt. But, as i said and repeat, his technical skill and musicality were superior and very much in evidence even at that early age. He went on to win the DOWNBEAT Magazine poll as  #1  more than any other tenor sax player while he was alive. But it was not his technical skill that set him apart and allowed him to win all those polls over a 40 year history. His first gigs were in big bands where he was given short solos because in those days records were 78s and lasted a little over 3 minutes. So by definition solos were short. This music was written and arranged so it had to be played  within certain limits based upon the arrangement itself. Getz became a big fan and appreciator of Lester “Prez” Young. Young was a tenor player from New Orleans who brought a new approach to the music. At that time “modern” or “progressive” jazz was based upon the musicians knowing the chord changes of a song and then improvising their own melodies that were in basic harmony with the chord changes. This allowed for soloists to create and express their own melodic ideas and still stay within the basic integrity of the song in question. What Prez did was to bring an additional liberating element to the music. He went deeply into the mood and meaning of the song as expressed by the author and extended his playing based on this mood and meaning, thereby creating more freedom to express himself and get free of the limitations created by just playing off  the chord changes. Stan Getz adopted this concept in his playing, while at the same time ushering several genres of jazz. For example, he was one of the precursors of “Cool Jazz”, along with Mile Davis, Chet Baker, and Gerry Mulligan. Later he was able to popularize Bossa Nova as a jazz form. Bottom line, he was able to grow his considerable talent and be in the vanguard because although he mastered the basics,…. he did not let the basics master him ! When asked about what was the secret to his growth and ability to stay out front and be relevant over such a long period,  one of the things he said that spoke eloquently to what differentiated him from many of the other horn players was, ” I listen to the lyrics of the song and get into what the mood and ideas the writer is trying to communicate”. Too many jazz musicians are too ego-centric and self-absorbed to pay attention to the meaning and mood the lyrics are trying to convey and create.

Okay, so what ? What does that have to do with coaching ?

At its highest and most successful level coaching track and field is the same, with the same kind of challenges.

Really ? How ?

First of all, like the good jazz musician, the track coach needs to know the science and structure of what is involved in what she/he is trying to do. And like many musicians, we have track coaches that know the basic science and throw the terms around with such ease and expertise that we become impressed with their command of the basics and this can sometimes be very impressive and blinding at the same time. But, however, the very best coaches, like the very best jazz musicians, have to expand their work beyond just the basics and learn how to gauge the mood and meaning of things that Sir Isaac Newton authored,….. and then find a creative way of mixing and expressing this phenomena. Like Getz, Miles, and Coltrane the best coaches get down with the modal and mood that comes from a creative understanding of the essence of the music and coaching craft itself. So people like John Smith and Bobby Kersee, and Clyde Hart are always seeking ways to get to that next level of meaning and expression, and never rest on their past successes as being the defining and delineating activity in their work. They seek to push the envelope of expression within the sport,…..and as a result contribute upwards of 33% of the U.S. medal count at a typical Olympics and World Championships.  What per cent of the medal count do your people contribute ?

I mentioned Clyde Hart.

You most certainly did ! But did you include Smith and Kersee in your reverence ?

No, but…….

No buts,… that strategic exclusion is fatal.

Fatal ?

Yeah,..fatal !

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

GETTING IT OUT THERE

What was perhaps inevitable, is finally working itself up to a head within USA Track and Field . It actually started back before  2008 when Bill Roe, the then president of USA Track and Field, caved in to the United States Olympic Committee’s  demands concerning a “reorganization”. When Bill Roe, Stephanie Hightower( current president of USATF), John Chaplin and I met with the president of the USOC ,  he made it perfectly clear that the threat of de-certification that the USOC ,CEO,and his leadership team, held over our head was basically bogus and groundless since USATF had not committed any de-certifiable offenses. But despite this fact, Bill Roe orchestrated a process than saddled  USATF with a “reorganization” that included a non-representative and shrunken board,……and Doug Logan !

Much of the above was motivated by people who felt they “were the smartest people in the room”. As such they did not trust the governance process to have too much involvement and input from the ignorant and unwashed people that come from the grass roots and volunteer sectors. Athletes were trusted even less.    It was the old game of CORPORATE ROLE REVERSAL. When the leadership of an organization that is established exclusively to support, serve and service the needs of its constituent group, then reverses the roles and expects, and in some instances demand, that the constituency group in fact abdicate their rights and voices and serve the greed and gains of  the leadership clique, then that is CORPORATE ROLE REVERSAL. And that is exactly what is unfolding right in front of us as The president of USATF(Stephanie Hightower), the CEO of USATF, (Max Seigle), along with selected members of the board are currently proposing legislative and by-laws changes that would place almost total power and authority in the hands of people with very suspect motives and  performance records and conduct.

Before we go further, let us understand and state that without athletes there would absolutely be NO need or rationale  for USATF to exist,….. at all. Without athletes performances there would be a greatly reduced interest on the part of sponsors to even become affiliated with USATF. Athletes, and their performances,  are most closely and effectively supported by coaches, officials, and volunteers who address their immediate needs and requirements that drive performances. Given that, it would logically follow that athletes, and the people who most closely work with them for their best interest, would get priority treatment in the overall USATF hierarchy,….. in point of fact, just the opposite is the case and the newly proposed legislative end run is designed to reduce even further  the influence and involvement that athletes and the volunteer cadre have in the decisions that most intimately impact them.

So how is it we have an organization that puts its most critical constituencies in a second class and subservient status and is now seeking to tighten that strangle hold even more  ? This occurs because of the megalomania and greed of the leadership clique and their desire to perpetuate themselves in power and authority to further their own personal career goals and objectives,…. at the cost, exploitation and exclusion of the very people they profess to serve and support.

Let’s start at the very top. When Stephanie Hightower was elected president of USATF, she vehemently fought off Doug Logan’s effort to prevent her from chairing the board. The reason was obvious, Doug wanted to chair the board because the chair sets the agenda and basically can overly influence the direction that board moves, especially with the new smaller board and so many people from outside the inner sanctum of the sport serving on the board. Stephanie obviously was aware that without chairing the board, her position was merely a figurehead. Now that she can not repeat as president, and therefore be board chair, she is supporting the proposition that the chair of the board be elected from the board itself, rather than being the president, who is elected by the delegate assembly as their representative. She has stated to interested parties that she has the votes on the board itself to get elected its chair. The sticky issue to get a position on the board itself outside the presidency. The IAAF representative, in this case Bob Hersh(who is also senior vice president of the IAAF as a result of his many years of  outstanding work resulting in his seniority) is by virtue of being the IAAF rep is automatically on the board. This position has been elected from the delegate assembly in the past and if it were to be the same again, Hersh would surely win. However, there is a Hightower supported proposal that this time around the board elect the IAAF representative, giving Hightower a slam dunk to replace Bob as the IAAF representative, costing us the second highest ranking member of the IAAF and the influence and USATF benefits that derive from that position. If she replaces Hersh, then she can count on her votes on the board to be elected chair and carry on her personal agenda of power and authority.

Why would Hightower be a seriously flawed candidate to continue on as chair of the board of USATF ? The basic and simple reason is the fact that her interests do not rest primarily with athletes and their primary supporters. There are many instances and examples to sustain this charge. She was chair of the board when Doug Logan received a raise, within months before he was fired. He got the raise despite the fact that she was aware of serious and reliable negative assertions about him and at least one athlete. In 2011, at the national championships in Eugene, Oregon, she was called into a meeting of athletes so we could get some closure on an issue regarding whether or not the meet director at the London Diamond League could prevent Justin Gatlin from running on the U.S. men’s 4 x 100 relay at the meet. I explained to her that the British federation, that ultimately sanctioned the meet, by IAAF rules, could not have more restrictive constraints on an athlete’s eligibility than the IAAF. Since the IAAF had cleared Gatlin to run, then the British federation had no choice but to allow him to run. Further, I made the point that no foreign meet director  should tell the U.S. what the composition of our team should or should not be. She countered that the meet was being sponsored by “big business” and we had to comply with their wishes because they were paying the freight. I pointed out that this particular meet had radically reduced the appearance and prize money for athletes, despite doubling the attendance figures at the meet. I stated that I thought her position as president of USATF should require her to be an advocate for the rights of U.S.athletes on one hand,  and do everything possible to increase their fiscal benefits and rewards on the other hand. Her position then was that I was off topic by introducing the money issue into the discussion after she had stated the reason we should violate Gatlin’s right was because “big business” was too much money for us to fight.  She stuck to her position that the meet director could prevent Gatlin from running on the U.S. relay.  The athletes showed their displeasure with her position by voting unanimously to boycott the relays as a U.S. team In London that year.

In just about every public pronouncement made by Hightower, she strategically  drops the terms, “fiduciary responsibility” and “transparency”. Let’s make sure we are in basic agreement that the first and foremost responsibility – fiduciary or otherwise -that USATF has is to the athletes constituency  it is supposed to support, serve and service. When Logan took over as CEO, one of his first acts was to transfer $500,000.00 that was contracted to athletes away from them, and  back into the general fund. The rationale he arrogantly  gave at the time was , “I don’t do business that way.”.  The athletes protested and finally were able to get the leadership clique to admit they had been fiddled out of their contracted money, and there was a settlement visited on the athletes of $300,000.00 or 60% of what was legitimately owed to them. Since then we have heard of all sorts of “new money” coming into USATF but no one has seen fit to make the athletes whole again on the balance of the money that was misappropriated from them. Speaking of “new money”, to date there are no known proposals that would see athletes substantially impacted positively with this new fiduciary windfall. As Nick Symonds recently stated, we have a CEO who is making more than 1.2 million dollars –money raised off the backs of athletes and their performances — yet most of the U.S. athletes are surviving below the poverty line. Where,and to whom, is the fiduciary responsibility being directed under the president’s lofty and often stated claims in this areas ? The president speaks about transparency, and in a conference call with the executive committee of youth athletes, she talked about transparency, despite the fact that she was aware that the national office, without the knowledge and/or consultation with the youth committee charged with awarding the bid for the National Junior Olympics, the national office  changed the terms of the bid package without proper vetting with the committee in question. The results were no takers for the new national office bid package and in the end the original bid package from the proper youth committee was reinstated and bids were immediate. I have been advised by the chair of Athletes Advisory that for more than a year, Athletes Advisory board members have been told by the board chair,  not to share board activity with their constituent  group and especially the chair himself. Where is the transparency factor in that ?  What about transparency and fiduciary responsibility when the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, originally awarded  by LDR to Houston with a prize package of $100,000.00, was abruptly switched through the national office to another site, and as yet there is no prize money settled on the new marathon trials site.

In mentioning Nick Symonds above, I am made to recall what has to be an alarmingly embarrassing and disqualifying incident at the World Championships in Moscow in 2013. Earlier Hightower had made a vow that every athlete that medaled  in Moscow  would have to have  a shot of vodka with her. Nick was having dinner after his medal race with his parents,who  both are administrators and professional people from the Great Northwest,….so you can imagine the awkwardness when Stephanie interrupted their meal trying to make good on her promise.

Bottom line, there should be intense resistance to the new by-laws that seek to limit access and authority to decision making in USATF to a few people who work in the national office and serve on the board. What is being proposed would take ultimate authority from the general assembly and place it in the hands of an ambitious few.  In the first instance, it is simply very bad from a governance perspective,…… if we subscribe to democratic processes as being the best way to govern and serve. Secondly, the people who would inherit this virtual strangle hold on power have not shown even scant evidence and intent that have anything but their own self-aggrandizement and greed uppermost. Thirdly, the new proposals would reverse and pervert the mission and mandate that USATF was established to implement.

THE DAY DECENCY AND DEMOCRACY DIED

Let’s start from the very top and the actual beginning. The legitimate and compelling a priori assumption when it comes to USATF,…. is without athletes there is no need or requirement for USATF to even exist. The basic rationale and validity for its existence is for it to support the needs wishes and objectives of its athletes’ constituency. Included in that mandate and mission are the volunteers, coaches, officials, and ground root support people that directly work with,.. and develop athletes’.   These are the critical and necessary elements for U.S. track and field athletes to continue their status as the #1 Track and Field Team in the world. The national office and the administrators and board  would like to take credit for this lofty position,…..and do at every conceivable opportunity to toot their horn. However, if USATF ceased to exit tomorrow as an administrative body, our medal count at the Olympics and World Championships would not be negatively impacted at all. Here’s the reason why, in a typical Olympics or World Championships the people who actually produce the medals are broken down pretty much along the following lines:

College/Universities, on college/university campuses produce a medal count of                                                        12 – 15

Bobby Kersee, John Smith, Clyde Hart typically produce                                                                                                      6 –  8

Miscellaneous coaches, like Alberto Salazar, Don Babbitt, Julie Benson, etc.                                                               3 –  6

None of these people get substantial dollars or support from USATF. Mostly they are independent of USATF support and generally operate in a world away from USATF direct contact. The glaring possible exception to this is the work of Dr Ralph Mann and his more than 25 years of biomechanical analysis. The above, non-USATF dependent personnel, produce between 24-27 medals at a typical Olympics and World Championships. If your were to compute the total direct dollar amount they get from USATF it would be less than the travel and hospitality bill incurred by the president and the ceo of USATF at these same events.

But I digress. The essential point is that USATF exists solely for the purpose of supporting and assisting athletes and the volunteers and other field people that in fact DO directly  support athletes,and therefore DO contribute directly to the athletes’ successes and the resultant medal count that the USOC and USATF are so anxious and ready to brag about. As a form of democratic governance USATF is supposed to function in ways that reflect the will and wishes of its target constituency, namely athletes and the people in the field that minister directly to the needs of athletes. These two groups,….( 1)athletes and (2)those who really and directly support them , are found in two USATF constituent bodies, namely the(2)Delegate Body at the national convention and the(1) Athletes Advisory Committee which is responsible for representing the wishes and rights of athletes.

At the most recent USATF national convention in Anaheim, California,last week,  each of these two critical and central groups had elections centered around the position of the IAAF representative  position . Bob Hersh was the current representative going into the election process. This position had been elected by the Delegate Body in the past, as it should because the position represents the total body, and the only place where the total body votes is in the Delegate Body. But after the Bill Roe/Doug Logan/Stephanie Hightower by-laws and governance “reform”, this important election was left in the hands of a shrunken( from 29 to 15, 3 of which are outside and “non-aligned”). and non-representative USATF board of  directors. Hightower’s term as president ends in 2016 and she can not repeat. In order to perpetuate herself in power two things have to take place. First she has to make sure she has a place on the board itself going forward. The IAAF representative automatically carries with it a board seat. Then it has to come to past that the board itself elects the chair of the board, negating the fact that in the past the president, who was elected by the total Delegate Body, was also the chair of the board. When then c.e.o.,Doug Logan, circulated the idea back in 2008, that the board should elect the chair of the board, providing him with an opportunity to combine c.e.o. and board chair,  Hightower, smelling a rat in Logan’s ploy vehemently fought that idea and won. The chair of the board basically conducts the board meetings and sets the agenda and generally exercises considerable power ad authority as a result. Hightower finds herself in an interesting position now. She has to make sure a procedure she was deathly against in 2008, now is reversed in order for her to perpetuate her ruinous reign. Since she has a strangle hold on the majority of  board votes, if it were left to the board to elect the chair, as she has publicly stated, she “has the votes”. This would leave the popularly elected president of USATF as less than a figurehead. That means that again we would have the wishes of the majority,as expressed through a fair and open election of the Delegate Body,  negated by a vote taken in a closed “executive session” by the board.

Back to the elections. David Greifinger, a UCLA trained lawyer, formerly general counsel to the board and currently general counsel to the Athletes Advisory Committee saw through the Hightower high- handedness and submitted a  proposal that the Delegate Body vote to recommend to the board that it vote to return Bob Hersh as USATF, IAAF representative. This gesture was not totally  anti-Hightower, as much as it was recognition of several very important things:

(1) Bob Hersh was the Senior Vice President of the IAAF, a very lofty and influential position within the body and heir apparent if the present IAAF president was unavailable

(2) Bob Hersh was a member of the IAAF Council. This like the board of directors and comprises less than 30 memebers from a general membership of more than 200.

(3) Bob Hersh is a Columbia trained lawyer and brings decades of honorable and reliable service, including the 16 years it took him to move up Senior Vice President

(4) Bob Hersh’s long and impressive tenure brings with it tangible and intangible benefits to USATF that a new person in the position would  not immediately  possess

After all the heated debate and discussion it essentially came down to a vote of the Delegate Body as to whom it would ask the board to elect to the position of USATF, IAAF representative. The representative of each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia voted.  The vote was a compelling and convincing 392 for Hersh and 70 for Hightower. A more than 5 to 1 ratio in support of Hersh.

The other relevant vote took place in the Athletes’ Advisory Committee meeting. Again, after much debate and discussion, it was pointed out to the athletes that what was at stake was a vote to support David Greifinger’s proposal in favor of retaining Hersh as IAAF representative. and rejecting Hightower’s bid to unseat him and pave the way for her to continue in power and authority. The vote was returned as unanimous for the more than 70 athletes in the room, with one abstention. There were NO votes in favor of Hightower .

When the board of directors met, it voted 11 for Hightower, with one abstention, and 1 vote for Hersh. When the results were announced the people who were still present at the convention generally were in a state of shock and utter disgust . It was obvious that the board had rejected the wishes of the majority of the people whose wishes and rights it is supposed to protect and serve. There is a very fine distinction between what is law and what is jurisprudence. The law is basically what is written and jurisprudence is based on what is fair and prudent. In a democratic process the will of the majority is supposed to trump the wishes of a self-serving and self-centered few. The board’s action was such a miss-carriage of the critical constituents’ will and wishes as to be demagoguery in its most demented and demeaning form. How,….. you ask, can 11 people be so above the rest of us, that they can dishonor an honorable man, his service, and the overwhelming majorities that supported him ? The answer is found in the fact that some times the verb of what we do, becomes the adjective to describe us. The board dishonored Bob Hersh,……… and by doing so assumes the adjective and description of what they did.

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 -0 755

5 O’CLOCK SHADOW

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.

REALLY ?

Yeah REALLY !

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 !

MINE  ?

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

One Stride,… More or Less ? Understanding the Zen of 7 step approach in 110 hurdles

As far back as the 50s, when suggesting the number of steps to the first hurdle, according to the literature, the option was ” either 7 or 8″. However, with very few exceptions, 8 steps became the generally accepted number. In 2008, Dayron Robles won the Olympic Games using a 7 step approach in the 110 hurdles. David Oliver switched to 7 steps in 2009/2010 and became #1 in the world establishing a new American record in the process. In 2011 Jason Richardson switched and won the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Aries Merritt switched in 2012 and won the 2012 Olympic Games and established a new world record later that same summer. David Oliver again won the 2013 World Championships in  Moscow, Russia, again with a 7 step approach. Since 2008, with the exception of the Berlin World Championships of 2009, every major international championships has been won with the winner using seven steps.

Given that kind of success,…. and the fact that track and field can often be very much a superficial practitioner of the “follow the leader” syndrome , it is not surprising that 7 steps has enjoyed a fantastic increase in popularity . However, in the adaptation of the 7 step approach there is a lot more  involved than just reducing the number of strides to the first hurdle by approximately  12.50%. Keep in mind that while Robles was taking one fewer strides to the first hurdle int he 110s, Usain Bolt was taking 6 strides for the first 10 meters in the 100 in 2008, when the mantra for that event, repeated as gospel over and over again, ” 7 for 10″ . Or,….7 steps for the first 10 meters was the model advocated by the “gurus”, “experts” and “pundits” for the model 100 meter race. All this despite the fact that Dr Bert Lyle had shared with me, and everyone else willing to listen, as far back as 1971 that stride length was being under appreciated in the  sprint model. Later he pointed out that Evelyn Ashford was able to beat the “juiced up ” East Germans at 100 meters  because she was taking 50-51 strides while they were taking closer to 54-55 strides. Before the advent of Bolt in 2008 the model emphasis had firmly landed in the stride frequency camp with a technique and terminology to accommodate it called “front side” mechanics.

We are getting a little a field here, despite much of it is relevant, I just do not want to dilute the principle thrust of this effort and that is to recognize the fact that we can not just simply take into account the mechanics and technical aspects of track and field. There are  very well-known groups of track and field “experts” and “master coaches”, who can cite and recite “the literature”,  and bisect and dissect what is physically taking place on videos and film analysis. They can tell you with amazing and astonishing accuracy what has been measured and metered mechanically,…. and it is supposed to rest right there and that is the determining factor. It was about this flaw and failure that I encountered  Dr Ralph Mann on the bus from the hotel to the track at the most recent national championships in Sacramento, California this summer. Dr  Mann has been the singular most important and productive scientist as far as speed enhancement and development is concerned in U.S. track and field. The only people who have made a bigger impact are the chemists/scientists who have developed the performance enhancing drugs used by some of our more successful athletes. Dr Mann’s credential are impeccable, as they should be for a former Olympic athlete himself who went on to get a Ph. D. in biomechanics and then put all that knowledge toward running analysis and study for more than 30 years.  When he invited me to the annual sprint/hurdle analysis seminar for this fall I replied:

Doc, I think you guys are good, even great as far as you go. But you should first of all stay in your lane.  I think you guys are stepping outside your area of expertise.

How is that ?

It is my opinion that bio-mechanists like you should describe what is taking place . When you start to prescribe what and how it should be done, then you are stepping into the preserve of the coach. And since you are not with the athlete on a daily basis, and more importantly do not know the psychological profile of the athlete, you can not prudently prescribe because you lack the most crucial aspect of mechanical movements of athletes.

What is that ?

The Zen to improving human performance.

That is very interesting you should come to the meeting a present your ideas.

You guys deal with stick figures, angles, and forces. Coaches have to deal with the psycho-somatic totality of the best way to prepare an athlete. Much of what you physically see on your films has been preceded by a psychological, and even physiological,  phenomenon that never shows up on films, but is principally  responsible for what you see on film. The study of mechanics aside from, and outside of ,the accompanying psychological precedent activity and acceptance is folly.

Like I said, we welcome you coming and sharing your thoughts.

Later I volunteered to Dr Mann to accept his invitation and was told the program was already set and there would be no room over a four day event to squeeze me in. Perhaps next year with more lead time it could be worked out.

Now to the basic premise and promise of this effort. On its face it appears that taking one fewer step for the first 10 meters of the 100, and one fewer step to the first hurdle results in faster overall times.  But it doesn’t just end there. Specifically in the hurdles, there is a real challenge in many instances , to get the athletes to switch from 8 to 7 despite the empirical evidence supporting the benefits of doing so. Now just what are the advantages to taking one fewer steps to the first hurdle  ? There are at least  basically three  areas of benefit. First there is the fact that by taking one stride less you reduce the total number of strides in the hurdles by approximately 2%. That equates very closely to the average percentage advantage that drug use is supposed to deliver. So by taking one less stride it is possible to mechanically do what drugs are expected to do.  Secondly, in order to get to the take off point in seven strides, if the athlete is very aggressive, in stride length emphasis for the first four strides – not totally unlike the bounding start of a jumpers – then there is a post tetanus potential ( after intense contraction, the potential for future contraction can be increase upwards of 10% ). This results in a very quick and explosive effort for the next 3 strides setting up a very aggressive attack mode over hurdle #1. This establishes a kind of natural and practical inertia of aggressive behavior that can more  easily extended further down the track. The third area involves the precedent mindset and psychological profile that even allows for 8 steppers to take on the 7 step challenge. In general, athletes fall into one of two categories of psychological profile. There are the goal oriented athletes that simply use the process to achieve certain goals or objectives. The process is merely a means to an end. Then there are the task oriented athletes for whom the task itself has certain inherent rewards and fulfillment for them. They derive a certain level of satisfaction from just doing the activity itself. We see this most often in distance runners who simply enjoy the running for running’s sake, but athletes in other categories can have the same psychological profile, even if manifested more subtly . For goal oriented athletes, being one step ahead is a very big thing and psychologically they are willing to enter into the risk-reward dichotomy/dilemma more easily than the task oriented athletes. So the approach to getting the athletes to change is based more on the athlete’s mindset than the activity itself.

Other than the mathematical and mechanical advantage of taking one less step, the hard scientists do not dwell in-depth with the Zen aspects of making a mechanical change that scientists would like to prescribe. The whole process is psycho-somatic in essence,….. and without the psycho portion,….. the somatic portion doesn’t even take place in some instances and poorly in others examples. The mind must precede the body  in order for athletes to adapt to new neuro-muscular patterns. This is even more acute if the athlete is already enjoying success with the less than best system.

It is my opinion that the Zen aspect of performance is just as critical and important in human performance as the mechanical elements involved. And in order for a coach to maximize the talent and ability of an athlete, the total psycho-somatic phenomenon has to be addressed in one way or another. The very best coaches in the this sport, or any sport, have an understanding of the need to address the mind first.  In the American system, coaches recruit who and what they assume is the best talent and hope that the psychological portion is already in place, or easily stimulated. But that means a significant number of our athletes are not developed because of the one dimensional approach to athletic development. The Zen represents too much sensitivity and creativity for an overworked and under staffed program to properly address. Athletes run a spectrum from athletic to Zen, coaches must be able run the same range.

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

Conversation with Dr Satoru Tanigawa

I was at the warm up track at the World Championships in Moscow, 2013,  and feeling quasi-smug because David Oliver was looking good in his rounds of the 110 hurdles. Hopefully we had finally beaten the injury and anemia bug that had plagued him since 2011. That meant the podium was definitely in sight again at last and I was intensely focused on thinking about what I could do to make it happen. So when I was approached in between races by a Japanese man with a broad smile and slight swagger,….and camera,  I was ready for some sort of photo  encounter that I really was not in the mood for. He was very brisk and seem to understand the circumstances and stated that he would like to speak with me later. Relieved, I very quickly  replied in the affirmative. David had hit hurdle #8 in the semi-final round and the Russian beat him, and I was about to tell him all about it when he let me know he was aware of the mistake and assured me he would fix it in the final,…. and win. So the only left for me to do was to sit down and wait.  Later at 8:30pm in the call room he looked up at the clock and said to himself that in a half hour he was going to be a world champion. A little after 9:00pm he won by the largest margin ever in that event at the World Championships and everything that had passed previously was forgotten in the flush of victory.

This summer, 2014,I got an e-mail from John Millar inquiring if I would be amenable to having the national coach for the hurdles of Japan come and monitor our training for the 2013-2014 year.  John had coached him in the early 2000s, and in addition, he had also coached an Olympic gold medalist in the hurdles, so I was very receptive to anyone he would refer. Turns out it was the same coach who had approached me in Moscow, Dr Satoru Tanigawa. Dr Sato, as we now refer to him, moved his wife and 5 year old daughter to Orlando in September and has an arrangement with the University of Central Florida’s Human Performance Lab assisting with some research there and joins us for practice 2-3 times a week. One day a week or so ago we were walking from the track to our cars in the parking lot discussing college coaching and I related to him that at one point in my career I had been the head coach at Stanford University. He asked me:

How may athletes did you have on your team ?

We started the year out with close to 100, but by the spring we would be down to about 75-80

No, I mean, how many sprinters did you have ?

Not very many. No more than 2-3 .

So few ? He asked incredulously.

Yeah, so I became a distance coach very quickly.

Why was that ?

Because I liked the job and wanted to keep it.

No,…I mean why so few sprinters ?

Stanford is a very highly regarded university in terms of the academic requirements you must meet to get admitted.

How does that matter ?

Let me see if I can explain this in quick simple terms. The psychological profile of an athlete in track and field, determines to a great extent, in what events their best chances  of success happen to be. Sprinters and ballistic people have what we call an “instant gratification” or “instant reward” psychological profile. That means they require and do best in events that require short-lived bursts of activity. They also need and require instant feedback . Distance runners have a psychological profile that we call “delayed gratification” syndrome. That means they can intensely prepare for a period time and can await the reward later. This kind of profile is more akin to the kind of study activity required for people who do well academically because our system asks you to work hard and enjoy the results and rewards of your labor at some point in the future. This goes contrary to the basic mindset of what it takes mentally to be a sprinter or ballistic person. In exchange for intense effort, they require rewards and tangible results immediately, or very shortly after the effort. This is in opposition to what the ideal mindset is for getting good grades in the American scholastic system that favors people with “delayed reward” psyches. Therefore at Stanford we had more people in the distances because their psychological profile best fit the profile needed to excel in the things that certain colleges think are most important to get accepted. Like everything else, there are glaring exceptions. We had a sprinter at Stanford who won the NCAA indoor( 60 meters ) and outdoor( 100 meters ) sprint titles and made the U.S. Olympic team, and got a medal  in the 4 x 100 relay. She also graduated in four years as a pre-med student and was accepted into medical school. Pre-med at Stanford was one of the most competitive majors in the liberal arts division, so there are exceptions,….but rare.  So what I am saying is a certain profile may help in certain events or even help with dealing with the American academic system , but it does not mean that people in one event are more intelligent, or less intelligent, than people in other events. What I am trying to express is that mental outlook and psychological profile go a long way to determining what kind of success or outcome a person might have.

That is very interesting.

Dr Sato, it is all psycho-somatic.

What is psycho-somatic ?

It means that human performance, in any field, is based on a strategic combination of mind and body.

Really ?

Yeah, I was getting after Dr  Ralph Mann recently about that. He is our best biomechanist and has been doing sprint and hurdle analysis for more than 30 years now. He himself was an Olympian at 400 meter hurdles. I told him that I thought his analysis was flawed and basically took place in something of a vacuum,…. unless it involved the mental element of mechanical activity. For example, it is very informative to describe the mechanical movements of the body of athletes through time and space, but unless you were able  to determine what mental elements and aspects  go into what the athletes are doing,….and what mental changes are involved for the athletes to change,.. then it is like spitting into the wind.

Change you explain that ?

Ok. You are a hurdle coach.

Of course.

Ok let us take the 7 step approach to the fist hurdle,… versus the 8 step approach.

Ok. Lets do that.

In 2008 Robles won the Olympics using 7 steps,… #1 in the world. David Oliver used 7 steps in 2010, won every race and was #1. Jason Richardson went to 7 steps in 2011 and won the World Championships. Aries Merritt changed to 7 steps in 2012 and won the Olympic gold, set a world record,…#1 in the world. Despite the success these hurdlers have had, we still have hurdlers who refuse to make the change. So despite the fact that there is a clear physical advantage to taking fewer steps, we still have athletes who mentally can not, and will not, master the challenge of going from 8 to 7. So pointing out benefits of certain  mechanics, without the mental adjustment, are informative perhaps, but in terms of productivity are nil.

That is psycho-somatics ?

That is psycho-somatics. The mind must precede the body. What the mind sees and accepts, the body will attempt accomodate. What the mind rejects, the body will balk at.

It seems to me you are saying that the mind is first, and perhaps superior to the body. Is that correct ?

Yeah.

So coaching starts with the mind for you ?

Yes, either the mind of the coach who helps the athlete mentally adjust,……or, as all too often the case, we depend on the athletes to just “naturally” have the psyche needed to accomplish the physical task.

I will think about this.

Ok. Think about it.

We got into our respective cars and drove out of the parking lot.

To be continued !

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

A – ROD, Now that is the rub !

Hold onto your hat, and tighten your literary seat belt, because this is going to be a circuitous and bumpy ride on the way to making a point I have made earlier in another effort.

I remember in the dark and distant past of my youth, Sherlock Holmes ( Basil Rathborne ), Arthur Connan Doyle’s famously brilliant  detective,  saying to Dr Watson ( Nigel Bruce ?) his partner and aide in crime solving,….. at a time when the mystery of the case was starting to come unraveled and revealed, as a vital clue was discovered, “Ah Watson, that is the rub”.

Steve Simmons had asked me to come to the Deca-Nations meet in Angers, France, the last week in August this summer, to help him and Terry Crawford with the U.S. team in that meet. The meet has been hosted for the past 10 years by the French track and field federation and consists of several countries, U.S. Russia, France, Japan, sometimes Germany, Italy, and others, competing generally in the 10 events that comprise the decathlon. It is a very spirited meet and the competition, if not fierce, is most certainly seriously intense, with a great deal of nationalistic pride involved on all sides.

When I got my ticket from the USATF travel people, my itinerary had me flying from Orlando, Florida, west  to Cincinnati, Ohio and from Cincinnati, east, on to Paris, and from Paris, a two hour train ride to Angers. The idea of flying back west and then getting on a plane to retrace my travel back east did not really bother me because it meant when I figured in the round trip extra miles, I was going to get more than 1500-2000 extra miles on my frequent flyer account with Delta,…. than if I were to fly directly north and east from Orlando to Paris. However, since the itinerary was going to involve a lot more travel time than usual, and in order to make the most of this, I needed to find some thick reading material in the airport bookstore. I chose three books for their size and subject matter: #1 was John Le Carre’s A MOST WANTED MAN. I have been a Le Carre fan for many years and pride myself on having read all of his 21 books, despite the fact that they are slow and ponderous at times,…and rarely juicy. The fact that the book had just been turned into a film with Philip Seymour Hoffman, merely made it more attractive. Book #2 was Philip Kerr’s PRAGUE FATALE and I try and read everything I can get my hands on regarding prominent Nazis. This book is a detective story regarding a murder at S.S. General Reinhard Heydrich ‘s home just before he himself was assassinated in Bohemia during World War II. He was the #2 man in the hated and feared Gestapo and after this death the Germans in retaliation totally wiped out and killed everyone in a village nearby the scene of his assassination.  Book #3 in this strange trilogy of fat books was BLOOD SPORT by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts. It centers around A-Rod( Alex Rodriguez) and his drug issues and allegations that ultimately resulted in his being suspended from major league baseball for a year because of his use of banned substances. A-Rod was the highest paid player baseball with a 10 year contract from the New York Yankees that paid him 27 million dollars a year.

The book itself is 460 pages long, however, page #69 is crimped several times to make for easy and immediate access to it, and the pages that immediately follow it, because it is those pages that help to make the case I tried to make in a previous blog,… and the case I want to strengthen and re-enforce now. Right after that particular blog, about 18 months or so ago, LaShawn Merritt called me and asked:

Is it true you think that massage therapy is a mistake ?

Yeah, I think there are times when massage therapy is the very last thing you guys should be getting on a regular basis.

Really ? You really think that ?

Yeah I REALLY think that ?

Mind telling me why ?

Because I think that getting massaged too often in the training and conditioning phase of your training can be counter productive to getting the very most out of the training being done.

You are serious about this ?

Will aids kill you ?

Can you explain your reasons a little more ?

Yeah ! When you are in the conditioning and heavy training cycle of your preparation, the stress and micro-tears this produces, along with the waste products and toxins the muscles produce,…….stimulate the Central Nervous System (CNS) to actively get busy to address and overcome the stress, toxins and damage the hard training does to your body and mind. The CNS, given an opportunity, addresses and cleans up the problems,… and rehabs and regenerates tissues and systems  to an even higher level of fitness and preparation than previous. This is called overcompensation and is the basis and genesis of how we get fitter. When massage gets rid of these elements, the CNS is less stimulated and activated to do its  job and natural function. This slows down the accumulation of the benefits of vigorous training. If there is no element and sense of urgency within body and CNS to respond to the elevated discomfort and toxins and waste products levels produced during vigorous training, then the whole overcompensation process is weakened and less active. This results in us taking longer to get fit,… and perhaps not as fit as we would have been had we not allowed massage therapy to get in the way of nature’s process.

I think I understand it. But probably not going to do it.

No problem.

On the bottom of page 69 BLOOD SPORT reports that in 2008, “Rodriguez wanted to use clomiphene citrate, a drug designed to increase fertility in women. Men who suffer hypogonadism( shrinking of gonads )- that is, a dearth of (natural) testosterone- use it to block estrogen in their bodies. The parenthesis are mine. The point here is, after you have introduced a sufficient amount of substitute substance or activity, the body cuts down on the natural process it performs to generate the same substance or effect. If you go over, as many do, the natural process can shut down all together and in order to get the body to start its natural processes again, there is a need for a jump start. What I am suggesting here is that A-Rod might have over juiced to the point that his natural processes shut down on him and he had to reverse the negative reaction of natural female phenomenon occurring in the absence of sufficient natural male chemistry.

I use the above to more graphically make my case in general that when we interfere with natural occurring processes, we also interfere with the production and results of what the natural occurring process produces. If we introduce large amounts of creatine into the body, then the body reduces the amount of natural occurring creatine it produces. If we introduce large amounts of human growth hormone into the body, then the body reduces the amount it naturally produces. If we introduce large amounts of testosterone, then we reduce the amount of testosterone the body naturally produces.

If athletes during their hard training regimen, allow massage therapists to rub out and massage all the irritants and CNS stimulation discomfort and toxins, then they will reduce the benefits of doing the rigorous activity in the first place. The soreness and stiffness is a stimulus to the CNS to get busy and fix what is broke,……and fix it to an even higher level of strength and fitness than before. As this process plays itself out in a repeated cycle of ever increasing elevated level of strength and fitness, the body will rehab and regenerate tissues to ever higher levels,…thus allowing greater and greater levels of stress and stress adaptation. Anything that mitigates against this natural process, causes reduction in what the body naturally does and produces. The reduction reduces efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

The very large and meaningful caveat and caution here is the fact that, once an athlete has reached a very high level of fitness and is peaked, then massage can be very helpful in maintaining that high level of fitness if massage is prudently applied and employed. At this stage we are not as centered on additional fitness, as we are on a good blood flow and general increase in relaxation and recovery. So massage can be very beneficial and desirable,…. even necessary.

Very few college track and field athletes have massage as a regular part of their training regimen. Yet many of the very best are called upon to perform at a high level several times a weekend, for upwards of 20 or more weekends in a typical collegiate competitive year. Having been without massage for a protracted period of time, they can not wait to enjoy it after they have left college and become “pro”. It feels good and the very fact that they can afford to  get it as often as they would like, allows them to see it as one of the perks and privileges of being “pro”. The result is that some abuse the practice and retard and retrograde the natural processes associated with “getting in shape” during their fitness enhancing and conditioning phase of training. And, as Shirlock Holmes would say, ” Watson,  that is the rub !”.

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

Mommy – Look At What I JUST Did !

It is a standing joke among the athletes I coach ( Joel Brown, Dwight Thomas, David Oliver, etc. ) that I am really baffled by the new electronic gadgets and gear. They are constantly egging and urging me to update my phone and related cyber tools. I was first embarrassed into getting a Blackberry a couple of years back. Just recently I got shamed into “upgrading” to an I-phone. Early this morning the phone rang and it sounded kind of strange because I had grown accustomed to the sound of the Blackberry. So a bit confused I reached for the I-phone anyway.

I thought I told you not to call me this time of day !

I know, I know,…but I work nights and this is the best time for me.

Well,…I work DAYS and this is NOT the best time for me !

You know who this is,..RIGHT ?

Yeah,…I know who this is. I know because you are the only fool to call me at this stupid hour.

Man, you are really ugly and nasty. Are you like this all day ?I just wanted to tell you what I just did,…. I just finished reading your latest blog I thought it….. !

CLICK !

There is a commercial on television that shows a mother standing in the kitchen and her child, who she trying to potty train, comes running in and proudly pronounces and announces,” Mommy look what I just did !”. The look on the mother’s face and her body language reveal that although she is pleased that the child did “potty” by himself – BUT,… obviously he missed the target and fell short of the professed and desired result. That to me mirrors a lot of the stuff that USATF tries to pass off as “best practices” and “progress”.  Let me list an examples of what I mean.

For me, “repetition is a form of emphasis”. That comes from my freshman English class at Tufts College in September of 1952. It has proven to be a very accurate concept, asset and statement. For example, whenever a professor repeated something, I knew that the professor thought it was important. And because he/she thought it was important, it would likely be on the next test. The things that were repeated multiple times were the things I could expect on the final exam.  So before I go forward I want to repeat for the umpteenth time:

Without athletes, there would absolutely be NO rationale or reason for USATF to even exist. Its existence is based solely on the service, benefits, and protection it can provide for its athlete constituency ! Its existence is NOT based and founded on what services athletes can provide to the federation as an a priori assumption. The wants and drives of the administration should in no way be contrary or contradictory to the basic premise that the organization exists to best serve the best interest of  its constituency,…….and not itself and personnel.  To the extent this happens we are talking  fraudulent behavior !

Last winter I was watching the promotional announcements  for the JIMMY V basketball tournaments hosted on ESPN.  Coach V ( Jimmy Valvano )  was a successful basketball coach at North Carolina State University. He was a very charismatic individual and after his team won the NCAA Championship in basketball, he became a minor icon in the sport. Since his very premature death from cancer, and the resulting basketball tournament  and the publicity surrounding the tournament in his name, he has become a major icon in the sport.  All of that is to get to this, ….during the promos for the games it is announced that ALL of the funds raised by the games are going directly into actual cancer research. This is a significant statement  because the I.R.S. and some prominent members of congress are currently looking into the scam that a lot of private-not-for profit organizations and “foundations” are perpetuating because scant amounts of the money they raise goes to the actual cause and constituency for which it is supposed to be serving , For example, PGA  golf tournaments that profess to raise millions of dollars for good causes and charities, are often overburdened with “administrative” and “management” expenses and only a very small portion, if any, ever gets to the designated charity. The PGA itself, which has private-not-for-profit status has on reserve between 700 and 800 million dollars ( thanks Tiger ). There is clearly some sort of disconnect between what it is doing with its funding and what the law  intended to have happen. It is assumed that legitimate and above board non-profits often return upwards  of 80% – 90% of the funds they raise back to the constituency in some sort of meaningful support.  The Jimmy V Fund aside, no one expects, or demands, that ALL money raised be channeled and/or funneled directly to its designated cause and constituency. But we have every right to insist that a disproportionate amount of the funding be directed to the cause and constituency in question.

Now lets look for a moment at USATF. By the Amateur Sports Act, the USOC, and its own by-laws, USATF is required to serve the following athlete constituencies. YOUTH, ELITE and EMERGING ELITE, SENIORS, LDR, and HANDICAPPED. In terms of direct money raised – Youth – with its membership exceeding 70 thousand, contributes approximately 4 million dollars directly to the funding of USATF through the dues and related dollars  its members pay. In a conference call a few months back, Stephanie Hightower, president of USATF , proudly declared that the National Office had very generously contributed 6 hundred thousand dollars to YOUTH Athletics.  Is it a fair and proper return for the YOUTH segment to have approximately 75% of the funding it generates NOT be applied to activities that directly benefit and serve them ?  If you assume an estimated a budget of $16 million dollars, then YOUTH raised 25% of that amount. Where was anything like 25% return to them ? If you agree that YOUTH did not get a fair return and treatment on the money it directly raised, then you are left with the idea that they were fraudulently treated.

USATF is a private-not-for-profit organization. As we have stated above, its mission and mandate is to serve, benefit, and protect the rights of the athletes it is supposed to be serving.  Anything less than that is clearly outside the what non-profit status is supposed to be used for. At some point the board, and athletes, needs to take a leadership role and authorize an independent auditing to determine whether USATF is operating under the accepted and acceptable guidelines of proper distribution and disbursement of funds to its constituencies.

So in the mean time, when the president of the organization exclaims, “Look what we are doing for you.”, I am reminded of that child running up its mother and announcing, “Mommy, look what I just did !

Thanks.

Brooks T. JOhnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

DO I HAVE IT STRAIGHT ?

The phone rang early this morning,….real early.

Hello ! Who is this ?

Brooks, it’s me.

Yeah ?

You know who this is ?

Yeah I know who the hell it is !  No one but YOU would call me this early. What do you want this time ?

I just read your latest blog .

AND ?

Let me see ,..do I have it straight ?

Straight what ? If you ever call me again at this damned hour, the only straight you are going to get is me sending you STRAIGHT  to hell !

C’mon man, I’m serious here.

N—-r so am I.

Okay, okay. Did I get it straight  when I understood that you are claiming that USATF hired two CEOs who did not even know the sport, and at the same time they were trying to concentrate more power into the office these people were going to run. Plus these same people  took money and influence  away from athletes ?

That is EXACTLY what I am saying and a lot more !

And a lot more ?

Yeah,…read the next blog. Hang up the damned phone.

At the recent winter Olympics, the Russians awarded, according to a Russian website, $122,000.00 for gold, $76,000.00 for silver, and $46,000.00 for bronze. U.S. Track and Field athletes that medaled at the summer Olympic Games got the equivalent of a handshake, if that, in comparison, from their federation, and generally had to count on their shoe contract for bonus money.   Keep in mind that in terms of media and viewer importance, the largest and most important Olympics are the summer games. Within the summer games, there is a definite pecking order in terms of magnitude of viewership, and therefore value to television and the various other associated and related stake holders,….. including national federations. When doing some background research a while back I came across the following poll results. When asked what most important and popular sports  for the summer Olympics, 28% of the respondents said track and field(athletics), 18% said women’s gymnastics, 8% said swimming and 8% for basketball. All it takes is a cursory look at the scheduling of events for the summer Games to realize the validity and the hard-headed decisions business decisions made based upon this data. NBC paid in access of one billion dollars for the rights to produce and broadcast the last Olympics. In addition, they incurred approximately a billion dollars in productions costs. They are so satisfied with the results of their most recent fiscal returns and results they have contracted with the International Olympic Committe( IOC )for several more Olympic Games at more than 7 billion total dollars for the rights fee s alone. Why would NBC look to spend this kind of money ? What is the quid-pro-quo, what do they expect to get in return,……plenty ? The Olympic Games is a huge and very effective billboard and marketing/promotion vehicle for their fall offerings on their television network . In publicizing the shows for the fall to one of the largest viewer audiences ever over a two week period, they get more viewership in the fall and regain money spent for  right fees  because they can charge more to their advertisers because they have generated so many more eye-balls for their  fall shows and the rates are established based upon viewership. So what looks like an exorbitant amount of money, NBC is all too happy to pay because it represents a huge business coup for them to get the Olympics away from ABC/ESPN/Disney and CBS. Now keep in mind that we are talking about sophisticated and educated, calloused business people making these kinds of decisions. These same people and their scheduling provide us with a very insightful look at the real value of track and field. The first week of the summer Olympics, as you would expect from the viewer research data, is centered around swimming and women’s gymnastics. The second week,..the anchor week, is centered track and field. That is because track and field draws the largest on-site and television viewing audiences and is closest to the times the television shows being promoted are to air. Therefore, they are the most valued because they generate the greatest amount of revenue. Now our federation and the leadership will let you know without any real prompting that USATF is the #1 track and field team in the world because we win the most Olympic medals.   However and but, every American stake holder associated with the Olympics makes out in a big way except, ……..USATF . The USOC gets approximately 10% of the IOC rights fee ( it used to be even more ), USATF has been promised a serious increase in the amount of funding it will get from the USOC since 2001. To date that serious increase has never directly materialized based upon the contribution that USATF makes to the USOC fund raising.

In 2000, at the Sydney Olympics the medal count for America was anemic and paltry compared to what was expected and needed. The Chinese were killing us in swimming and after the drug related medal loss for track and field, track and field was down to essentially a count of 15 medals. The USOC expects to raise between 500 to 600 million dollars for the quadrennium. This is based on a promise to their sponsors and corporate supporters of 100 plus Olympic medal count for America. Of that 100 plus, it is expected that track and field and swimming will garner 50% of that count. After 2000, panic set in, in Colorado Springs and there was a big shake up at the top. I was appointed the High Performance Chair for USATF in 2001. My clear and mandated mission was to bring up the medal count for the U.S. in track and field for the World Championships and Olympic Games. The quid-pro-quo that was tacitly accepted was that if we increased the medal count we (USATF) would be rewarded commensurately. In 2007I asked Peter Ubberoth,  who was then the USOC president, about that promise of more money. He indicated that the USOC itself was having trouble balancing its budget, but they would get to the promised funding after they were fiscally in a better place. The point I want to make here is that although track and field is a big player when it comes to GENERATING money for others, our leadership has been a fabulous failure when it comes to  making sure that track and field, and more importantly and specifically, its athletes, get their fair share of what they have generated. To the extent this is covered up with smoke and mirrors, then the athletes are indeed being tricked and numbed to what should be accruing to them through their efforts and exploits. To the extent that failure is accepted in this regard by the board and the leadership, and even athletes themselves, the athletes are essentially being defrauded from getting what is legitimately coming to them.

Now one of the arguments our leadership will make to counter the fact that they have failed miserably in leveraging the world’s #1 track and field team’s’ success into bigger sponsorship dollars ( do not even mention the new NIKE “deal” David Greifinger has put that myth to rest – see TRACK AND FIELD NEWS ) is the economy and other false leaders. Bottom line, the last two CEOs for USATF were supposed to have enough marketing and sponsorship background and ability overcome the fact that they knew/know next to nothing about the sport itself. This proved to be a gigantic fallacious and fatal assumption. If you are provided with the #1 team( U.S.) in the area of Olympic sports ( track and field ) that provides ragingly rewarding revenue streams to all of these other related stakeholders, ……..how can you in good conscience excuse not bringing home a lions share ? This becomes a fatal flaw if your assumed credentials are based upon your past ability to generate sponsor and support dollars. The other damning defense position and excuse for non-performance might center around the economic climate. I do not think this is much of an excuse since NBC exists in the same economic climate as the rest of  us. Recently William Morris Endeavor, paid 2 billion dollars for IMG. William Morris is best known for representing entertainment and movies stars. IMG is the company founded by Arnold Palmer to represent mostly athletes. In 2004 IMG was bought for 750 million by Forstmann Little, a private equity form. So despite the recent “bad economy” the sports marketing and  representation area of the economy seems to have grown by serious and many multiples. When we look further into why William Morris , the mega Hollywood agency bought IMG, the mega sports representation agency, the New York Times business section reports, ” ..the need to transcend entertainment has become more acute since the middle of the last decade…”. Quoting again, “Hollywood agents have seen a solution in the more predictable world of sports. Athletes command contracts worth millions of dollars, but the real money lies in negotiating endorsement, licensing, and media rights deals.”  Now I ask again, if you have the #1 team in a major sports area that generates a billion dollar television rights fees,…… and very successful Hollywood marketing and promotion agencies want to diversify into sports ,….and you are supposed to have marketing, sponsorship, and licensing as your major qualification, should your sports organization settle for crumbs in this area ?

Coming full circle, I pose the question, DO I HAVE IT STRAIGHT ?

More tomorrow !

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

USAT&F – U.S. Athletes – Tricks and Fraud ?

Early this spring a group of European athletes were training with us at ESPN’s WIDE WORLD of SPORTS COMPLEX at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. We are only a 45 minute flight from Nassau, Bahamas and the IAAF World Relay Championships, so quite a few European teams took advantage of the good weather and proximity to Nassau to come over early to prepare for the event. One day, one of the foreign athletes was wearing a shirt with the letters – USATF – emboldened across the front . One of the other athletes asked me what those letters meant and I replied. U.S. Athletes- Tricks and Fraud. The wearer of the short angrily retorted, “NO ! It stands for U.S.A. Track and Field. I know because I traded with an American athlete for this shirt in Moscow last summer.” To which I replied, That is YOUR version,… but in fact USATF, REALLY stands for things much different from what you and a lot of other people think.

I have held very strong sentiments and feelings about the current administration and management leadership cadre of USATF for some time. But for reasons I may get into later, I refused to voice my extreme disappointment and disgust at what was going on, especially as it relates to the shoddy treatment given to athletes and volunteers that actually make the organization go.

Recently I read the obituary(New York Times- May 22) of black historian,  Dr Vincent Harding. Unknown to many of us, because he chose to stay in the background, Dr Harding was an aggressive activist for civil rights and was  close to the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He wrote one of  Dr King’s speeches, which was described in 2007 by the progressive Christian magazine, SOJOURNERS as “…one of the most important speeches in American history”  This speech concerned Dr King’s alienation and disgust for the Viet Nam War. The speech was delivered at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, New York, on April 4, 1967. The the compelling words and thoughts from that speech that are germane here are, ” A time comes when silence is betrayal,…” The speech was entitled, ” A Time to Break Silence “. It set off a firestorm of negative reaction against Dr King’s position, with even the National Association of Colored People ( NAACP ) taking exception, labeling it, ” A serious tactical error ” LIFE Magazine called it , “..a demagogic slander….”

Every since I have been active in this sport, whether as an athlete or coach, I have prided myself as being an activist and advocate for athletes. What I have witnessed over the past couple of quadrenniums, as it relates to track and field athletes in general, and even more specifically to American track and field athletes is simply appalling and totally unacceptable. On just about every turn of the wheel, the fortunes and interests of the American athlete in the sport has been exploited, defrauded and tricked, and a great deal of this can be traced back to the overall ineptitude and self- power enhancement objectives of the recent leadership clique over the interests of athletes.

Let us start with the most basic and factual  history we can muster and share. Stay with me because it gets a bit obtuse, but in fact is very relevant. In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt called college presidents from all over the country to Washington, D.C. . The reason he did this was because the sport of college football was so dangerous and violent, that serious injuries were common, and the possibility of deaths was a real concern and issue. From this meeting emerged the National Collegiate Athletics Association ( NCAA ).  The NCAA was borne out of a concern and serious caring for the welfare and well being of athletes. What it stands for now barely even echoes a scintilla of these original sentiments. The various lawsuits the NCAA is facing and the grudging need for reform that even it recognizes for change along more compassionate lines for athletes , will bear witness to the above.

If we look back at the Amateur Sports Act of 1979 ( Senator Ted Stevens Act ), we see a similar intent by people in Washington, D.C. to bring some sanity and sanctity to protect the rights and privileges of athletes. The United States Olympic Committee and its track and field surrogate, USATF, are charged with protecting and projecting the rights and privileges of athletes in such a manner as to allow them the maximum opportunity to develop their ability and represent the U.S. in international competition. The one compelling fact that needs to be front and center at all times, that often gets lost in the various shuffles, scuffles, and schemes. is that without the presence of athletes, there is NO need for USATF or the USOC. They exist because athletes are willing to give blood, sweat, and tears to excel in their sport(s). Let me repeat – without athletes, there is NO need for the mere existence of these sports governing bodies !

Despite the fact that the welfare of athletes always precede the need for the existence of governing bodies, and despite the fact that the only and all consuming rationale for the existence of  these sports governing bodies is to serve the needs and requirements of athletes, we invariably see just the opposite taking place. It is what I term CORPORATE ROLE REVERSAL . At the outset of this phenomenon the organization is established to serve and meet the needs and requirements of it constituency, in this case,…. athletes. But before you can spell c-a-t the roles are reversed. The organization and its leadership expects, even demands, that the constituency serves what the leadership sees as its own needs and requirements.

That is exactly the position that the NCAA finds itself and the same applies in spades to USATF ! As things stand now USATF is at an all time nadir in terms of the management and administration focus being totally misplaced and abused. Since 2004 there has been a concerted effort to bring the governance of USATF under a more “centralized” form with more power and authority coalesced and centered in the national office. Now just for one minute consider the following. In 2008 USATF brought on a new CEO with an avowed and manic desire to bring more power to the CEO’s position and the national office he ran. After two years of ineptitude, pathetic posturing and serious inroads into athletes’ benefits and rights, along with the curtailing of the governance roles of the grass root volunteer cadre , we brought on a another CEO. Guess what these last two CEOs had in common ?  Neither one had any previous track and field experience of any consequence or significance. On the Thursday conference call stage managed by the previous president of USATF, Doug Logan actually bragged about the fact that he had absolutely no knowledge or background about track and field and the tone he emitted let one think he thought of that as a badge of pride, and perhaps honor. If the newest CEO, Logan’s successor, were honest, he would have to mouth the same lack of knowledge.  Now I want you picture this. At a time when there is a concerted and orchestrated effort to void the influence of athletes, and cut volunteers and grass roots people out of governance and influence, we  have two CEOs in rampant and rapid succession whose greatest and most outstanding job qualification and  characteristic is,… neither one knows the sport !

One of the first things Logan does  is to take a $500,000.00 budget item ear-marked and contracted for control by athletes, and brings it under the overall budget structure that he controls. When asked why he did such a thing, his flippant answer was, “I  do business that way.”. This is the kind of arrogant disregard for athletes manifested in ” how he did business” , to the near total exclusion of concern for  the rights and protection of athletes,…. and  that is still the prevailing attitude in Indianapolis.

At just about every turn, there are examples of the shrinking recognition of the financial needs of athletes. Even the NCAA has a Hardship Fund for athletes who have an emergency situation and need some  fiscal help to address the emergency. USATF used to have one as well, but Logan took that away and despite several attempts through the Athletes Advisory Committee to get this type of funding re-installed, to date and after 6 years, no such fund exists. Recently the Long Distance Runners  of USATF athletes voted to have the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas, the site of previous Olympic trials. One of the extra attractions for Houston, other than previously hosting successful trials, was a healthy financial package ear-marked for athletes. The national office vetoed that choice and selected Los Angeles over the athletes’ choice,…. WITHOUT the financial package for athletes in place !  Going into 2008 every member in the relay pool was awarded a base stipend of $1,000.00. Not much, but at least a nod of appreciation for the participation. With Logan as CEO this number fell to $500.00.

The end game of this exercise is to demonstrate how athletes and others have been tricked and athletes have essentially been defrauded because the national office and the USATF leaderhsip, president and board, have basically abdicated their fiduciary and fidelity responsibility to serve the needs of athletes,…. the constituency they are supposed to serve and protect !  By the very end, we will have covered a multitude of egregious errors and omissions by those who should know better,….. and act accordingly. Excuse me for the time being I have to rush off to practice. However, I expect to return later to substantiate and elaborate on the charges I have made. It is time to Break the Silence !

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755