Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Jamaican Swagger...


12 year-old Kimone Shaw

“The stands were a stand-in for Jamaica, a nation of passionate, noisy, tribal people.  We Jamaicans are most at ease in disorder; not, of course, to the extreme - just enough so we can do our thing our way”. 
- Jamaican writer Colin Channer


Last Saturday, drums were beating. Vuvuzelas blaring. A large, loud and colorful crowd congregated inside the National Stadium in Kingston, and watched two 15 year old boys run the 400m in under 47 seconds.  

...and get dusted.  


The winner tore 6/10ths of a second off the previous competition record to win in 46.64.

While a 13 year old boy ran 10.85 and 21.87.   

A 15 year-old boy ran 20.63. 

A 16 year-old high-jumped 2.19m.

A 17 year-old beanstalk threw the shot out and over the sector. 

An 18 year-old boy ran 10.28 and 20.27, and split 45.2.

And an 18 year-old girl ran 22.98 into a headwind.  


Yet none of these was the outstanding performer of the competition.

That title goes to 12 year old (!) Kimone Shaw, who set National records in the 100m (11.75), 200m (24.28), and long jump (5.52m).  

I’ll repeat that...12 years old!!!


This is Champs...

...officially, the greatest high school track and field competition in the world.  

This year was the greatest Champs in history.  30 records were set.  And I was there to enjoy it...





I’ve spent the last month in Jamaica, and aside from doing a lot of nothing, I have spent a ton of time at tracks, talking to coaches, watching young athletes train, talking to former athletes, and trying to further understand what exactly it is about this tiny island that enables it to produce such outstanding sprinters.  I’ve been here before...many times.  In fact, this is my 15th trip here.  But this is the first time I’ve been here since Jamaica began to absolutely dominate the world sprint scene.  

And I want to know why...

Boys' Champs winners - Calabar


I’ve been staying with an old friend of mine - former Canadian sprinter, world record holder, and Olympic Champion Donovan Bailey.  For over two decades, we have discussed high performance sport, success, sprinting, coaching, etc.  Over the last four weeks, these discussions have intensified - as both of us are enjoying a little down-time.  And - after a long trip back  over the hills to Montego Bay from Kingston last week, we joked that we should tape some of these chats.  

So I did.  

We rehashed some of these same conversations - discussing Donovan’s career, Jamaican dominance, track in the UK, and the current state of affairs in Canada.  

And over the next little while, I’ll share some of the details of these conversations, as well as discuss some of my thoughts on the current state of sprinting in Jamaica and elsewhere...


But we will start with Donovan: 


Jamaican Sprinting...

SM: With CHAMPS recently celebrating their 100th anniversary, why is it that we have only seen sustained international success over the last 6 or 7 years?

DB: I think that today, there’s a different swagger - a different sense of accomplishment - a difference sense of belonging - a different sense of dominance...

Both Linford and I learnt at an early age - being born in Jamaica, and moving to first-world countries - that the culture of Jamaica - the infrastructure that was here at the time - and still is - instilled in us the attitude that we would be the very best we could be.  We were exposed to the very best right from day one.  It was expected of us.  Linford dominated because that was his attitude. Because of his upbringing, he understood that he could show up and dominate.  I grew up in the exact same way.  Competing at Champs gives you the confidence that when you compete on the big stage, you are not scared.  From the time you are 12, 13 years old, you are competing in front of 50,000 people inside a pressure cooker.  World Championships and Olympic Finals are just extensions of that.  At 13, 14, 15, 16 years old you have to deliver for your school.  It’s huge pressure...

Sitting out there last week, that’s what I was thinking....these kids must be feeling comparable pressure as to what you felt back in '96 in Atlanta...30-40,000 people going crazy, and they’re just kids

...yes - absolutely - probably more so...

So do you feel, then, that if you had moved to Canada when you were 5 - instead of 12, and had your early competitive track and field experiences in Canada - and not Jamaica - do you think you would have enjoyed the same success later on?

I think psychologically I still would have been pretty strong.  My parents taught me to be a very strong person mentally. Whatever I pursued, I had to give it my all - whether it was in the classroom, or basketball, or whatever.  However, the kids now - just because of the pressure they are subject to - and the immense depth that now exists in Jamaica means they’re taking it to another level.  We’re just seeing the beginning.  But to answer the question, I personally feel that in my situation, I would have excelled in either country because of the values that my parents instilled in me.  The present culture in Jamaica obviously makes it easier for everyone today though.

These kids are also technically sound - they’re being taught the right things.  Coaching has gotten better in Jamaica.  I know for a fact that some of the people in Jamaica that have not got enough credit are those that went over the the States in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s on scholarships who were incredible athletes who have now returned to coach  and to teach.  And these guys don’t get enough credit.  

The grassroots training in Jamaica is the very best in the world.  The very best.  No other country is even close.  The sport matters here.  From children of 4, 5, 6 years old - training for track and field matters.  It’s like hockey in Canada, or basketball or football in the US.  


If you took Champs away.  Took the Regionals away.  Took away Gibson Relays.  And it just became a participation sport...even though the sport is still huge - it is still loved - say the way the sport is loved in the UK - without that nadir of competition to strive towards, do you think we would see the kind of athletes we saw last week?

No - not at all.  One of the things we are taught now in first-world countries is that it’s all about participation.  It’s different here.  Intense competition provides an expectation.  Absolutely absurd expectation!  Jhevaughn Matherson, Kimone Shaw - these are kids that are 12 and 13 years old, and they’re doing things now that would make most national teams in the world...

Talk about swagger!
...we watched these guys finish their races, and the cameras are jammed up into their faces, and it’s natural for them.  Like they’re used to it...
these are grown people...

...exactly, they are getting into their starting blocks as kids and coming out as adults...dealing with adult-like pressures...and they’re delivering - pointing to the stands when they’re done, acknowledging their audience!  You cannot replicate this - anywhere.  You just can’t...

These guys now are just doing the same things as Usain was doing a decade ago...it’s nothing new.  

You think some of the things we are seeing now - 30 records were set last week - is a lot of that due to Usain?  

I think because Jamaica is a huge track country, I wouldn't attribute it all to Bolt.  It was started in the late 60s with Donald Quarrie.  Continued through the 80s with Merlene Ottey.

And then Linford came along - a proud Jamaican-born Brit who competed for England - and then I came through, winning and setting a World Record in 1996, and most definitely Asafa must be given some credit.  But yes - a majority of this has to do with Usain, and his popularity.  He stayed home, and achieved tremendous success under his coach Glenn Mills...

So essentially, Bolt was the tipping point...it wasn’t really until he came through - starting doing some truly freaky stuff, when we began seeing some of the performances like we saw last week.  

...yeh - sort of.  From a home-grown talent perspective, Asafa was out there doing damage - dominating.  It is just that he never got that big title.  

We have spoken of that before...you said that maybe one of the reasons that Asafa has had his troubles in major finals was because he never really had the Champs experience (he competed twice for Charlemont High School.  In 2000, he was knocked out in the heats of both the Class One 100m and the 200m, while in 2001, he finished 7th in the 100m). He never really experienced the pressures that these other kids have...

Yes - exactly.  you learn very young that there is pressure.  Asafa never went through it, and now on the big stage, he gets scared...while with Bolt now, it’s just another day.  



One of the reasons why a lot of the American sprinters all seem to show up at big meets is because they’re used to being challenged.  They’re used to the pressures of competition.  They have had to compete their entire lives.  From kids right up to college, where they compete almost every weekend...they learn to COMPETE.

Absolutely.  But unfortunately for them, they’re competing against an island where track and field is the national sport.  This adds an additional level of intensity.  So they’re not afraid.  When I started to compete, my own teammates were scared of American sprinters.  American sprinters walked in with swagger, saying ‘listen - we’re going to kick your ass’...but I was never going to take a backseat to that.  I had a great coach and a great team around me, so whenever I went into competition, I knew I was ready to compete - and to beat - the very best in the world.  

And that’s what Jamaica has now - that SWAGGER.  Saying ‘listen - I have trained.  I am ready.  I have a good coach, and I don’t care who is here.  I’m going to do my thing’.  

The greatest thing about the kids competing now is that swagger.  I had that, and some of it rubbed off on other members of the relay team.  Individually, they knew that they were never going to be the best in the world, but they knew that with Bruny and I on there, we could beat anyone.  The confidence is contagious...

That’s what Jamaica has now - they’re not even concerned who they are competing against....they couldn’t care less!  I love that!


So what needs to change, then?  What can the UK do?  What can Canada do?  

From an athlete’s perspective, the very first thing that you need to have is a winning attitude.  You need to be 100% confident in your coach, in your program, in your training, in your training partners.  

You also need leadership from the top.  You need coaches who have had success, and know how to develop it.  I am talking about legitimate, international success.  You need Olympic champions, world champions, world record holders, involved in the programs - people who have done it, and understand the unique determinants of success.  In sport, you can give a man a shot, but when we have qualified people it should be a very easy call.  The UK has had a great deal of successful ex-champions, who they have involved in the sport over the years.

Canada is a different story.  Canada is not involving their ex-champions at all.  I don‘t care what sport it is, whether it is hockey, basketball, skiing, what have you - ex-champion athletes are the ones you reach out to first, have them sit on the board, ask them advice, and that has just not happened.  



In Jamaica, every single person that has ever done something significant for this island internationally is still involved.  Merlene Ottey is involved.  Juliet Cuthbert is involved.  Michael Greene is involved.  Donald Quarrie is involved.  We go to Champs, and Asafa is there.  Yohan is there.  Juliet Cuthbert, Juliet Campbell, Shelley-Ann Fraser are all there...  And it could be at any level - whether it is in media, coaching, administrative.  Whatever it is - a basic model, where everyone is part of the team.  That’s what I want to happen.


Canadian Program...

Have you ever been asked to be involved in the Canadian set-up?

No.

Why’s that?

I don’t know.  It’s something that I want to do.  It’s something I have coveted.  My attitude towards the Canadian program is this: I am about pure success.  That’s all I care about.  I do not need to go into a program to kiss someone’s ass because I need a job.  Just the same as when I was competing.  I would walk in and if there was something I could contribute to, I would do so 100%, but only if it would further the chance for success.  If it was therapy.  Or coaching.  Or nutrition.  Whatever...

But too often, the people in charge are more concerned with just keeping hold of their jobs.  Success is not a concern...

As the best sprinter in Canadian history, all I want for the kids that are competing right now is for them to look at 9.84 as a National record, and realize that that is what they should do in the very first competition of the year...I am looking forward to handing the title of the fastest man in the world to someone in Canada again.  But clearly, the country has a long ways to go, and is sipping further and further away.


So why is it then that Canada doesn’t involve you?  For example, the UK a few years ago had a mentorship program, where they involved athletes such as Linford Christie and Katharine Merry in mentoring the younger athletes - teaching them what were the expectations.  This is what is necessary to achieve success.  This is what we did to reach the success that we enjoyed...etc.

I think that’s a great idea.  In Canada, we have no such program...never have.  One of the first things I think the country should do is orchestrate such a program - covered by the Federation, by OTP, the COC - whatever - these are things that actually matter, and we would see success.  But someone has to take the initiative to actually do it.  

A perfect example is your event.  After your generation, we saw a pretty strong group of young sprinters in Canada, running fast times as 19-20 year olds.  They peaked early, then floundered for the remainder of their careers.  Perhaps with someone who had been there-done that helping to guide them, then we would have seen two or three of these guys break though...but instead, they made poor decisions, and their potential was wasted...

Right, right...
What you need to to is 1) and I say this to all the kids now - you have to be somewhere that is warm.  You need to be somewhere that you can run 120, 150, 180m outside under the sun.  You just have to;  and 2) you have to be in a training environment that includes other fast guys.  I would never have achieved the success that I did if I had not gone to Baton Rouge, LA, and then to Austin, TX.  There was an environment of success.  And success at all levels - baseball, basketball, football, track and field  - whatever.  It penetrated everything.  It oozed success.  


The Relay Program?

In Canada, we’re building a relay program...this makes no sense.  There should be no such thing as a relay program.  The relay program is made up of four fast men - and what you need to have a successful ‘relay program’ is have four fast men running fast individual 100m, and then you do a relay.  

These guys have it backwards!  

Even in my time - there were a few times when people thought that we would threaten the world record.  There was no chance of that.  We had myself as the world record holder.  Bruny - a top ten guy in the world.  And two 10.4 guys.  How could we possibly break the world record?  At no point, were we ever going to threaten a world record.  It just didn't compute.  Now we have Jamaica re-writing the record books because we have the three fastest sprinters in the world, and the fourth guy is also in the top ten!  That’s what breaks records.  

Jamaica doesn’t have a relay program.  Nor does the US.  


Canadian Sprinters

I like the guys running in Canada today - they are as talented as we were, but the problem is they’re focussing on the relay.  The relay will not make you fast.  It won’t make you anything.  You’re not going to get into the Hall of Fame running the relay unless you become Olympic Champion.  You’re not going to be Olympic Champion in the relay unless you have some real good raw speed.  You won’t be Olympic Champion in the relay without having some guys who can make the final in the 100m.  

The relay program works very well if you’re Japan.  Or Holland.  And you just want to make a final, and hope for the best.  Because you just don’t have the horses.  Canada has immense talent.  This should not be the goal for Canada.  I look at Justyn Warner for example.  Based on his anchor leg in London, Justyn Warner should be running 9.8-9.9 all day long.  No question.  He’s a top ten sprinter in the world.  Absolutely.  I just don’t want Canada to go back to the complacency of just ‘getting a uniform’.  And that’s the road I fear they’re traveling...

Would you fund these guys?  Say you’re Canada - you’ve got half a dozen pretty fast dudes, but none of them breaking through.  Would you fund them?  

Yes - but in a different way.  I think if you put together ten guys, have them all train together.  Give them the chance to race on the circuit.  Make a living - then absolutely, I would fund them.  Again, a mentorship program here is key.  It starts with establishing the right environment - explaining to them what the right environment could be - explain to them the necessary work level.  The necessary nutritional expectations.  Therapy.  Sleep.  Rest.  The importance of all these things.  Absolutely - I would be in favor of funding such a program.  But not a relay program, for the sake of running a fast relay.  


Kevin Tyler - he was our Head of Coaching at UKA for the last four years before his contract expired following the London Olympics - talks about the two keys to developing track and field success in Canada: 1) camps, and 2) coaching.  Camps are essential, as we do not have the weather, like you said.  Would you agree with this?

Absolutely.  I agree with Kevin 100%.  I left Canada, and that’s why I became Olympic Champion.  This would not have happened had I stayed.  Kevin’s got it nailed on.  One of the incredible things that Kevin did - he actually built a great program in Edmonton from nothing.  Great enough that he was essentially ‘stolen’ by the British guys to help build their team.  Now - if we have a Canadian - and we have just finished talking about a mentorship program where I would like to be involved - now Kevin Tyler left Canada, went to the UK, and now his contract is up.  If I were Athletics Canada, or OTP, or COC, or whoever makes these decisions...the day that Kevin Tyler left England - the day - that afternoon - he would have a contract in his hands for five years minimum.  At least.  

Because, here you have a guy who’s sole focus is on one thing: success.  He’s not concerned with much else.  I believe that Kevin just wants every single one of these kids to have an opportunity to succeed.  How we prepare them, and then stick them in the blocks.  Then your failure, or your success is right between your ears.  Honestly, if I were Athletics Canada, or if I were one of these guys who is in charge of hiring the new coaches in Canada, a contract would have been in Kevin’s hands five minutes after he left the UK.  It’s been far too long that Athletics Canada has been run the wrong way.  We need for someone to come in with a new view...


(if you enjoyed this post, please like it on Facebook and/or give it a Tweet...thanks!)



Donovan Bailey is best known for setting a World Record in winning Olympic Gold at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.  Voted by Track and Field News as the sprinter of the decade in the 1990s, Donovan also won 4x100m relay gold, is a three-time World Champion, eight-time Canadian Champion, Pan American Games Champion, Goodwill Games Champion, Commonwealth Games Champion, and still holds the world record for the 50m. In 1997, he solidified his standing as the Fastest Man in the World by beating Michael Johnson in a 150m race in Toronto.  He was the first sprinter to reach in excess of 12m/s. He is also the only person to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as both an individual and as part of a team.  

Give him a follow at @DonovanBailey

36 comments:

  1. Really great interview. Bailey was the reason I started track and fields. The atlanta 100m final is still the greatest race ever. What a drama. It was intense. 3 false start, elimination of the defending champion. Bailey ran as far as the 70m marks on one false start. He started last and then he execute everybody after the 60m marks.

    The interview is really great. I have questions for you stuart :

    1) You mentionned coaching in Jamaica. Could you tell us what's peculiar in their training system at the developmental level? if there's any.

    2) Do you think that coaches are up to the task? I noticed there's a huge pool of sprinter, at least where I live and in Ontario. Yet they progress for 2 or 3 years and then regress or get injured. As you said, there is good 19-20 yo sprinters and then what? My point here is that if there is good coaches they'll be good athletes. I may be totally wrong but it seems to me that there's a lack of quality there.

    3) What makes AthleticsCanada so reluctant to hire former top sprinter like Donovan or Bruny?

    I think a guess blog with Kevin Tyler would be great... just my 2 cents :D.




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    1. thanks for your comments Fabien

      As far as peculiarities of Jamaican programs at the devo level, I didn't notice any, nor do I think there really is any. They typically follow a long to short style of program at all levels. Nothing new there...the differences come in the importance placed on the sport, and the competitions at the end of the season....at every level, there is something big to build towards.

      Generally, I feel coaching in Canada is not as good as it could be....the UK has a rich history of coaching eduction trough most sports, and over the last few years - with the work of Kevin, Richard Wheater, and Tom Crick - UKA and England Athletics have really begun to professionalize athletics coaching. In Canada, that has yet to really happen....I went through the NCCP courses years ago, and learned very little. I hope that whoever they bring in to run the program will make coaching education a priority....we'll wait and see.

      Having said that, there are pockets of good coaches here and there...for example, it is obvious that Anthony and Desai are doing a tremendous job in Toronto...Glenn Smith is an excellent coach with a good group of sprinters in Calgary, etc...

      You'll have to ask AC that question...

      Yes - I agree....will try to get KT to write up a guest-post, or will do an interview with him soon, if he agrees to it.

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    2. Thanks for your answers.

      Do you think that coaches at the devo level really need a coaching education program? Couldn't they learn all the basics by themselves and they fine tune their knowledge through experience and discussions?




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    3. I think there is a responsibility from the National Federation to implement what it sees as the correct way to do things...leaving this process up to a young coach with no direction is not - in my opinion - going to work in most circumstances...

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    4. Good point. Is the coaching education program so bad in Canada?

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    5. no - I don't think it's terrible. It can be a heck of a lot better, though...UKA/EA control coaching education in the UK. AC need to do similar in Canada, IMO...

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    6. Maybe it's for another post but What do you think is lacking?

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    7. yeh - maybe we'll leave that for another day. Perhaps Kevin can speak on it sometime...

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  2. Wauw you guys nailed it again. Great questions and inspirational answers. Great read! Keep on going!
    Thanks...

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    1. thanks Rogier! Glad you're enjoying it...

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  4. Great post Stu! So much of what you talk about here resonates more now that I am retired. I have listened and been involved in so many discussions centred around developing Canadian talent as service providers in high performance sport. It is one thing to go to the Olympics, Pan-Ams, or World Champs and another thing to stand on the podium or help someone to stand on the podium. The people that have won live a life motivated by success and winning. It is the most important factor. It is also usually the factor that separates successful business men and women from the masses: Performance and outcome. More often than not what stops our system from re-engaging the people who have applicable experience are politics, egos and job protection just as Donovan mentioned. Ultimately we need to provide the infrastructure. the competition and the resources to create the best athletes in the world and until our system learns how to do that in a "world class" way, we will never see the full potential of our athletes and teams. Thanks for the good read!

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    1. thanks Helen...great thoughts! Very well said!!

      (by the way folks, Helen is an Olympic medallist herself - winning bronze for Canada at the Vancouver-Whistler Games in 2010)

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    2. big brain-fart.....Helen won silver in Whistler - pushed by Shelley-Ann Brown (who I coached). Bronze was won by Elana Meyers from the US (who I also coached)...

      my bad....sorry Helen!

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    1. thanks Aaron...

      I think the LTAD as it stands is pretty much bollocks for high-performance sport. Two excellent reviews here:
      http://www.sportsscientists.com/2013/02/long-term-athlete-development.html
      http://ianmackers.blogspot.com/search?q=ltad

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    2. Sorry, deleted my comment and question by accident.

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  6. I've thought about that too. I hear it a lot lately, and it sounds nice on paper, but reality is (I believe) that certain sports/events are not in need of the model.

    Thanks for the links.

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    1. I also discussed it briefly last year:
      http://www.mcmillanspeed.com/2012/06/new-usain-bolt.html

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  7. Stu awesome post!

    The section in your post that talks about how track "matters" is really key here.

    I can't comment on the stuff about the coaching because that's not in my wheelhouse but the interest part is on point. Sure the whole idea of tweaking the way things are done can make a difference but the question remains "how much of a difference? Is it enough of a difference to rival the Jamaicans?" Regardless of the answer should we still try? Of course otherwise what's the point?

    But hopefully we in Canada as a society see deeper into our athletics culture as a Nation. It's not enough to wave the red and white every 4 years, it is a start yes but it's not enough. We need to change our mindset when talking about or introducing sport to youth.

    In 2007 we were in Konegsee and they were chucking these little kids down the track on makeshift skeleton sleds. I learned that was part of their PE program. That was when I started to really understand how messed up our Canadian sport culture is.
    Kids need to be exposed to more variety of sports instead of all trying to fit the "hockey" mold.
    In Canada there maybe a pool of sprint athletes but are those really the best athletes for the job or are they the best athletes out of the ones who signed up for it?
    How do we change the mindset?

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    1. thanks for your comments Jovan...

      so you're saying playing an hour of dodgeball once a week is not going to work?

      you're dead right....a cultural paradigm shift as it relates to sport, fitness, exercise is needed....it's not an easy fix!
      So get to work!

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    2. Yeah,
      dodgeball, floor hockey, sandwiches, fruit roll ups and pizza pockets...... seem to be staples in many youths lunchtime programming....

      I am doing my part to change it!

      Here is to: 0 days of floor hockey in 2012-2013 only 3 more months to go :)

      BTW keep the blog rolling!


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    3. Well it seems difficult to change the cultural paradigm in a society where 1/4 of the population is obese. If you enter the supermarket the junk food are placed at the height of children with a lot of colors to attract them. Moreover kids don't play outdoor games anymore. They play video games. Their physical activity consist of Wii fit. Most children cannot do cartwheels, handstands, skips, some even struggle to oppose legs and arms while running. No kidding.

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  8. Am I missing something obvious or is it true that you think those jamaican boys and girls are really as young as you wrote? There is no way for example, that Kimone Shaw is 12. How old are those other kids whose results you've mentioned? Are they all lying their age or is the whole system corrupt?

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    1. I thought that too when I first saw this pic. Then I watch other pics of her on the web where she looks much younger like 14 or so, not 12 though but chronological age and biological age are 2 different things. I know personally a 7 years old girl who look like a 11 or even 12 yo. She's 1m55 or 60 and pretty muscular too.

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    2. I'm quite certain that all the kids are the ages that I have written...these are directly from the ISSA official results. Only the most cynical will see corruption in this...simply put, it's a nation of freaky-good speed-power athletes - always has been

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    3. I totally agree that its a nation of good power athletes though a lot is cultural I think. But I understand why people get cynical with all the scandal that plagued our sports for decades now. For example Gatlin was training with the most infamous coach ever. He get caught and now he's working with a convicted drug cheater who was previously involved with Gatlin's former coach. It becomes more and more difficult to believe in great performances without cynism and that every thing has been done in an honest way. A lot of damage as been done and it seems it's getting worst and worst. This is the result. It's very sad, particularly for those who are clean, they are punish twice because sometimes cheater are ahead of them and moreover people think they are cheaters themselves. That's really sad

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    4. agreed Fabien - but that's a totally different topic for another day.

      Pre-teens and teens lying about their age?
      Very doubtful...at least in JA

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    5. Sorry Stuart, I mispoke and maybe my example wasn't appropriate. What I meant is that without information people may think, high school coach or director or even the federation or parents faslified there age or something like that. Of course I don't believe it but I may understand why people can think that way. Particularly because I think people view Jamaica as a third world country with no efficient census etc...

      Concerning genetic freaks, there are not so uncommon outside of Jamaica. I met some in many instances, the problem is that they get either injured, are not detected or don't have the mental toughness to succeed. In Jamaica they are all detected and it seems the jamaican culture make them tough.

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  9. Interesting read Stu! Thanks! Also interesting that today is Ken Read's last day with OTP. This is a super program and I was stunned as a Canadian when it started by the "new attitude" that previously was only seen in hockey. Hopefully the summer programs will benefit as well. Ken Read was a successful ex-athlete - Donovan is on to something!
    Sometimes I wonder if track in Canada suffers from the big fish in a small pond syndrome. I have seen this in Canada (track) and in other countries (other sports) where the culture of jealousy, envy and "keeping your opponents down" works to negatively affect the sport and the people in it. Track is low profile in Canada, people should celebrate the success of others and work for the good of the sport. Often people are too petty to see that they are all on the same side!
    Good to read that there are good coaches in Canada - hope that they and their groups get the needed support!

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    1. yes - interesting that Ken Read has decided to step down. I haven't been involved in Canada for a while, so not sure if there is anything more to it than what is reported. Interested in who is going to take over from him...

      Excellent point about small pond/big fish....I agree totally.

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  10. With all due respect to Donovan, who is an amazingly successful athlete, I disagree with his claim that a coach needs to have successful playing experience at the international level in order to be an effective coach. In many cases this would certainly be an asset but there are many professional coaches who've had plenty of success coaching and very little and in some cases even zero experience as an athlete themselves. Take for example these coaches: Rick Majerus (NBA), Ken Hitchcock NHL), Bill Parcells (NFL), Bill Belichick (NFL), Al Davis (NFL), Dick Motta (NBA) just to name a few. And what about the coaches/managers who did have excellent playing careers and arguably less than satisfactory coaching careers? Ty Cobb and Isiah Thomas come to mind.

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    1. thanks for your comment Gary...but at no time has Donovan actually said that a "coach needs to have successful playing experience at the international level in order to be an effective coach"...

      What he means is that Canada does not have its former international athletes involved at ANY level - not necessarily coaching...of those Jamaicans he mentioned, only a couple of them are actually coaching. Others are involved in a number of other ways...mentorship, media, management,etc...

      He argues (and I agree) that your former stars can act as excellent guides for NGBs to use to point the way forward. Use their specific experiences in the sport to help aid in the manner in which we work. Instead, many countries/NGBs try to constantly reinvent the wheel. Or get stuck in a consistent pattern of mediocrity and institutionalism...

      Your point is quite clear, and I would go even further - most elite athletes make terrible coaches, actually (Donovan freely admits that he would make a horrible coach)...but that is not to say that their knowledge cannot be used in other productive and creative ways...

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    2. Okay. Thanks for explaining and I agree with the claim that ex athletes and previous champions could fill many important roles in these programs. But quoting Donovan in the above article "You need coaches who have had success, and know how to develop it. I'm talking about legitimate, international success."
      Maybe I inferred incorrectly and by coaches he meant the entire coaching staff of these programs and not just the 'coach'.

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  11. This dovetails with what Donovan says: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/10/06/athletes-used-and-abused-former-olympian?google_editors_picks=true

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