Why the Olympics are So Addictive


The Winter Olympics are over, and if you’re like me, you’re feeling a huge void in your life! That’s particularly true here in Canada, where Olympaholics like myself became accustomed to following the Games in the mornings, at the office, during meals, in the shower, and late at night.

It’s interesting, but for those 17 days, I completely forgot about the Toronto Raptors, a team I’d been following before the Olympics. Somehow, the struggles of the millionaire players on that squad seemed inconsequential compared to the efforts of the world’s snowboarders, curlers, nordic skiers, ice dancers,  skeleton racers, and bobsledders, many of whom live below the poverty line.

I was particularly interested in the efforts of two athletes, Canadian hockey player Rebecca Johnston and cross-country skier, Devon Kershaw. I coached them both in their high school days, when they were competitive runners in addition to being phenoms in their chosen sport.

They were both excellent runners, having won medals at the provincial, and in Rebecca’s case, the National Junior level (in the 400m).  I can take absolutely no credit for their Olympic success – they made wise choices in specializing in sports other than running. But it sure was fun watching them perform at the highest level, at our home Olympics, under the most intense scrutiny they’ll ever face.

Rebecca, a speedy forward on the team’s “energy line,” won a gold medal in hockey – Canada’s game- with every eye in the country watching her every move! At only 20 years of age, she played with incredible composure and was a threat to score every time she took the ice.

Devon helped put Canada’s men’s team on the map in cross-country skiing, placing a surprise fourth in the men’s team sprint (a two-man relay), then a shocking fifth in the 50km mass start – the most prestigious of the cross-country skiing events. Better known as a sprinter, he missed fourth by a photo-finish and a bronze medal by .5 of a second.

My favorite moment of the Games was Devon’s interview immediately after his race, when, exhausted and emotional, he was asked why he was so upset. He said, that it was a tough pill to swallow to have skied for two hours only to come up 1.5 seconds from a gold medal… Not the bronze, not a silver. but gold. What a mental shift from an athlete who went into the race ranked 27th, and before the Games would have thought a top-10 finish to be a dream result.

For me, that’s why Olympics are so addictive to so many. The pressure-filled atmosphere allows us a glimpse into both the athletic evolution and the true character of the athletes we observe, and if we’re lucky, with whom we’ve associated.

You can see the finish of Devon’s race and his interview at:


Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]Winter Olympics,Olympic cross-country skiing,Olympic nordic skiing,,Olympic hockey[/tags]

High School Graduation and Sport Championship Conflicts. Can’t They Be Avoided?

I see it happen every year – school officials scheduling their graduation ceremonies on the same evening as major sports championships.

Graduate_webThis year, for example, a local high school has scheduled its grad on the same Friday evening as the provincial soccer and track championships. Is it done on purpose? I don’t believe so – when the plans are made in the Fall, school athletics are simply not considered.

But it leaves student-athletes with the terrible dilemma of having to decide which event to miss: the culminating event of four years of high school sport; or the culminating academic and social event of four years of high school classes?

I’ve coached several high-school track athletes who have taken extraordinary measures to attend both events. Some have taken early morning flights after their grad ceremony while one made an eight-hour overnight drive. They all arrived just before their morning heats. Predictably, their results were highly compromised.

But why force students to make this decision at all?  School officials: while it may not be easy, when choosing grad dates,  please consider extracurricular events that might conflict – whether it be sports, chess, band or improv competitions. Instead of the traditional Friday night, consider a Saturday, weekday, or even a Sunday. Don’t restrict dates to those on which school board dignitaries can attend. Remember, grad is for students and parents, and quite frankly, they don’t care two hoots about having a school board official on the stage.

I realize that the teachers who help to organize graduation ceremonies are among the most caring in the school and the time they spend is generally unpaid. But choosing a graduation date that allows every grad to participate must surely be a priority in the planning process.


Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]high school graduation,sports,physical education,high school sports[/tags]

Track Broadcasting Needs Better Announcers


I’m a track fan, so I really enjoyed watching the World Track and Field Championships over the past two weeks. Fortunately, I was able to watch three different versions of the meet: NBC, CBC and the live feed the live feed on the internet as provided by the CBC and Universal Sports websites.

And once again, it has become very clear why viewership for the sport is so poor in the U.S.  The television commentary provided by NBC was so horrible it detracted from the enjoyment of the event. Little technical information was provided – not enough to educate new fans or please aficionados. Lead play-by-play man, Tom Hammond sounded like a parody of an FM-radio announcer, and colour man, Ato Bolden, while certainly a knowledgeable sprinter and a huge step up from Carol Lewis, babbled incessantly at a volume so high it sounded like he was announcing professional wrestling. Dwight Stones and Lewis Johnson seemed to compete with each in making ridiculous comments, and trackside interviews were often inane and showed a lack of knowledge of the sport…for example, asking athletes, were still breathing hard after their events, what they thought about Jesse Owens.

The CBC team of Mark Lee and Michael Smith is much better and I enjoy listening to them. Smith has improved every year and with his decathlete’s background knows what he’s talking about.

However,  the Cadillac of track commentating was provided by the Brits who announced the live feed on the internet. They demonstrated a combination of expertise, authority, eloquence, passion and frequently amusing turns of phrase. They were able to convey excitement by raising their voices only when warranted. Here are some examples of commentary by the Brits:

“Away it goes, high and handsome. Splendid form for Thorkildsen!”
“He really did hit it through the point of the javelin.”

“When he’s good, he’s very, very good. When he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. Tactically inept at times, but sometimes he can be devastating.”

“Victory, yes, but for how long. Rodgrigues definitely tried to push her way through a space that just wasn’t there. The tragedy of this is, even if the Spaniard is disqualified, Burka will never get a medal.”

“Oh dear, it’s another no-jump. Three no-jumps in the final of a world championship. No wonder she’s distraught.”

“Beekele ran 2:24 over the last 1000m of the 5k – equivalent to running a 3:36 1500m over the last part of the race. That’s why Lagat didn’t have enough to hold him off at the end.”

Here’s a video example of exciting track commentary:
British Announcer – Usain Bolt’s 100m

Compare to the NBC coverage of the same race:

NBC Coverage

If Americans ever want to develop support for athletics in their country, they should hire a British coverage team.


Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]track and field,IAAF Championships,World Track and Field Championships,track announcing,track announcers[/tags]

Olympic Observations – Bolt & Lezak


With the summer Olympics at the half-way mark, here are some observations:

Track – Usain Bolt
After watching Usain Bolt shattering the world record with a 9.69 in the 100m, I realize I have been coaching the event all wrong. I always thought sprinters had to use their arms in the last 20 metres of the race. Apparently holding them out like wings while pounding the chest is faster. I can hardly wait to implement this new technique!

Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in swimming was a super story.

But the best race performance, for me, was watching his teammate, 32 year-old Jason Lezak on the final leg of the of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.

Lezak was anchoring against the world record holder in the 100m freestyle, Alain Bernard, of France. Bernard had done some trash-talking before the race, stating that the French team would smash the Americans. As the race progressed and the final exchange took place, it  appeared that Bernard’s prediction would come true, as he entered the water almost body-length ahead of Lezak.

However, as the Frenchman raced down the pool, he edged too close to his lane line. Lezak, the canny veteran, realizing the mistake, edged over to their shared line and drafted behind Bernard, riding his bow-wave, like a dolphin with a ship.  It was a rookie error on Bernard’s part, and Lezak made him pay.

With 10 metres to go, Lezak, who had expended a fraction of the energy of the Frenchman, made his charge, head bobbing, legs thrashing and arms flailing furiously.  The move was so dramatic, that he almost appeared to lift out of the water. Lezak out-touched Bernard by 8/100th of a second after having swum the fastest relay leg in history.

It was something to see. Michael Phelps deserves the attention he’s receiving, but he owes his record of 8 gold medals to Jason Lezak.

There will be more Olympic observations in the next blog.

P.S. Bernard later redeemed himself by winning the 100m freestyle in a new world record.


Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]Olympics,Usain Bolt,Jason Lizak,swimming,track[/tags]

Triple Jumping, Hair Braids
and the Kindness of Strangers


This is the story of a triple jumper, a hair braid, the Canadian Olympic Trials and an act of kindness by a complete stranger.

(“Oh sure, another one of those,” you’re probably saying  🙂

Caroline is a track and field athlete, with the emphasis on field. While she’s an excellent middle distance runner, she’s an even better triple jumper.

Only 16 years old, Caroline lives in Espanola, a small, northern Ontario paper-processing town of 3000 souls, about an hour outside of the city of Sudbury. She attends her home-town high school, where she plays at least four sports . Because he can’t always get her to practice at her track club in neighboring Sudbury, Caroline’s dad built her a jumping runway and pit in their back yard. It’s an investment that gets a lot of use.

Caroline, her Dad and two coaches – one from her high school and the other from her track club (they work well together) – recently attended the Canadian Senior Track and Field Championships/Olympic Trials in Windsor, Ontario. Caroline had qualified by jumping a huge personal best in the triple jump to win the Junior category at the Ontario High School championships.

Never having competed at a national championship at any level, Caroline went in hoping to merely make the final.

On the day of her preliminary rounds, she and her small entourage were walking around Windsor, and passed a barbershop. Hoping to get a braid in her hair, she poked her head in and the proprietor, Gina, a wonderful woman of Somalian heritage, offered to do the job. Which she did, for five dollars! A great deal, and a nice braid.

Later that day, Caroline jumped in the preliminary rounds. She didn’t have a super day, but neither did her competitors and Caroline met her goal by qualifying for the finals two days later.  She looked tiny out there, competing against a number of women who towered over her, many in their mid-twenties.

The next day, she once again passed the barbershop, and dropped in to say hi and ask if Gina would be working on Sunday morning for another pre-meet braiding session.

Unfortunately, Gina said that Sunday the shop was closed and she wouldn’t be in. “But why do you need a braid on a Sunday morning?” Gina asked. When Caroline’s Dad explained she was in the Olympic Trials final, Gina incredibly offered to come in, early in the morning, on her day off.

And she was as good as her word. She put a braid in Caroline’s hair early on Sunday morning.

Later that day, Caroline surprised her older competitors by jumping a huge personal best and winning the bronze medal,. Her braid jumped with her, bouncing along on top of her head like a hairy good luck charm.

While she was far from the Olympic standard, it was a tremendous performance for a high school kid. But it left her coaches, both of whom are male, with a problem for future meets – one that is seldom covered in coaching manuals.

One of them will now have to learn how to braid hair!



Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]triple jumping,Olympic Trials[/tags]

Rocco’s Attitude Provided a Tremendous Lesson for Aspiring Athletes


Imagine your sport. Imagine playing the all-time best player in that sport. Then imagine playing that athlete head-to-head in front of the world…and almost beating him/her.

That’s the situation that faced golfer Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open last week.

Mediate is a 45-year old journeyman golfer – just recovered from back surgery and ranked only 145th on the tour – who found himself in an incredibly surprising and intimidating situation. Barely qualifying for the tournament, he had put together an incredible three days of golf and found himself facing Tiger Woods in an 18-hole playoff for the the U.S. Open championship.

Imagine the potential for disaster. This wasn’t a one-hole sudden-death playoff in which one or two bad shots would end the tournament. It was a full 18-hole extra round, toe-to-toe against the best player in history, with each hole televised for a huge international audience. It represented the potential for a crushing defeat and incredible humiliation.

How would YOU handle this situation? How did Rocco? In fact, he maintained an attitude that I wish every young athlete could replicate. Here are two quotes that demonstrated his approach, both delivered with a huge smile on his face:

“I’m up against the best in the world. Everyone is expecting me to not win, but I can’t wait to see how I do.”

And after Rocco played Tiger, and lost only after 19 holes of intense play.

“I got what I wanted. I got the chance to beat the best player in the world. I came up just a little bit short, but I think I had him scared for a while.”

That’s right. This playoff was a scenario he had dreamed about since he was a kid. It had finally become reality, so I know he felt doubt and anxiety. But he decided to relish the realization of his life’s dream, not fear it.  And this attitude showed on the course. He played loose and relaxed and had fun… and almost won the tournament. In fact, if not for an incredible putt by Woods on the 18th hole to once again tie the game, Rocco Mediate would have won the U.S. Open.

He provides a valuable lesson for aspiring athletes. If you finally get what you’ve been dreaming about, don’t dread it…embrace it!!

Want to see an interview with Rocco Mediate after the tournament. Check out this YouTube clip:   Rocco Interview

By the way – summer vacation is almost here for most of our physical education readership (at least, for those of you in the northern hemisphere), so I’m going to lighten the schedule for the PE Update blog. We’ll publish only every two or three weeks over the summer.  Heck – you’ll probably all be out trying to become the next Rocco Mediate and won’t have time to read blogs!


Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]golf,sports,attitude,physical education,athletes,Rocco Mediate,Tiger Woods[/tags]