Olympic Observations – Bolt & Lezak

swim_blog.jpg

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!

Swimming
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_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

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

Triple Jumping, Hair Braids
and the Kindness of Strangers

blog_caroline1.jpg

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

dick_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

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

Rocco’s Attitude Provided a Tremendous Lesson for Aspiring Athletes

golfer_silouette_web.jpg

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_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

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

Defeat Reveals an Athlete’s True Character

hurdlers_blog.jpg

A big loss can tell you more about a person’s character than a big win. Defeat tends to strip away our layers of camouflage to reveal the person’s true nature.

I witnessed just such a situation this weekend at the Ontario high school track and field championships (OFSAA). It’s a huge, prestigious, high-pressure event, involving over 2200 athletes plus a stadium-full of parents, spectators and university scouts. The athletes call it “The Show.”

One of my runners had qualified for the sprint hurdle event. She’s a 15-year-old dynamo, with freckles, a huge smile, a quit wit and so much energy that she often bounces up and down when she is talking to you.

She had beaten the odds just to qualify. Although she had been an OFSAA and Canadian Legion finalist last year, she had injured her hip early in the Spring and had barely been able to practice. But she persevered, attended therapy sessions, stopped her other sports (of which there are about five), and got herself healthy enough to advance through the qualifying meets.

In the morning heats at OFSAA, she had run well, qualifying third behind an athlete who had broken the meet record.

The afternoon final was a pressure cooker, run in tropical heat before a capacity crowd. My runner, in lane three, had a decent start and was still in contention when the runner next to her hit the fourth hurdle then took two stumbling steps and fell sideways into my athlete’s lane, flying at my girl’s ankles like a halfback making a cut-block.

My runner was forced to jump sideways to avoid contact, but it put her out of rhythm and slowed her to a near-stop. The race was long over by the time she crossed the finish line, tears streaming down her face.

She was sobbing as she walked off the track, and after a teary hug with Dad and a thrown track spike, stomped off to cool down. With all the adversity she had overcome and sacrifices she had made to get to this race, she was incredibly frustrated, disappointed and angry.

A half hour later, she came back and told me that she’d probably have another cry later by herself, but she’d be OK. She was tough. And it was better that this had happened in the final than in the heat.

Then she said – with a smile – that it was Karma that this had happened. “How so?” I asked.

“Well, when she hit the hurdle, I thought “Good!” So the next thing you know, she’s in my lane. That’s Karma. You shouldn’t think bad thoughts about the other girls when you race.”

Like I said…character!

dick_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]track,hurdles,hurdling,physical education,character[/tags]

Coaches Who “Work the Refs”

basketball_coach.jpg

Boo hoo. My favourite teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are gone. My alma mater, Wisconsin, was hammered by my second favorite team, Cinderella squad, Davidson. Then on Sunday, Davidson was beaten by Kansas.

However, an incident in the Stanford versus Marquette game highlighted a coaching tactic that I really hate. The Stanford coach was ejected for walking onto the floor in order to continue complaining about a referee’s call. He had already been warned once about his behavior.

This took place early in the game – with three minutes left in the first half.
While assistant coaches are prepared to take over their team, this was akin to changing a ship’s rudder in the middle of a storm. His team bailed him out – barely. Stanford won on a last-second shot in overtime.

While I respect coach Trent Johnson’s sincere apology in the post-game interview, this incident brings attention to a form of coaching behavior that I truly dislike.

Many coaches, at all levels and in many sports, now feel they aren’t doing their job unless they are “working the refs.” The thinking is, if they complain enough about every questionable call, they’ll get some “make up” calls later in the game.

The result is a constant stream of complaints aimed at the officials…from the same builders of character who preach composure to their athletes.

They might indeed get an extra call here or there. But they also risk losing credibility with the officials when they really DO have a legitimate complaint.

However, the biggest drawback is the message they are sending their athletes. They tell them not to whine and sulk and complain after a bad call. Then they go ahead and do it themselves. It’s a mixed message and one that makes it difficult to develop positive behavior among young athletes.

One reason for this trend? The television attention that coaches get when they are performing their referee rants. It’s a not-so-subtle form of approval for their poor behavior.

Just let the athletes play the game.

dick_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]March Madness,NCAA, tournament,sports,sport,basketball,sports, referees[/tags]

15-Passenger Van Problems

d_van_use.jpg

The most dangerous aspect of coaching is travel. School teams are frequently transported by van, often with the coach at the wheel. I’ve been that driver/coach dozens of times, and it can be risky business.

Coaches experience an adrenaline crash after competition and must often fight fatigue at the wheel. And being the captain of a vehicle containing other people’s children is an incredible responsibility. Their lives and the well-being of their families and friends is literally in your hands. The frightening thing is that their safety is sometimes out of your control. Snow, fog, oncoming drivers (possibly impaired), rain and ice may all be the cause of an accident you can’t prevent.

That’s why my heart goes out to the families of the high school athletes in New Brunswick, who were killed recently while driving home from an inter-school basketball game. I particularly feel for the coach who was at the wheel when their van hit a patch of ice and slid uncontrollably into the path of an oncoming transport. It’s every coach’s nightmare.

It has yet to be been determined whether it was a contributing factor, but the team was traveling in a 15-passenger van. Studies have shown that these vans lose their ability to maneuver when fully loaded. Part of the problem is that adding passengers to such vehicles raises their center of gravity, reducing their stability. The other problem is their configuration, in which a large portion of the vehicle extends past the rear wheels. It’s an unstable design.

Many schools now prohibit the use of such vans. This leaves many teams with a problem— how to provide transport to away games. A common solution is to rent two 7-passenger vans. The problem is a slightly higher cost and the fact that you need two drivers. This is a trade-off because the chances of finding two experienced drivers are less than finding a single driver who is good behind the wheel. The other option is to rent a bus with a professional driver. The obvious problem here is cost.

There is another solution — a 12-passenger van. They are essentially the same as a 15-passenger, but less of the vehicle extends beyond the rear wheels. Our squad has been using them this year and they’ve worked well. There’s enough room in the back luggage area to accommodate at least one bag for most of your passengers. And the cost is about the same as a 15-passenger van. Not all vehicle rental companies carry them, so don’t give up if the first company you contact says they’re not available.

It’s worth looking into.

dick_headshot_web8.jpg

Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To subscribe to the free PE Tips of the Week Newsletter, Click Here!
To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!

[tags]sports,vans,team,physical education,coaching[/tags]