Archive for August, 2009

Hmmm…sucks to be OLD!

August 22, 2009

A few days ago I was clicking through some triple jump videos on youtube and I came across a video of me in 1983 at the first World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland.  It showed the typical Willie Banks “show” and I seemed to be having fun as usual.  I thought to myself with a smile how crazy I was when I was young and talented.  What a great time I had when I was competing.  When I was young I thought there was no one else who was having as much fun as I was at that time.

After a few seconds of reminiscing I turned to the comments.  The first few comments were fairly typical.  Then I came to a comment that was a little disturbing.  The writer said that I looked like I was on drugs.  I was completely shocked.  How could someone think that because I was having fun that I was on some type of drug?

At first I was offended and wanted to fire off a “zinger” to the “idiot”.  But, upon reflection, I realized that young people today have no idea who I was and what I did in the triple jump.  They don’t know how I got started nor how much fun I had at all competitions, win or lose.  In fact, most young people have no idea that I started the clapping.  Well, I guess it is my fault for getting old…

Fortunately, now there is the internet that can be used to talk about the old days and compare them to the present.  We can discuss history and the future of the triple jump.  I find comfort in knowing that the writer was ignorant and not stupid.  Hopefully, one day the writer will read about the history of the triple jump and realize that the event is more special than he can possibly imagine.

While it sucks getting old, it sure is good to be able to take advantage of the knowledge of history to make better triple jump coaching decisions.


Championships Men’s Final

August 18, 2009

No big surprise in this competition.  I predicted that if Idowu was able to get extension on his jumps that he would win this competition.  I am disappointed that the jumps were less than stellar.  I wish I had the chance to “feel” the runway to see if the runway was the cause of the low level of jumping.  Obviously, the wind was still swirling but none of the jumpers had wind so bad that it should have prevented good jumps if the runway was fast.  Nonetheless, the competition seemed interesting even though Idowu’s jump was 20cm (about 8 inches), head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Evora gave it a valiant try but something was missing this year and he had to settle for the silver medal.  He was very consistent and his condition seemed fine, as evidence by his best jump arriving on his last jump.  It remains to be seen if the Portuguese phenom can come back in two years to win another big victory.  Only time will tell on this fluid jumper.

Capello from Cuba finally got his act together in the last round to take the bronze but really did not prove much for the competition.  Sands of Bahamas and Girat from Cuba seemed to have off days.  I wish I could have talked to these two to get their reaction to the runway and the conditions on the runway.  Like so many triple jump competitions there are many factors that can change the outcome of the event.  It seems like this one was influenced by the runway.

One last comment about this event, both women and men’s triple jump, I hope that the USATF will take notice of the relatively poor showing, once again, of our triple jump squads and put more resources into building the US team back to its former glory.  Emphasis must be placed on coaching to the strength of our jumpers and not to the “cookie cutter” methods of the most recent philosophy on triple jump.  Just because Jonathan Edwards did it does not mean our jumpers need to emphasize speed.  We have to go back to analyzing the strength of the jumper (bouncer, speedster, or strongman) to determine what type of training formula is good for each athlete.  We need to put focus on flexibility and technique rather than speed and brute force.  We have the athletes, now we need the methods to win.

Championships Women’s Final

August 17, 2009

Just as I thought the consistently superior jumper, Savigne, won the gold medal. She quickly established her dominance and no other athlete could match her distances.  If you look at the most recent history; winning the gold is exactly the place where Savigne should be.  The fifth place finish in Beijing is an aberration compared to her frequent high profile victories.  Savigne, however, needs to work more on her arm swing to get within the world record.

Apparently, the Cubans have found the secret to triple jumping for women.  Gay, the silver medalist, rounded into form just in time.  I think, however, that the distances were really weak in this competition, probably due to the swirling winds of the Berlin Olympic Stadium.  I don’t see anything special about the jumping technique that shows something new so I am going to assume it is their physical and mental preparedness that got them on the podium.  I look forward to seeing if the Cuban men can duplicate the women’s success.  I predict it will not happen.

It looks like it is time to close the doors on the “old guard” like Lebedeva. Lebedeva’s form is so difficult to maintain and puts unnecessary strain on her hips and lower back, it is surprising to see her make it this long at the top of the world lists.

The Russian, Pyatykh, pulled a nice jump out but was not even a personal best.  It was really a fairly bland competition for Pyatykh.  She is capable of jumping over 15 meters but unfortunately, does not seem to have the consistency lately.  Anyway, the jumping surface does not seem conducive to jumping far, at least not with the swirling winds.

I hope that the US can put together a new training regimen for the women to get them over the 14m65 mark.  It seems silly that we have speedy jumpers without the ability to transfer the speed into distance.  US women need to work on power with arm and leg swing if they are ever going to catch the best in the world.

I am really looking forward now to the men’s final…

Championships Mens Qualifying

August 17, 2009

The men’s triple jump qualifying round stayed true to form.  Evora, Idowu, Sands (the Olympic medalist trio), along with Girat, Spasovkhodskiy and Gregorio are all qualified and ready to compete for the gold.  Evora seems to be picking up where he left off last August.  It will be exciting to see if Idowu will ever learn how to extend in the pit or will he continue to drop his legs without any extension.

Evora is in the best position in the finals because he will be the first jumper.  I think this is the best position because if you get a good jump off before anyone else it has a tendancy to make other jumpers “press” to the board and foul or not get a fluid jump.  The pressure of trying to catch up is like running in a distance race, jumpers tend to try to jump far quickly rather than relaxing and letting the jump come to them.  Personally, I loved to see big jumps in the beginning out of my competitors because it would get me fired up.  I really look forward to see how the jumpers react to Evora’s first jump.

If Gregorio can return to his form two years ago he could pull out an upset in this competition.  He needs a major championship to make his career a successful one.  He has jumped 17m90 but that distance was only good enough for a silver medal.  The problem with Gregorio is he is getting older and his jumping seems to be a little rusty.

I think the biggest factor in the event is going to be the swirling winds.  If one of the leaders get a nice tailwind they could jump far enough to close out the rest of the jumpers.  I hope it will be a good competition.

Championship Women’s Qualifier

August 15, 2009

Well, the Championships have finally begun.  The women’s triple jump was typical with only one major surprise.  Alekhina from Russia, who looked like she was rounding into shape in early summer, did not qualify for the finals.  I had picked her to be in the finals and give the other top athletes a good fight.  It will be up to the veterans from Cuba and Russia to sort out the championship now.

Lebedeva and Xie, from China, were the only athletes able to qualify for the finals on their first jump.  I am more impressed by Xie than Lebedeva.  Lebedeva is a veteran with a lot of experience in major championships.  Xie, on the other hand, has done most of her jumping in China.  She is relatively new to the big stage but jumped well with room to spare.

Savigne took a few more jumps but comfortably qualified for the final.  There is always a question of whether it is better to take more or less jumps in the qualifying round.  Taking more jumps allows athletes to get consistent on the runway and perhaps get more relaxed for the finals.  On the other hand, many coaches and athletes like to “get one and done”.  I believe that getting one good jump in and retiring for the day is better for the athlete physically and psychologically.  We will see how the ahletes react in the finals…

Here’s a thought about Training…

August 3, 2009

Over the years of training and coaching I have picked up a fairly consistent training philosophy.  This philosophy helps me to develop incrimentally difficult programs tailored to specific athletes.  The basis of the program is the testing before, during and after significant training cycles.  Please see the presentation I did for a clinic I did in ’07 that will help you understand my process.  Please see the Prelude to Workouts for High School Athletes

World Championships 2009

August 3, 2009

On August 15, 2009 at 11am in Berlin, Germany the World Athletics Championship for the women’s triple jump will begin.  I am excited to see who will preform up to their capability and who will not.   I believe women are fast approaching the a new breakthrough in technique.  I look forward to seeing some especially good jumps from Cuba’s Savigne and Russia’s Alekhina.  Both jumpers have jumped over 15 meters but Savigne has been the most consistent.  Alekhina is rounding into form with a world best 15m14 in late July.

Where are the US competitors in this event?  Sadly, the US triple jumpers have not been able to put up a very good effort yet again…

On the men’s side, once again we will see the top men go head to head in a replay of the Olympic Games.  Evora will once again be in contention for the gold medal.  The Cuban athletes, Bentanzos, Copello and Girat are all within a few centimeters of each other and looking to move ahead of Evora.  Waiting in the wings is the Brit, Idowu figuring to be in the mix if he is healthy.

Once again, the US is not much of a threat in the men’s triple jump.  It is going to be a challenge to make the final if the Americans continue to jump the way they have been jumping lately.

Which is it, left or right?

August 2, 2009

The other day I got a call from a very old friend about his daughter who  is trying to decide which foot to use as her take-off leg.  This has been a discussion for many years.  The two sides are adamant that their version is correct.  On the one side are those athletes and coaches that think a jumper should take off in the triple jump with the same leg that they use in the long jump or high jump (the “jump leg”).  The other side argues that the opposite leg (or “opposing leg”) should be used so that you can save the “jump leg” for the last, or jump, phase.

Let me begin by admitting I am a disciple of the latter view, especially since that is the way I jumped.  However, I am not completely sold on the theory for athletes who are used to jumping the other way.  However, I have changed jumpers so that they start their jump using the “opposing leg” because I felt they would benefit from the change.  With that said I will not make comment, negative or positive about using the jump leg for take off.  I will concentrate on reasons why I believe using the opposing leg for take off is a better use of the skills for triple jump.

First and foremost a triple jumper is told that they are supposed to run off the board as opposed to jumping.  It stands to reason that your opposing leg is a better option because jumping is not contemplated at the board.   To punch hard at the board will typically result in a high arching long jump with the resulting step and jump phases being weak and less effective.  It is much easier to use the opposing leg to run off the board.  Atheltes have significant speed from running down the runway so taking that speed off the board will give the athlete sufficient distance relative to the distance gained from the jump leg.

Clearly, when an athlete gets to the jump phase there is little speed left so an active jump is very important.  If the opposing leg is used in the jump phase it is difficult to gain the appropriate distance to make for an overall lengthy jump.  Using the jump leg will provide the lift-off necessary to carry the athlete a significant distance in the pit.

There is also a physical limitation using the jump leg for take-off in the triple jump (especially for men).  The distance from the board to the end of the runway is 42 feet (12m80).  Several athletes can jump 42 feet in two jumps but have to hold back because they don’t have enough runway to really jump.  That is what made it possible for me to jump further than those athletes, I was able to use my “jump leg” to jump the additional distance needed to jump further than them.

The perfect example is Charlie Simpkins, probably the best “hop-stepper” ever to triple jump.  Charlie could hop-step into the pit but never chose to do it.  If I were Charlie, I would have hop-stepped into the pit…turned and looked at the judge, then demanded that an additional board be inserted 45 feet from the pit so that I could break the world record.  Everytime Charlie started his jump I cringed because I was positive he would beat my world record jump.  Thankfully, Charlie chose to stick with his jump leg on the hop step.

Finally, lets remember that maintaining the speed off the board throughout the jump is what determines the longest jump.  “Jumping” off the board will result in reduction of speed and therefore a reduction in the ultimate distance of the triple jump.