April 10, 2000
--Let me get this out of the way. Does everyone understand what is meant by a major Division 1 Track & Field Program ?? Its not Wagner College (a school that I love, and tried hard to get into but couldn't because I wasn't a good enough student), It's Not LIU Brooklyn( a school that I did get into, thanks Tom Cuffe/Lou Vasquez), Its not even St Johns (sorry Vincenzo, even though they have some great athletes). A lot of schools get a handful of quality athletes, but the major schools are BIGTIME top to bottom. Arkansas, Tennessee, UCLA, etc. These schools have 7' HJ, 17' PV, 1:49 800m, 46 400m, 13.9 110HH. My point here is someone recently was offended by my mentioning that there school wasn't of that caliber, so I just wanted to clarify this..
--The life of trying to be a DECATHLETE is difficult enough, forget about when you get older. How the hell do you bend that pole vault pole that's made for 190 lbs (which looks as thick as a telephone pole), when the last time you vaulted was at 150 lbs ?? Now, when you pop your plant foot in the high jump, you don't get any pop! The only thing popping is the button on my 34" pants. The shot, which used to feel comfortable jammed up in your neck, now feels like a bowling ball, which doesn't settle into one of your 3 chins!! You get the point here. Getting back into this at an older age takes extreme commitment and dedication, more so than any other event.
-- What is the hardest single event in Track & Field?? I think different people will have different reasons for picking different events. I have been persuaded to pick the steeplechase. To run a race over that distance, and have to jump obstacles throughout is just insanity. Some might say the pole vault, because of the technical aspect of the event. Gotta have the speed for the run up. Gotta have the strength to put power into the pole. Gotta have the flexibility/agility to use the power in the pole and finish. But you know what, after landing in the concrete hole a couple of times spraining your butt bone(non medical term), breaking a few poles(remove the fiberglass pieces from you skin), and having the 20lb crossbar slam into your head after dropping ~13 feet, its really not that bad. In the 400IH, there's the WALL!! If you're an average runner, you get through ¾ of the race and smack into that brick wall and the hurdles start to look higher and higher. If you're a great 400m runner the wall isn't that bad, which is why this race isn't the hardest. Now, I don't care how good of a distance runner you are, running the steeplechase is a battle with the jumps. You can very easily take a fall into the ocean or slip while stepping onto the large hurdle( what the heck is that thing called anyway ??). The challenge and the energy to make the jumps while running at that distance is incredible. BTW, have you ever seen anyone fall into the water pit ?? oooooohh!!!! That's gotta hurt! Who was the sick bastard that invented that event anyway ?? It was probably Tom Cuffe ;-)
--I hate when my spell checker keeps telling me that GOTTA isn't a word or not spelled correctly !! It's a word in my vocabulary. I gotta turn off that spell checker .. ;-)
--What a shame about St. Johns University. That place was the best place to throw in the city. They tore up all the throwing areas to build parking lots. ;-( Believe me, I can understand the importance of having the parking to provide for the new dorms, but it still stinks. It's definitely a blow for javelin throwing
--You know, as you get older, you can still go out there and run that race with a little training. You can still throw up the weights after a few workouts. You can even still hurdle like the old days after some good stretching and drills. The problem lies in the leniency your body allows you these days. Now after running a great race, a good cool down, and stretching, on the way home in the car you feel this pain you never felt before. After doing some jumping which felt good during the day, results into a sudden groin pain while trying to sleep that night. You get fooled. You get close to the results you expect, and feel good, but you forget that your not 19 anymore, and even sometimes push it just one inch too far and ouch, oooow, eeek, ahhh!
--Yogi said it best when he said "Baseball is 90% ½ mental".. This lies true in any sport. As I was explaining to an athlete the other day. A big part of getting to the next level is confidence and composure. A lot of athletes who might excel at a local level, have a hard time competing at championship competitions. A lot of times they don't even match there previous level during these competitions. This is because they lose the composure to run their race. When they compete at the local level, its easier for them to be confident, and have composure to run their best race, because they know they are the best runner, etc. The key is to compete at these championship competitions with the same confidence and composure of the local meets. Easier said than done! This takes mental preparation prior to the competition. This means not getting caught up with the competition. Not wooing the great athletes that they will be competing against. In order to compete at a high level, you must believe you will compete at that same level. This means running your race, not watching the other lanes or runners. Sometimes this means blocking out the other competitors, like you're the only one running. Mental toughness is so underrated. I've seen so many talented runners throughout the years who were great runners, but lacked the mental toughness, and at any sign of adversity would just fold or forget their strategy.
--For any of you jumpers out there, here's a piece of advice for competition days. I remember Ed Terranova teaching me this. Before High Jumping, I would take practice jump after practice jump. I would practice my knee drive doing imaginary layups on backboards. He taught me that you only have a certain amount of jumps during any competition. Save the pop in your plant leg for the meet. Don't waste too much pop on practice jumps. On the same note, always make sure you get all steps and/or measurements before the competition day. Don't waste time and energy trying in vain finding a new mark or step. Do this during the week in practice.
--Why is the U.S. so weak when it comes to marathon runners ? Were we just real lucky to have a guy like Salazar ?? Maybe we should send our marathoners to train in Kenya for a year , before the trials. ;-)
--I really hate drugs in Track & Field. I believe when someone is caught using performance enhancing drugs, any records they have ever won should be removed. Some might think this is harsh, because how would we know if they were on them during that period or not. You know what, who cares, if your going to use drugs, then that's the risk you take. What's amazing is how we make such a big deal at the professional level, but do nothing at the level that it starts most of the time, the High School. Its such a shame when you have an athlete who works extremely hard to achieve his/her athletic goals, but get pounced by someone using drugs. Its such a hard thing to deal with, knowing that the person who beat you is using drugs. I am not saying the majority of kids are using drugs, its obviously the minority, at least in this sport. Unfortunately, those minority of athletes are always competing at a level much greater than those in the majority group. Hey lets face it, most people in the world today look the other way when it comes to this subject. Most of us would rather enjoy the excitement or entertainment value of watching someone throw a 16 lb ball 70' or run 100m in 9.5, than realize what is actually going on behind the scenes.
--Here's a question to ask you How many of you out there would take special vitamins to put you over the top, or to get to the next level?? If you were so close to winning, going pro, or the Olympics?? Would it mean that much to you to risk future health problems to reach athletic gains now ?? Most of the people who do them don't think about that. It's a shame when you hear about athletes when they get older having heart problems, or basically their bodies breaking down. Would you do it to win the Island or sectional championship ?? How about the Memorial Day run ?? Sounds sick doesn't it, but people get caught up like that with the stuff. I have definitely known several athletes who were doing it at the high school level. The problem I always had was that at some point you have to come down. What goes up must come down. When I was in college, all I did was eat, run, lift, eat, lift, eat, lift, and party. I was in pretty good shape because of this. I used to work out with my buddie who was taking special vitamins. He was a powerhouse. I was strong, but those special vitamins put you on another level. The problem was when he stopped taking them, I would catch him at times. This was killing him, and he couldn't wait to get back on the stuff. This is the danger that body builder's fall into. Once people are used to seeing them look the way they do, they have to continue to take the stuff to maintain the physique at that level. They easily get addicted to it, because they don't want people to start saying "wow you got small ".. As far as I'm concerned, its just not worth it. You can compete at a high level without drugs. The problem is that kids at a young age get sucked into it. Its up to parents and coaches to educate athletes on the real dangers that can result from them. This is a real challenge when we have the WWF, etc where 90 % of the people involved are major vitamin takers. These people are scary looking. Kids love this, actually worship this stuff, so how do we show them that this is really not normal ?? Parents must educate!!!
OK Heres something cool!!!.Who is going to be the pioneer in this area to start Women's Pole Vaulting?? where will she come from ?? Tottenville ? Curtis ? Sea ? We have our problems with Boys Vaulting, but hey Women's PV is a reality! Lets do it I would be glad to give a clinic at one of the high schools. Just think about it, I think this would only spark PV in general. I want someone to tell me that if girls start pole vaulting around here, that the boys wont start taking their vaulting to a new level. Really, think about it, the boys would want to keep their distance between them and the girls who were vaulting. Hey listen, I don't want calls from Gloria Steinem or any other activist!! , but this has to happen. This would undoubtedly help the sport. This sounds like a good venture to follow up on. If anyone has interest please get in touch with me.. Also, let me know if I'm late here, and we have already started this on the island.
--You know if there was no such thing as totally incompetent jackasses, sometimes we would have nothing to talk about. I'm sorry, I was just thinking about the SI RUNNING FORUM garbage.
--How do people sleep at night when they could have such an effect on young people's lives, but give 25% effort? I'm sorry, I was just thinking about some high school track & field coaches.
--Even though there's that line between friendship and competition, we should cross the line when it comes to friendship. When you think back to high school, most schools keep to themselves. There's that school pride thing. New Dorp Rules!! Farrell Sticks!! That whole thing that is such a big part of high school. Unfortunately, even at times sparks violence and fighting. I think as you get late into high school, you start building relationships with your biggest competitors. You respect each other, yet train weekly with the other in mind, knowing that your goals are to beat them. This grows and grows throughout the competitions, eventually creating a friendship. I remember going to Farrell to hurdle a couple of times with Mariano Maqueda who was my main competition, or I should say I might have been his competition. I eventually became good friends with Vincenzo Insingo, a thrower from Farrell, even though he robbed me of my 1986 Island Discus Gold Medal ;-) Even though there's the aura of competition among local schools, and the school pride factor will always remain, I believe its healthy for local athletes to meet and train together sometimes. You share a lot of the same goals, ideas, dreams, and besides living on SI together. There is a sense of togetherness among Island schools when spoken against the rest of the city. This holds true for all runners as well, even you old farts who still hold grudges against some other runners. You runners who have been running against certain people for years on Staten Island, but still aren't friendly with them. Do yourself a favor this year. After that race, invite another runner out for a bite and bullcrap for a couple of hours. You'll feel great afterwards, depending, though, on how much you drink!!
--Is it the consensus that Tri-Athlons are indeed the hardest single competitions in the world ?? Seriously, anyone knows how sick running a marathon is well, lets go swim a mile or two, oh then well ride a bike oh lets say 50-100 miles ?? oh before we croak well finish with a nice cool down of lets say 26.2 miles!!! That's insane!! Clearly the toughest single event in my opinion. The best is watching the ironman once a year. I actually come to tears some years with the stories on there on some of the athletes. The commitment they have is incredible.
--Dedication ?? What is dedication to your sport ?? Some people think that dedication revolves around how many people you know, how many titles you have, or how long you have been in your sport. These people are delusional! Dedication means following through with your commitment to reach specific goals. Wanting to break xx:xx for that race this year, training hard and feeling great when doing it. Dedication is going to meetings to help bring the community a facility that will benefit so many lives. Dedication is going out of your way to help others in your sport, regardless what school, what age, what neighborhood, what race, what sex, what event. Dedication is coaches bringing athletes to meets most every weekend, enduring the long meets, long driving trips, arriving home as the weekend ends just ready to go back to school on Monday. Dedication is going for that run, instead of watching ER (I know that's a tough one). Dedication is finally learning proper techniques to reach the next level. Dedication is finally learning proper techniques to take the athletes you coach to the next level. Dedication is calling the SI Advance in the car at 9pm to get those results in that athletes have worked hard for. Dedication is staying home the night before a big race or competition, instead of going out drinking with the guys. Dedication is giving back to someone else, the same joy you have received from your sport. Dedication to me is anything that you do that has a positive effect on yourself or someone else pertaining to reaching new heights in your particular sport.
--Shock Therapy!! That's right, you need to shock your body, no matter what type of training you are doing. Physical Training, Mental Training, or Technical Training. So many athletes go for years doing the same things. You have to shock your body and mind or it will adapt to the techniques that it has been presented with. Change your lifting exercises, change your running distances, or change your mental preparation for competition. The point here is that a lot of athletes are used to training specific ways, and feel comfortable doing so. That's the key word, comfortable. When you get comfortable with your training, its time to change it around. Alter your training periodically to keep your body and mind always thinking and changing. It works, and it will have positive effects on your performances..
So the Farrell Invitational this week reconfirms my earlier thoughts. I love Track & Field. There was a great turn out of schools and athletes. I was running the Javelin with Bob Marano + Joe Tracy (thanks guys), and it was very enjoyable. To interact with the kids during the competition is a great thing. I love to critique each thrower after each throw, and let them know what I saw. I apologize to any coaches if I was out of line. After not being a full time coach for several years, it was nice to see the positive attitudes of the kids. I saw a lot of kids having a good time, enjoying what they were doing. I think over the last 10 years kids attitudes in general have deteriorated when it came to competing in sports. The dedication has been slowly disappearing from the sports, at least with a lot of kids. This is in part due to the evolution of Computers, MTV, Video Games, dot.com stock options (ok, that was a joke) and less and less traditional family values. But on this day I was happy to see the smiles and fun in the sport. I saw the competitive juices flowing between the Curtis and Farrell athletes. I saw the incredible performances by the Poly Prep sprinters. I saw a lot of former athletes helping out. No one got hit with a javelin, which was a good thing. I saw Bill Welsh and Pete Whitehouse. (2 Track & Field Legends). I saw those SI Advance reporters George and Derek snooping around as usual. Even Hilton Flores was there taking pictures. (You know the meet is legitimate when even Hilton shows up ;-) I saw the good natured, funny, and very talented Curtis Triple Jumpers. I saw Ryan Avena, a versatile multi talented hurdler. I saw Jim Salerno, arguably the best S.I. multi-event athlete. If he improves a little with the throwing events, he could be a force this year in end of year Decathlons in New York State. He reminds me of Scott Schargen, who competed for Sea a couple of years ago. Kids like that get me excited. That's what sucked me in Track & Field in the first place. Joe Tracy was asking me at the meet what I competed in during high school. I told him I competed in everything, but wasn't particularly good at anything. ;-) After being a wrestler, a tennis player, and football player. Track & Field was different. I enjoyed to compete in the discus, Javelin, hurdles, pole vault, shot put, etc. There was a lot of variety. It never got stale. This is why I liked the decathlon. I'm sure I could have been better at a particular event if I trained for less events, but it was more fun doing it this way. This is the dynamics of Track & Field. You go to a football game and watch some beefy guys throw a piece of a pig around. You watch a baseball game for 3 hours and no one gets a hit, and that's a great game ;-). At a track meet, at any particular time, you could watch a Pole Vaulter going over 12', quick turn over there and see the Long Jumper flying through the air, see a nice throw of a javelin, then in front of you watch the next flight of the 110HH. Its exciting, and there's a variety of different events to see. Anyhow, on this day, I saw great weather, a good track meet, which was well organized, a good bunch of athletes who were having a good time competing. This is what's its all about. I'm sure I'll have some apposes, but I even liked the loud music coming out of the press box. You know the best thing about this whole meet ?? It was on Staten Island..
Till next time,
When Competing, always remember to let it rip!!