So why is it that there are so many athletes competing at elite levels but not getting recognition? OK, I will admit I am kind of wrong. Some athletes get recognition every four years...because of the OLYMPICS. How many of you who actually never followed track and field knew who Usain Bolt was?
Or Michael Phelps?
The public is ridiculously uninformed of these sports heroes until its time for the Olympic games. Can any of you name any Canadian or US hopefully for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? How many of you even knew that they were even in Vancouver?
Trust me, I know from experience. I was a track and field athlete and coach. We would spend hours and hours at the track and in the weight room every single day for just a few main races a year. I have trained next to Canadian Champions, Olympians and World Class athletes for years and I am personally friends with people in the NBA, NHL, and NFL and I know for a fact that these underfunded and unrecognized athletes can train just as hard or harder as the most talked about athletes in sports today.
How can we get these athletes more recognition, on television, or in print? How can we get ESPN, TSN, Sports Net, or The Scores attention to broadcast more of these types of sports so the public can see just how hard they train. Sometimes it is just as hard as the MLB, NBA, NFL, PGA and NHL athletes do or harder.
What about the coaches who devote many hours to these athletes? A lot of time is involved in training athletes. Sometimes the coaches are even volunteers and don't get paid for their precious time and commitment to their athletes. They do it out of love for their sport, kindness in their heart, desire to give back and share their knowledge with you.
I want to take a minute to talk about one such coach that I ran into when I was visiting my best friend, Canadian Champion, 2008 Beijing Olympian. She is a Track and Field athlete and she was my hero, best friend, teammate and roommate for many years. Her name is Adrienne Power. I had flown into Orlando to visit her and a few other athletes and friends. Adrienne was training at DISNEY! I had heard vaguely about this facility but when Adrienne was telling me about it she said that the first time she saw it she cried. An athlete of her caliber, her hard hardheadedness and strength actually cried? What? Come on this girl has been all over the world competing against the best and a facility made her cry? Wow...I was floored. It made sense once I saw how amazing it really was. I almost wanted to cry too. This is because no where in Canada, especially Halifax where Adrienne is from can you find such a facility and staff that caters to these kinds of athletes. Here in Canada the funding does not exist to help develop these athletes to their full potential. Unfortunately big professional sports teams can do this because they gross so much income. Funding and an income such as this for the athletes I talk about is virtually non existent and especially for sports such as track and field. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE SOME HOW.
Now the person that I want to discuss is a coach at the Disney Sports facility. He had such a presence at the track and I was almost too intimidated to talk to him because of his experience and knowledge. You see Adrienne travels from Nova Scotia every few months to train under his guidance and I think it is well worth the money, travel and time away from loved ones. The coach that I speak of is Coach Brooks Johnson. He has his own blog which you can read HERE. It is called Spikes and Flats. He doesn't blog often but when he does it is worth reading, especially if you are into the sport of track and field.
An interview conducted by the St. Petersburg times stated that,
"Johnson was a standout high school track man in Plymouth, Mass., but described his competitive career at Division III Tufts University in Boston as having more "lowlights than highlights." After graduating, he earned a law degree from the University of Chicago but didn’t practice. Instead he joined the State Department, working for the Governmental Affairs Institute.
All the while, he found time to coach — from top-tier national athletes to high school competitors at St. Alban’s in Washington, including an impressive young discus thrower named Al Gore."
Al Gore??? What Brooks has coached so many Olympians and even Al Gore? REALLY! I FIND THIS AMAZING! Al Gore...The genius behind An Inconvenient Truth that changed some many peoples ideas about the world today was influenced by BROOKS JOHNSON!
Larry Edar has been quoted when discussing Coach Brooks
"Brooks Johnson is a study in contrasts. He is a combination of the urbane and profane. He can write, and the soul searching is obvious. You can speak with him, and depending on his trust of you, and your previous interactions, you may find a him very communicative or frustratingly obtuse. In the end, his observations, his athletic experience, and his coaching, like many elite coaches, has been tremendous boons for the right athlete. More than anyone in coaching today, Brooks Johnson proves that coaching is both science and art, and salesmanship."
These words easily describe what my week long interaction with him was. How can such an intelligent man that has aided sooooooo many athletes reach their peak and potential in life and on the Olympic platform not be a dominating force in discussed about sports today? It is unfortunate that there are a handful of people in the sports world that know who this man is.
When asked in an interview for the St. Petersburg Times if it bothered him that most people don't know who he is, Coach Brooks responded:
"The loneliest thing in the world is when an athlete is in that holding pen just before you go into the stadium; maybe 60,000 people are watching from the stands and millions are watching on television. My point is that the athletes ultimately have to do it, so no coach can come up and take credit for that. Coaches should remain in the background as support and resource people. And the athletes who are going out under that kind of stress and pressure should get the recognition."
What a humble man. When asked about himself, he responds about the athletes that he is responsible for. He is truly an inspiration to me as an ex-athlete and current coach and trainer. I can only wish to be like him someday. Even with his response I wish that he would get more recognition just like I wish his athletes and some many other athletes and coaches from around the world would. I know there are others around the world who care just as much as I do and I really want to change sports coverage....what can I do? What can we do? Does anyone have any suggestions or know of anyone that is doing something about this?