Jesse Owens and Charlie Francis’s Ten Day Taper


As I continue my research for the Sprinter’s Compendium I decided to read The Fastest Men on Earth: The Story of the Men’s 100 Metre Champions by Neil Duncanson.Fastest Men the book is a valuable bit of history for all track and field geeks. The book also gives a few nice glimpses into the training of the former champions in their build up to 100 meter Olympic Gold. Sadly, I was just blown away at the incredible number of athletes who had broken records only to tragically tear their a hamstring right at the worst times. Obviously, one of the most famous sprinters in the book was 1936 gold medalist Jesse Owens. Dozens of books have been written about his life. One of the best coaching nuggets I got from reading this book dealt with the story of Jesse Owens’s multiple world records in the span of a few short hours. Indeed on its face the story of multiple world records is really amazing.

The story becomes even more amazing when one considers the condition of Jesse Owens’s health at the time of the competition. He had injured his back horsing around with his friends and could hardly walk the day of the meet let along break records. I believe the hidden reason for his record breaking day was the fact he had not done any training for over a week due to the injury. Charlie Francis and Henk K. (Carl Valle Favorite) both talk about how powerful short sprinters need time off to create a biological, mechanical, and psychological peak. Understanding the antiqued training of the time probably the biggest key to Jeese’s success that day was his forced rest and recovery. He never did jump as far in the long jump as he did that fateful day. The take home lesson is less is often more. As we move into the late summer championship phase for both elite/junior Olympic athletes it is now time to freshen up and sharpen the pencil. The kids are ready. Don’t be afraid to cut a workout short or give your athlete an extra day off. As the coach you need to trust your plan. Your athletes are ready it is your job to help keep them happy and confident. Remember your athletes are just days away from the very fastest times they ever have ran.