Over the past 5 years I’ve been cultivating a relationship with some of the top Jamaican athletes and coaches. This started when I was coaching at LSU and we had several Jamaican sprinters and field eventers on and team. One of my goals has been to earn their trust in an effort to learn the keys to their success. Finally that day has come. In a conference call earlier today with several of the top Jamaican athletes and coaches, I was lucky enough to be a part of some very interesting discussion on the things they have done to become the track and field sprint capital of the world. Conversation was fast and furious but here are some of my notes:
- While the Westernized world is attempting to go au naturale and make a return to barefoot running on grass…the Jamaicans have actually scoffed at this foolish notion and have made a state-sponsored effort to begin training and competing in shoes on rubberized tracks. They’ve found that this greatly improves performance and reduces injury. Coach Francis chuckled at the foolish Americans attempting to regress to what they Jamaicans did back when their best sprinters were only running 10.1 seconds.
- Jamaica has apparently had an advanced genetic engineering lab in place since 1961 in hopes of creating the sprint uberman. The lab apparently had much success creating athletes like Ben Johnson, Donovan Bailey, and Merlene Ottey but all of these athletes left to represent other countries and the genetics engineering program was largely deemed a failure. It wasn’t until Jamaica brought McDonalds to the Island in 1995 that it found the key to keeping their own athletes on home soil. The Jamaican Athletics Association (JAA) is now actively working on deals with Taco Bell, Popeyes Chicken, and Burger King in an attempt to further this effect.
- Since 2007, Jamaica has placed a strong emphasis on maximum strength development. For years they had focused on only sprint training, but in 2007, athletes like Veronica Campbell, Usain Bolt, and Asafa Powell started bench pressing and squatting to failure every day. The results the following year in Beijing speak for themselves.
- Following the injury riddled early years of Usain Bolt’s professional career, the JAA began mandating that all athletes are put through the Functional Movement Screen to determine whether they had any imbalances or asymmetries that would increase the athletes likelihood for injury. The athletes that are now able to stand on one foot and lift their leg over a stick has tripled. Not coincidentally, no athlete on the entire island has experienced an injury since 2007 that was not related to a car accident or freaky sex.
- Noting the tremendous success of the sprinters from Japan, another small island, JAA sent the Hedley family to much of Asia and even the U.S. to examine the work ethic of Asians all around the world. What they learned was invaluable and today, Jamaica’s sprinters outwork all of their peers.