From the time I was a kid I have been curious, always trying to figure things out. My first recollection of figuring things out may in retrospect have set me on the path to being a coach. In 1954, I was seven years old. My parents allowed me to go to the California theater in Santa Barbara. I had to collect enough bottles to pay my own way. Admission was fifteen cents. I would get two cents a bottle, so sometimes it took a bit of time to collect enough bottles. Saturday afternoon was a matinee usually with a Long Ranger or Cisco Kid Serial. I thought that the Lone Ranger and Tonto and Cisco and Poncho were really cool, but the real highlight for me was the newsreel that would start the show. It was in black and white with dramatic music and the booming baritone voice commenting on the news of the world. We did not have a television, so it was an opportunity to see actual images of the people you heard about on the radio news. I will never forget the headline story from the third Saturday in May 1954. The image came on of Roger Banister breaking the tape. The commentator boomed that Bannister had broken the four-minute barrier in the mile on May 6 at Ifly track in Oxford England with a time of 3:59.4. It showed him exhausted as he was greeted by teammates.
The time was meaningless to me. But the distance of the mile captured my imagination. It obviously had to be hard to run a mile because of the way Bannister looked at the finish. My dad picked me up that afternoon and I asked what a mile was. He said it was far. So, I started trying to figure out how long a mile was. Too young to get a map and look at the scale. I was asking everyone. Someone told me it was four laps around a track. That did not help because I had never seen a track. My frame of reference was city blocks, in fact my world at the time was a big square of four city blocks. To downtown Santa Barbara from where I lived was six blocks, somehow that did seem far enough. Over the next several weeks I figured out that in my world it was twelve city blocks. I don’t really know how I came to that conclusion. That’s how far it was to Dolores school where I went to school.
So, summer came, and I set out to run a mile like Roger Bannister, mind you not for time because that was too abstract for me and we had no way of timing anyway, it was the distance. So, the first day I stared out and ran as fast as I could and had to stop short of a block. I quickly figured out that was not the way to do it. So, over the next few weeks I tried going slower, that was better. It took most of the summer to finally run the whole twelve blocks without stopping. I had run a mile and I had figured it all out by myself.
Looking back, it was the start of a journey longer than a mile. 52 years later I am still trying to figure out how to make athletes better and how to make myself better. I am convinced curiosity, persistence and not taking no for an answer will open up adventures you cannot imagine. Figure it out!