Living a Dream: Time Keeps on Ticking

It’s 4:22 AM Mountain Standard Time June 25, 2016. Garry is completing this blog post with a pure heart, a clear mind and a steady hand. All good signs because at 7:00 AM he will be at the wheel of his beloved Titanium  RAV 4, headed for the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. With God as his co-pilot he will safely deliver pal Dave and three ALTIS athletes of impeccable character and supreme dedication to their sport.

According to fellow Brit Greg Rutherford (2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Long Jump) Steve Lewis has had a rough go in Europe during “the worst possible weather conditions” as evinced by a meet in Whales that had to be moved inside due to a severe downpour.  He will compete in his National Trials this weekend.

Constancy Delaney remains at large after conversations with an aunt and a sister failed to provide any leads. I have enlisted a fellow classmate in my sleuthing who poses the question, “Does that mean she doesn’t want to be found?”

The following interview with John Godina, CEO of ALTIS World was held on a windy morning on the athletic fields of Paradise Valley Community College. Picture courtesy of http://altis.world/news/godina-looks-to-global-future-for-altis/
John Godina

 

Garry: Well, you know, Dave and I feel privileged to be hanging out in your yard, as it were, and not have to pay rent. Nobody has given us a hard time or anything.
John: Squatter’s rights.
Garry: Squatter’s rights, yeah, yeah. People have been great and everything, but I read this on Twitter, which means I’ve already let it get away from me so I can’t quote it directly. It’s an age thing. Anyway, it was the first time I ever saw you interviewed and you gave an overview of your dream (ALTIS World). I was blown away. How did all this come about? We know about your staggering success as an athlete. But now you have a chance to do something that has absolutely never been done before. Something that could change the entire landscape of track & field the world over.
John: Well, the whole idea was I had a lot of friends that had no system and it was pretty easy for me because I won very early in the game. It made life a lot easier for me. There are a lot of people that had no support system, no way to get coached or facility access or medical access.

My idea was, well let’s just build something that they would be able to access. I had some experience in the sport and fitness industry, kind of generally run those kinds of businesses. I just knew over time that investors were going to get something for their money because the cost of service for a league  athlete is so high, that’s why it’s never been done before.

You just have to figure out a way to prove to them it’s worth it. I think that’s what we’ve done. Now it’s a matter of ‘let’s try and help everyone’. We’ve gone into the education side of stuff which is core philosophy for us. We’re more of an education institute than we are an elite training program. Camps, clinics for athletes, young athletes, grassroots level events will be coming soon. We want to positively influence everything we can in the sport.
Dave: It seems like Garry and I are trying to figure out what’s going on around here and we’re really impressed, but then I hear a little bit about world wide efforts. You’ve got stuff going on in places we’re not even aware of, right?
John: Yeah, we have coaches in Shanghai, we announced a partnership with Aberdeen University Track Club at Aberdeen, Scotland. Which is mostly an education partnership at this point, but should be growing into a full fledged center for us over there. We’ve got Canada as well with Laurier Primeau (renowned track & field coach) up there. The whole thing is just needed everywhere. For us to be able to take the sport and reclaim it for the athletes and coaches; to have everybody be able to participate and do it under our own terms and not need the permission of the higher up powers-it’s kind of rejuvenation for everyone, I think.
Garry: Well, that’s exciting stuff, but to me it looks like an uphill battle. Like here in the states we just watched the NBA Championship Game, people picking their teams, watching the games together, it’s a huge social event. But Track & Field, there could be a big meet going on with a slew of world class athletes and if Dave or one of my track buddies doesn’t call me, I won’t even know it’s on TV. There’s no buzz. Unless you’re in an Olympic year and even then it’s after the fact. So, do you think Track and Field could ever be as popular here as it is in some European countries?
John: I think so for sure! I think people’s general perception of the health of our sport is actually skewed far more to the negative than reality. Our sport is as healthy at all levels as it has ever been except for the professional and televised level. That’s not because people don’t want to see it, they watch it when it’s on, it’s because the people that are supposed to be organizing it and getting it out there and growing the sport from the top down aren’t doing their jobs. The sport still has the most participants at the high school level in the US of all the sports.
Dave: That’s amazing!
John: Second biggest sport globally. The sport is as healthy as it’s ever been. Problem isn’t the sport, it’s just how is the sport’s getting out there? How’s the message getting out there? What people see on the TV with the NFL or major league baseball make them think those sports are stronger in general. In general, as sports for the masses and participation of the sports that people love to do, we’re (track & field) probably as healthy as any sport.
Dave: That’s a good thought.
Garry: It’s a great thought. Are you kidding me? It didn’t look like that to me, but then what do I know?
John: Go to any high school track meet on the weekend, you’ll see. There’s thousands of people participating. It’s a great thing and does a lot of great stuff for people. I’m a believer that over time that if you do it the right way then the top (marketing & media coverage) will improve as well.
Garry: Have you always been clear about all this or did your vision kind of grow as time went on? When you retired from shot putt competition, did you actually see a great deal of
this?
John: Yeah, I did. It’s the nature of it when you never had a real job and you’re 36 years old and you have no resume, you might as well try to figure out something cool to do.
Dave: Can we quote you on that?
John: Al right, go for it. I’m 44 years old and I’ve never had a job interview. I’m doing alright.
Garry: That’s the most impressive thing I’ve heard all week.
Dave: And honest.
Garry: Dang, wish I could say that. Any of it.

Stay tuned for more with John, Steve, Constance and my road trip to Chula Vista.

Cheria Morgan 100 meters runner Canada/Bermuda; Audrey Jean-Baptiste  4oo meters runner Canada; Mallory Gilbert pole vault, California

 

 

Living a Dream: Coffee With the Boys III

He also watches, in his mind’s eye, his graceful classmate Constance Delaney flowing in the grace of her youth.

A tardy disclaimer: Some of the names of people mentioned in this blog have been changed. Partly to protect their innocence, but mostly to keep them from suing me.

A few years ago I got a call from Phil Prince, self appointed scribe for our 1960 graduating high school class. According to Phil, Constance had dropped off the radar and several of her classmates were asking him about her whereabouts.

Phil contacted me because someone had tracked Constance to Scottsdale, AZ before the trail went cold. Although I was intrigued at the prospect of running Constance to ground after all these years, I figured she would eventually get the message and reveal her own self. Unless she had stolen from the Mafia or was escaping a Fatal Attraction of cosmic proportions.

For reasons unbeknownst even to me, this stream of thought surfaced in a recent workout ritual with Dave: the pre-workout coffee walk-around.

Garry: Ok, I gotta confess. I lied to my readers.
Dave: You mean our readers. So how did you lie?
Garry: It was more like a fib. I just said in the first blog that I never got up the nerve to talk to Constance.
Dave: But you did?
Garry: Not exactly.
Dave: You either did or you didn’t.
Garry: Well, it wasn’t so much talking to her as it was an incident.
Dave: That you’ve never forgotten, after all these years.
Garry: Exactly. I mean there was talking but mostly  incidental, you know.
Dave: (I did tell you he was pragmatic, right?) You mean accidental?
Garry: No, but close enough.
Dave: We’re not getting any younger.
Garry: Ok, so you know I grew up in a small town.
Dave: Ok
Garry: So I’m walking down the street one day. By myself. And Constance comes riding up on a horse.
Dave: What kind of horse?
Garry: What kind of horse? I’m trying to tell you about a girl and you want to know what kind of horse? (Dave is unapologetic) It was a full sized horse, ok?
Dave: Ok, so she’s riding a full sized horse and she speaks to you?
Garry: Yeah, something like “Hey, Garry.”
Dave: And you were speechless.
Garry: Now why would you say that?
Dave: Because you’ve already said you had a crush on her, and you graduated high school without talking to her.
Garry: Ok, I might have stretched that a bit.
Dave: I can believe that.
Garry: (ignoring the gibe) You remember I told you how pretty she was? Think ‘lithe’. You know, like thin, supple, graceful.  Now think long blond hair, pretty face and no makeup. That was her. But that was just how she looked. I had no idea what she felt like. (I can’t prove it but I think Dave is giving me a lascivious look).
Constance: Hey, Garry. Can I give you a ride?

Garry: Now, it wasn’t my first time riding double on a horse. I knew you had to hold on to the person in front. But the person in front was never a girl before. And this wasn’t just any girl. This was Constance Delaney. And just what part of her was I supposed to hold onto? Her shoulders. Her waist? She must have felt me squirming when the horse started walking.
Constance: You’ll fall off if you don’t hang on.

Garry: I’m telling you, Dave. I don’t know which was more heavenly. Her voice or her waist. I can still feel her blouse sliding over what had to be her perfect skin. I was on tactual overload. It was a toss-up which would explode first, my head or my heart.
Dave: That’s a great story, but why do I feel there’s more to it?
Garry: No more to the past. But there might be something more in the future.
Dave: Well tell me fast. Our warm-up lap is over.
Garry: Ok, think about it and get back to me. How would you go about finding a person you haven’t seen in 55 years?

Back to Maverick Coffee, the gift that keeps on giving.
Garry:
So we’ve been talking about Dan (Pfaff, ALTIS) and his many qualities. You have some pretty interesting qualities yourself. One of them I’ve picked up on, you’re a pretty good trash talker. Is that something you’re aware of?
Steve: No, I think I’m just British, man. It’s kind of normal to have fun with your mates in England. And out here everyone thinks it’s hilarious because now everyone just says nice things.
Garry: I thought it was refreshing, but I didn’t know whether to mention it or not.
Steve: Yeah, we like talking trash a lot. It’s just what we do.
Garry: You think its cultural?
Steve: I think so, yeah. Because in England, you’d never say anything nice to anybody, but that’s almost being nice, you know? Because I wouldn’t even talk to you here if I didn’t like you. But when it comes to the American culture, it’s a lot more polite, especially here in ALTIS. I think there’s just a lot of respect for each other and that’s the kind of people it attracts. I think that’s the sense, you know. There’s a lot of folks here with really religious backgrounds who have a lot of faith. They want to do the right thing every day. And then you’ve got a clown like me turning up. Swearing and stuff…
Dave: You just want to do the right thing every other day.
Steve: Yeah, exactly. It’s not like I don’t want to do the right thing. I just want to stir up the pot a little bit.

Please join Steve, Dave and me for a glimpse of the  darker side of being a professional track & field athlete.

Also, coming up in Living a Dream

  • Dave & Garry,  Ace Detectives, hot on the trail of Constance Delaney
  • Steve in competition
  • Interview with John Godina, Founder and CEO of ALTIS

Living a Dream: Coffee With the Boys II

All that follows is dedicated to two men who have transcended fear, ignorance and physical imprisonment by virtue of the sheer exuberance of their joyous spirits. Nelson Mandela spent most of his life imprisoned for striking a blow against Apartheid, but returned to unite his country. Muhammad Ali entered the prison of Parkinson disease in the prime of his physical life, even after being stripped of his livelihood for refusing to be inducted into the US Army on religious grounds. Both spent the remainder of their lives continuing the work they started as young men. Neither of their voices will ever be stilled.

Back to Maverick Coffee

He’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met, too. Like, I’ve never met a guy with that ability to continue just bringing the best out of people, without holding onto people’s problems, or problems they’ve had in the past. Steve on Dan Pfaff (ALTIS Head Coach)

Garry: Who are some of the people who have helped you become the athlete you are today?

Steve: It’s been a lot of people, and probably way to many to talk about, but there’s been key guys along the way. When I was a kid, I had a really good gymnastics coach who just…you know, you’re that cheeky little kid who probably talks back too much and answers back too much, and this guy really put me in my place. And it was probably the best thing that happened to me because he taught me how to train and how to be focused.  Which is really all he taught me because I was a shitty gymnast. But when I went on to athletics, I had that ability to focus and train so I learned faster.

But then my first good coach in pole vault was a guy from Australia, Steve Rippon, and he taught me the fundamentals of training and attitude and how to be a young adult. And again, he’s a super tough guy who wouldn’t take any shit, even outside of the pole vault program. Like, he would kind of monitor if I was up to no-good. I had to answer to him a lot,  so he really helped me to become a responsible young adult. It was like, all these guys were guiding me to be a better person, so the athletic end took care of itself, you know.

And then obviously, the biggest influence being Dan (Dan Pfaff, Head Coach of ALTIS). He kind of took me at that awkward age, I wasn’t sure If I’d still got it,  and I was getting a lot of injuries and stuff like that, and in two years turned it around from struggling to jump 5.50 (meters) to jumping 5.80. And then finishing fifth in the 2012 Olympics. And again, he is my coach but he’s like my mentor, you know? If I’ve got problems or any issues, Dan’s my guy. I suppose he’s been that figure in m life now for like six, seven years now.

Dave: He’s a pretty amazing guy from what I can tell.
Steve: Yeah. You know what, I never met a guy…he’s got a lot of qualities, right? Everyone sees him as a coach with all this knowledge, and that’s amazing, right. That he’s got such good retention. Like, I test him sometimes. I’ll fricking go home and read for four hours and I’ll turn up the next day fresh with information, and I’ll say something to him. He’ll give me a dictionary definition, and he’ll tell me what it is and how he taught it back twenty, thirty years ago, and it’s relevance to the reason I ask him for it in the first place. And he’s done it several times. I’ll pick topics that are difficult, because I’m like,
“I’m going to catch him out one day,” and I can’t (imagine a British “ah”). I seriously can’t. And that’s fascinating.

And he’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met, too. Like, I’ve never met a guy with that ability to continue just bringing the best out of people, without holding onto people’s problems, or problems they’ve had in the past. He’s so good at letting go, and ultimately, if you want to be (British expletive) happy in life, you got to let go, right? You can’t hold on to stuff.
Garry: Absolutely!
Steve: And any time I get angry, it’s like well, what would Dan say right now? Or I can just speak to him, get a logical idea and a way to get through this. He’s got a lot of wisdom like that.                                                                                                                                                                    Dave: Yeah, I think you alluded  to the fact that, besides having all of this knowledge, he puts it across in such a simple manner, “Well, we need to do this first, this second, and this is why we need to do this, and this is why we need to do that.” And it just sounds so, so… straight off the farm. (Chuckles all around. We’ve all been recipients of Dan’s ‘farm’ wisdom )
Steve: He’s that way , you know? Even when he’s delivering courses on whatever, or doing education, he underplays everything. And he’ll put it across in such an eloquent way. But if you want to challenge him, good luck. (Dave is laughing and repeating ‘good luck’)  He’s going to know his stuff, and you’d better know your stuff.

This is what you find. It would be stupid for me to call out a number, but there’s not many guys out there who really are true experts in the human body, movement, principles, and then being able to use the art of coaching for application. And  to add to that personality, patience…all into one guy…it’s like Wow!
Dave: And when you start looking at all of those qualities you find yourself saying, “You’re really good at all of those things.” It’s not just, these are his better qualities. It’s all of them.
Steve: It’s not luck, man. He’s not getting lucky that’s for sure.
Dave: I’m glad you guys got together. Good for him and good for you.
Steve: You know what, as you get older, you realize, pole vault’s been part of my life and I love it, but it has just been part of my life, you know? But Dan’s going to be a friend of mine forever. That relationship is more important to me than anything I’ve ahieved in pole vault. Being able to learn under him. Pretty cool!