h&f 0026 Understanding Asafa Powell’s 100m Dash (Part 1)

University of Technology, Kingston, Jamaica

Training Field at University of Technology; Kingston, Jamaica. (click for full view)

When asked whether the training facilities used in the United States would help, he said, “Maybe.  But I don’t need them.” From conversation with Asafa Powell’s MVP Track Club Coach Stephen Francis.

KINGSTON, JAMAICA – The MVP Track Club,  headlined by Asafa Powell on the men’s side, Sherrone Simpson and Bridget Foster-Hylton on the women’s side is perhaps one of the more enigmatic training groups in sport.  I have had the pleasure of working for them, specifically on behalf of Asafa Powell.

Here is a look at 50% of the high-tech training facilities that Asafa and fellow members of the MVP (Maximising Velocity and Power) Track Club use in their gold medal quest.  The other half is a tiny weight room and an actual track oval nearby.  But here is where the athletes remember the most grueling part of their training.

I took this photo in December 2007 while managing a photo shoot and interview session with UK publications The Guardian and GQ UK.  The story?  Meet The Fastest Man Ever, written by Alex Bilmes.  About 30 minutes later, after all had warmed up, the team breaks into a series of 600 meter repeats, prompted by Coach Francis’ whistle – some insane number of times, the evidence of that being the number of athletes bent over (heaving) afterward.

After various running drills, we move over to the weight room, a space less than 300 square feet at the back of a gymnasium filled with university students completing a phys ed class.  The average high school in the United States has facilities that are many times “better” and more sophisiticated.

There is poetic irony here lies in the simplicity of this setup.  MVP cranks out world class athletes year after year counting on a tight budget, green grass, and campus parking lots.  Lest you think I’m patronizing with this comment or the high-tech characterization, I’ll clarify that this is, indeed, a simple yet high-tech situation.  That technology resides is in the mind of Coach Stephen Francis, leader of the MVP Track Club.  When asked whether the training facilities used in the United States would help, he said, “Maybe.  But I don’t need them.”

Instead, Coach Francis, University of Michigan MBA and Kingston native, puts all of the intellectual rigor and drive that Wall Street recruited him for (he declined) to the benefit of his athletes.  He was simply not believing that the best and brightest of Jamaica could not be trained at home.  Further, he was wary of the drug scandals that beset US athlete and of a university system that might simply use them to win points in meets – not gold medals. There is an honest love for kids and country, but don’t expect him to gush about it.  His athletes are the only ones who will get more than a morse code of nods and “hmms” when speaking with him.  The unwise would take this as lack of attention.  But the Coach is a moving supercomputer, always processing and pushing his thoughts to creative edge.  The proof is not in words but in the feet of his pupils. Click the photo below for a closer look at the Coach, a blur behind the wheel of the golf cart, charging up Asafa a bit.

Morning Stretch with MVP as GQ (UK) Photographer Gets Another Shot

Morning stretch with MVP as I catch GQ (UK) photographer, Chris, getting a close-up of the athletes. Asafa is in white tee in the background. Coach ...at the wheel of the golf cart. (click for full view)

I’ll keep it short. lesson #1 for was that  High Tech is in the mind, not the equipment.  The will to work and focus on a well-thought plan is what can wins.  In the U.S. we complain often about a lack of facilities – at work, at school, at home, wherever…  while Stephen Francis turns out gold medal contenders running up university dorm stairs and around grass ovals.

Makes sense if you think about it as machines are  often the economized versions of actual movements.  There is true value in the creativity that proceeds from seeming constraints …infinity within parameters.

This is the beginning thing to understand about Asafa Powell and the MVP track club.

They simply train smart and hard.  Both the “smart” and the “hard” part of that go well beyond the clichés we’ve assigne to those concepts.



~ by ericjhenderson on August 6, 2008.

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