Differences in Coaching Black and White Athletes

I heard (admittedly second hand) that a coach who has coached a sub 10.10 white athlete, along with two sub 10.10 black athletes, that he approaches training with each ethnicity slightly differently. He believes that white athletes can take a higher work load, and need a higher work load, in training, and require more plyometrics, whereas black athletes need to work hard during the winter, then they can have a much longer taper pre-comp.

Granted, he might be talking rubbish, but it got me thinking: Does anyone else believe there is, or should be, a difference in coaching athletes of different ethnicities? If so, is this due to different physiological make-ups, and, if so, which ones?

Maybe this is the reason why there are no more top white sprinters…

How do you mean? You think they should be coached the same?

You have to go with the athlete’s level training years and history, his race structure, his body height and weight, his level in the 5 biomotor qualities (speed, strength, endurance, agility, suppleness), rather than skin colour. Within a same ethnie, there is a wide spectrum of level for those criteria, including physiological make-up.

YOU have to be trained one way…ME another, a 3rd another one also…according to a properly selected training methodology.
Skin color is a rather useless differentiation…but hey, there are dumb scientist who could prove everything!
You know…black people cannot throw a football from the pocket…so, we try to teach them to run…:slight_smile: …same bullshit, IMHO.
Will you compete in GP meetings next weeks-?I suggest you to try Rieti, if starting lists are not closed…if weather is ok, there are magical conditions most of the time.

It is easy to ruin talent by doing too much inappropriate work. The greater the talent, the easier it is to ruin them.

Do you think those differences in training response were primarily due to the racial differences of the athletes in question or simply differences in their needs as individuals? How many athletes are we talking about? You only mention those three. If he found this result from coaching say 30 athletes over several years I might be more receptive to the idea. But if your sample size is only the 3 you mentioned, you can’t extrapolate much from it, especially since they are at such high levels of performance which makes them statistical anomalies to begin with.

I agree with your point. The three athletes I mentioned are he 3 fastest ever, I assume he has coached many more. I know he coached a couple of 400m guys of mixed ethnicity too.

The main point I was trying to get at was that if any one else shared his thoughts, and if so, why? Or if not, why not?

What I have found remarkable is the listed workload from 30 years ago when caucasian sprinters were competitive.

There were some long discussions in the old Italian Sprint Training thread, with the Italians using VERY large amounts of speed endurance training and Charlie talking about the Italians using 2:1 recovery instead of 3:1 like him because the training was so intense. Remember that Mennea held the WR for 17 years and 30 years later, only 7 black athletes have matched his 200m time.

There have been similar discussions about Borzov, and in at least one paper Borzov himself claimed to have trained (open to debate perhaps) with a higher training workload than any other sprinter of his day. Charlie has also talked about the work of some of the East Germans and also Block.

You can argue that these caucasians were training with too much HI volume (Charlie did claim this with respect to Block), but I find these discussions even more relevant now considering the apparent work volumes of the Jamaicans (particularly MVP).

In recent years, there have been caucasian athletes relatively successful in 60m (Collio recently) emphasizing power, and 200-400m emphasizing SE (Kenderis, and also Wariner and several others in the 400), but there seems to be a region where MaxV is more significant in 100/200 that blacks have significantly surpassed caucasians.

You could make the point that caucasians might be more successful with more emphasis on power and SE, and correspondingly less emphasis on MaxV. Franno already seems to be doing this, and I wonder if perhaps caucasians might adapt better to what he’s doing, more or less like Wariner adapted even better to Michael Johnson was doing.

lkh, could you please develop that last sentence a little further?

If it seems that whites have less MaxV, then they should put more emphasis on power and SE? Is that your contention?

Lemaitre is intersting because it seems like his MaxV is his best attribute and his starting power is relatively poor, so he’s not the Collio/Nagel/Yepishin type.

This issue has had several theories advanced over the years. I don’t think anyone has been able to come up with a satisfying explanation.

Factors that play into this are things like fiber type distribution, muscle attachments and tendon lengths (principally the achilles), bone density, limb to torso length ratios, etc. There may be a case made that advantageous combinations of these factors statistically are more common in certain ethnic groups than others. But the problem is, there might be several combinations of these anthropometric factors that produce similar results even within the same ethnic group, just like different combinations of strength, maxV and speed endurance produce similar results. If I remember correcly, Charlie said that Hasely Crawford ('76 100m Oly champ) participated in a muscle biopsy study after the Olympics and had a 50% fast twitch fiber distribution, which goes to show you can’t reduce the complexity of performance to a single factor.

As a result, different workload distributions might be required for different anthropometric factors. But again, that brings us back to the needs of the individual. In other words, I wouldn’t say, you’re Italian (I am by the way), therefore you’re going to do X volume of speed work; you’re Jamaican, therefore you will to 2/3X volume, etc. It might work out this way statistically through training history, but I wouldn’t attempt to assign workloads a priori based on it.

Historically, in the case of the Italians like Mennea and Pavoni, did these higher volumes of work represent a greater emphasis on speed endurance as a factor in performance (especially considering Mennea’s prowess in the 200)? If so, was this because they were Italian or because of their needs as individuals? If their performance levels had progressed higher, would they have had to reduce their speed volume substantially to accommodate the higher intensity considering the nonlinear increase in power output required for greater performance in the short sprints? Would they simply have achieved higher performance levels from using a lower volume of speed work? (A dangerous speculation 30 years after the fact I know.)

In the end, everything comes down to the needs of the individual. Training experience with athletes from particular ethnic groups might give you a speculation of where a given athlete’s training might head, but ultimately you really won’t know until you see how that particular person responds to training.

Watch it or I’ll make you tell us what John Smith would say about the matter, Lyndon Herzberg.

This is exactly what I’m getting at–one size does not fit all. And if caucasians are not going as fast with present training, some adjustments of the structure might be in order. We know that Petrovsky had those tables of times and found Borzov’s speed to be lacking–once again, an emphasis on weakness, not one-size-fits-all, but there was also a large commitment to SE and workload which speaks for itself.

I think the white/black talk in track has been beat to death. I think the primary reason for the seeming dominance of black athletes and lack of white short distance athletes is more due to social discouragement than any natural inclination. I am white and I have been told all my life from almost anyone I meet that I am athletically inferior to black athletes. Coaches at my school which is 90 % white train the sprinters like distance runners because “we aren’t naturally fast, so we have to have endurance” then they use our sprinters slow times as evidence to support their flawed theory. The freshman football coaches at my school told our team that we had a better chance of standing out on the field and getting struck by lightning than any one of us ever had of participating in any form of college athletics because we were at a genetic disadvantage to black athletes. I do not believe this, and I reject this logic. What good could possibly come from paying attention or believing such things. I have gotten farther than I ever thought possible, and I believe my disbelief of this “common knowledge” has something to do with it. Even though my times may not have been elite in high school, they were better than almost everyone else in my state. Out of the hundreds of black athletes that ran the 110h in my state I only lost to 2. I was .01 behind 1st and it was my 4th race of the season so I was not at my peak yet. In my opinion, I was the best. Even if I am wrong and and black athletes do have a genetic advantage, I think it is amplified by the way society discourages white athletes. I don’t believe it could possibly be as large of a factor as it is made out to be. Maybe if many white kids were not discouraged the ratio of black to white elite sprinters may be 7:3 or 6:4 instead of 99:1.


the Caucasian Wide Receivers of America…yes this is real

If you do a search you might be able to find it, but a couple years ago Charlie mentioned that when he was planning to join the track team in high school people told his father not to let Charlie compete in the sprints because he would never be able to beat the black kids. Charlie’s father failed to pass on the bad news to Charlie, who won every sprint race he entered in high school.

As a personal anecdote and point of pride, about two years ago I beat Ron Clark (US 1994 200 champ) in a 30m sprint while working out at SMU. Granted, Ron’s not at his peak but then again neither am I.

I think the reason why many coaches and armchair spectators place so much emphasis on race/genetics/talent (you name the excuse) instead of addressing the needs of the individual is because they simply don’t know how or are too lazy. A lot of people pay lip service to individualized training, but very few do it properly. And this points to the talent of the coach as a primary factor in performance, not just the athlete’s talent.

The volumes used by the italians in those years, inhibited any further progression…Pavoni was an absolute talent…shaved less than a tenth of a second in many years of career…power…trained and there is…SE, the same…speed, not trained, so not showed…you have no idea of the amount of talent ruined by these kind of methodology…Mennea’s fault, he was so incredibly gifted that what was good for him…was just for him…

Flash do you workout at SMU? I train down there every now and then and despite the soft surface I seem to run well on that track.

Not anymore. A new athletic director came in about two years ago and closed the track to the general public and student body. Only varsity athletes and select world class athletes were allowed access. I don’t know if that policy is still in force. I’m sure there was an uproar from the student body.

I run at Germany Park now. It’s a public track so I don’t have to worry about it being closed. I also do a lot of running on grass now, including speed work, so it would be hard for me to do that at SMU because they’re very protective of the soccer field, understandably so. If they’ve reopened SMU’s track to the general public let me know.

Yea, I agree with this and good for you!

In regards to the topic, I say, just divide people up into what sport discipline they chose along with giving them the most appropriate training then let the cards fall where they may.