I’ve been coaching high school track and field for the past thirty-five years. I have never coached an athlete remotely close to an elite level or even emerging elite, but I take what I do very seriously.
Back in 1996 I had two paralympians, Tony Volpentest and Marlon Shirley, compete on my high school track here in Illinois. Against one of the best fields of Masters runners in my state, Volpentest ran the 200 in 22.94, a time faster than 97% of every able bodied high school kids I’ve ever coached. Volpentest had no feet and no lower arms. In fact, he had to rest is stumps on padded paint cans in order to start.
How was a guy with no “feet” for dorsiflexion or “push-off” able to run that fast with keel bars that, by today’s “Cheetah standards,” were practically Frankenstein-like? If correct arm carriage was so significant, how was it that he could run that fast (at least by my standards) without anything remotely resembling proper arm swing mechanics?
Despite the fact that I sponsored a specialty clinic called Ground Zero: The Role of the Foot and Ankle in Running featuring Tony’s coach, nobody in the running community whom I had contacted could basically ‘answer’ my questions regarding how he was able to run that fast on keel bars. That then led me to Dr. Weyand’s locomotion lab at Harvard University and later at Rice.
Little did I know that, across the country on the west coast, Barry Ross had been contacting Dr. Weyand regarding how a strength-training program might align with the findings from his JAP 2000 study, which is now considered by many to be “seminal” research in the field locomotion.
Dr. Weyand referred Barry to me, and that began our relationship, which culminated in a “study” similar to what Charlie did with the Jane Project. In fact, I referred to it as the “Barry Project.”
I was going to “give” Barry a fairly decent high school two miler (10:03) who had never broken 7.8 mps (9.56 in a fly 75) in his first three years of high school. I would have that athlete follow his protocol to the letter, and I would analyze any changes in mechanics via SiliconCoach and OptoJump, to see if, with nothing different in the way this athlete would be trained other than the addition of the strength protocol, what the effects that protocol would have on his top speed. My hypothesis was that no single lift with no ancillary lifts, no standard periodization, and no conversion phasing, and carried out over a relatively brief period of time available to a typical high school athlete would have any impact on an athlete’s ability to generate higher meter-per-second.
I presented all my findings to Supertraining a little over a month into the “project.”
For those who despise Barry for what you consider to be a limited background, lack of expertise, marketing hype, or his unfair ‘challenges’ to the elite in the coaching ranks, I will say that much of what is ‘out there” falls under typical ‘cyber-noise/gossip”’ which is often the result of distorted quotes and hearsay.
If Barry has said any disparaging remarks about Charlie, I have never head him say those to me, and we are often in communication. I frequently endorse Charlie’s e-books on the bearpowered site, and quote Charlie often in forum threads. If there was any resentment that Barry felt toward Charlie—as a person or a coach, or major disagreement on key issues, I would certainly have expected him to disagree with me or challenge my insights on Charlie’s approaches, which he has never done.
Has Barry banned members of the Felix family from his site? Yes. One and not “members.” And the reasons for that banning have nothing to do with Barry trying to ‘silence’ a critic.
Has Barry misrepresented his “role” in working with Felix?
I have read his book twice, and Ms. Felix’s name appears nine times throughout the entire book. Most of those references were intended to introduce his actual involvement in her training. Here is one of those passages:
“Eleven years later, in 2000, freshman Allyson Felix walked up to me and said, “I want to lift weights with you”. The three other young ladies, two freshman and one sophomore, who accompanied Felix spoke up immediately–“So do we”. Felix had recently returned from the United States Junior (under age 20) National championships where she had been tested in a number of categories to see where she could improve her performance. The tests showed that Felix, though still a freshman in high school, already ranked at the elite levels in almost every category tested except one: Her strength rating was below the minimum chart level.”
Ms. Felix chose Barry because her coach at the time, Wes Smith at Los Angeles Baptist high school, told her to approach him. Barry had been a long time voluntary throws coach at that facility. Coach Wes Smith liked what Barry had been doing over the years they worked together.
Barry had recently completed 4 years of coaching Jessica Cosby, a fifty-foot plus thrower who was ranked #3 in the US among high school shot putters a year earlier and was finishing up his work as throws coach for the lengendary Tommie Smith at Santa Monica City College. Barry did not apply to the college but was sought out by Tommie Smith at the request of two of Smith’s throwers.
Barry had ample time to watch Smith’s coaching methods and toward the end of the season, he invited Felix to have Tommie watch her run and comment on what he saw.
Pam Spencer Marquez, a three time Olympic high jumper, and later a member of the USATF Athletes Advisory Committee and Secretary of USATF, was one of the members that accompanied the U.S. junior team that Cosby competed on as well as Felix’s team four years later.
Marquez asked Barry to coach her own daughter when her daughter decided to drop basketball to become a shot putter.
Barry has never, and does not now, consider himself a strength and conditioning coach. This was never his ‘job.” In some ways, it has been much easier for Barry to accept the research than many of our colleagues because he was not a long time sprint coach.
His book was intended to put forth a link between the support force data presented in JAP2000 and a possible means of improving the athlete’s ability to generate greater forces through a specific strength training protocol.