Thursday, July 24, 2008

Relax and Win

Inducted into the USATF Hall of Fame in 1985, Lloyd "Bud" Winter passed away the day before his induction. In a 35-year coaching career, Winter produced 102 All-Americans at San Jose State University (thus its nickname "speed city") and 27 of them became Olympians. Winter also served as an assistant US Olympic Track and Field coach in Rome in 1960. One of the greatest sprint coaches in history, Winter never seemed to get his due despite developing some of the fastest athletes in track and field history, including fellow Hall of Famers Harold Davis, Lee Bud Winter with sprintersEvans and Tommie Smith and the first vaulter over 18 feet-- Greece's Chris Papanicolaou. His influence is still felt today among sprinters and distance runners.

Winters based his mental and physical training methods on relaxation techniques he used to prepare pilots for combat in World War II. Winters taught that relaxation aids speed, quickness, reaction time, endurance, coordination and seeing. According to Winter a champion has to have the ability to relax under major competition: "If you are a tense person, you will perform less well in competition than in practice, you will be slower, move awkwardly, tire more quickly, have fears and anxieties and dread competition. The word sports writers will use to describe you is "choke"."
Winters told his athletes to relax and just "let the meat hang on the bones" and to relax the antagonistic muscles which are not used.
His basic approach to sprinting was a simple 8 step plan:
-Use high knee action
-Use good foreleg reach
-Run high on toes
-Have good arm action Bud Winter
-Maintain good forward lean
-Bound forward, not up
-Run tall, with back straight
-Be relaxed, with loose jaw and loose hands

But sprinting to Winter was both an art and a science. He had a knack of dissecting each of his sprinters individual styles and improving it. According to Speed City Era (

"Ray Norton, then a high school senior, tells the story of Winter watching him run on the track along with a couple of friends days before the national outdoor track and field championships at the University of California.
Winter questioned the young sprinter, and told him that if he were to come to San Jose State, he would make him “the World’s Fastest Human.”
Within two years of his arrival in San Jose, Norton, who competed in the 1956 Olympic trials as an Oakland City College freshman, literally, became the World’s No. 1-ranked sprinter. Teaching the same relaxation methods he had taught fighter pilots during the Second World War, Winter trained Norton to relax while sprinting. Norton later would set or break world records in the 100 and 200 meters, and the 100 and 220 yards six times during the 1958, ’59 and ’60 outdoor seasons."Carlos and Smith 1969 Olympics Mexico City

Although Winter's sprinters Lee Evans and Tommie Smith had their biggest success in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic's winning gold medals, Winter's role in their success was overshadowed by the big story-- the "Black Power salute" on the victory stand by John Carlos and Smith.

Relax and Win

Today Winters books "So You Want to Be a Sprinter" and Relax and Win" are out of print, but his influence is not forgotten. Relaxation is understood to be an essential ingredient for success in every sport and Winter's advice on how to achieve championship performance by not going "all out" is part of his legacy.

To read an interview with Coach Bud Winter:

To read a Time Magazine article on Tommie Smith and Bud Winter from 1967,9171,836764,00.html?iid=chix-sphere

Written by Jack Heath

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