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Clap on...Clap off

There have been many innovations, ideas, and gimmicks in track and field over the years - some quite popular; the Fosbury Flop or the biennial World Championships held opposite the Olympics. Others changes were not as well embraced - like the reduction of events in Diamond League competition or handing flowers to the winners at big meets. Meh.

It's amazing how many T&F athletes don't know how to throw!

Myself, I wholeheartedly embrace spandex, the Bowerman Award ceremony and it's appearance on YouTube, sunglasses in competition, pace lights around the track, and any TV production with John Anderson interviewing the athletes - he's the best!

But I don't like seeing speed suits on distance runners - even Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the baggy fit on ectomorphic high school athletes too often degrading the look. C'mon. I wish the US fans would adopt the whistling Europeans use when the pace is too slow - because I loathe the tactics of sit and kick and all the fools who think they have one.

Yet with all these issues, my greatest vitriol is saved for field event performers who initiate their own clap. I have less problem with other participants getting it started, or even the fans taking charge - although even then I'm still a bit skeptical.

I draw a hard line at self-aggrandizement.

I'm certain to be denounced by many for expressing this thought, expecting that coaches and athletes will call me an old fogey, tell me to get with the times - but this opinion is based on research, not some deep-rooted animosity towards self-promotion...although.

Talk with any sport psychologist and they will say internal motivation (coming from within) is much more important in success than external motivation (from coach, parents, or fans) - just as they would say being relaxed in a technique event is more important than being hyped or high-strung.

I have zero research for this next claim, only fifteen years of observation, but I'm certain to win more than I lost betting the long jumper will scratch or high jumper will knock the bar down or shot putter will foul when starting his/her own clap.


Focus is on the crowd and not technique. External instead of internal. Now if they did this at practice and incorporated it into their daily routine - then I might have a different opinion. But I guarantee they don't. I've never even heard an athlete suggest it.

And most are not experienced enough to go from external to internal focus in the snap of fingers. It's not that easy when technique is paramount. That's why you see musicians with eyes downcast or even closed, players shooting a free throw concentrating anywhere but on the crowd. They need to internalize - not put attention on the fans.

Did I ever stop my athletes from incorporating a clap. No. But you can be damn sure I let them know following the meet if it resulted in a scratch, miss, or foul. After all, my job was to help them succeed - not fail.

Use facts to prove me wrong.

Prove clapping works 75% of the time. Could it help? Might it help? Maybe. But I know I wouldn't invest much in something which produces significantly more failures then successes. It doesn't make sense. I want the odds to be 10 - 1, not 50 - 50.

And yet far too many want to believe they are the ones it will help - just like I want to think I'm good looking.

But we all know that's not true.

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