In some sports there are coaches that focus on just one small aspect. Football teams have a linebackers coach, special teams coach, strength coach, and a whole bunch more.
Distance running is seeing this specialization as well. Dr. Steve Miller is one of the nation’s top RFT (race finish techniques) coaches. I always thought how you finished wasn’t important, and if you did something fancy, you were grandstanding. But Dr. Miller insists it isn’t so.
“Like other areas of life, you need to self-promote to be successful. Finishing a race is your most visible moment. You need to take advantage of that. So many people are focused on stopping their watch and checking their time. That’s not going to get you into the Olympics.”
I know a great time can be advantageous, but I questioned how a unique or stylish finish gives you an advantage other than being noticed by onlookers. Dr. Miller insists I can’t see the forest for the trees.
“Jim, when a basketball player steals the ball, do you want to see him trot to the basket and lay it up, or would you rather see him do an aerial 360 and a reverse slam dunk?”
I thanked Dr. Miller for enlightening me. For sure, I do want to see fancy stuff. Dr. Miller went on to describe the transformation of one of his best students, Todd Oglesbee.
“When Todd first came to me, he didn’t have a race finishing technique. He just crossed the line. But we worked hard together. He wanted the arms in the air in victory look, but at first he looked like a monster trying to scare children. Now look at him – hands made into fists, elbows even with the shoulders, and an expression of painful satisfaction. Todd is on the path to stardom.”
Another student Dr. Miller has high hopes for is Hsiang Chun Yu.
“He has unbelievable leaping ability. I’m working with him on his form, and we’re doing workouts to gain even more height. You’re going to see him doing fantastic things at the finish line that you’ve never seen before.”