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This subject about the TALENT of an athlete is very interesting, I would like to share an experience with
the Chinese coaches.
There are about 35 Chinese coaches from different sports spread all over Mexico. The bosses from the Mexican Sports Government believed that in bringing these Chinese coaches they would improve the level of the Mexican sports men and women in general, but they did not realize the big cultural differences between Chinese and Mexicans athletes, they have nothing in common!!!
Anyway they arrived to Mexico in April 2003. I was assigned one of them, a distance coach and in fact their Team Leader by name Qian Wang Hui, a very good man and nice person. Since the beginning we had communication problems, none of them speaks English or Spanish, only their native language and I don't speak or understand Chinese, so I felt like in a police movie: where a local policeman has a new and strange partner and does not like him but they are forced to work together. In 20 years of coaching I never had had an assistant coach with my groups!! So, He arrived and suddenly began to tell my athletes what to do in a very strange language, it was very funny at the beginning but soon we both started to have some differences and problems.
Trying to find a solution, we both "hired" Chinese people based in Mexico City to translate our discussions, so I began to discover his training philosophy, which is very similar to the one described in The IAAF quarterly magazine "New Studies in Athletics" issue 4, December 1993. In that interview, Chinese coach Ma Junren describes in general his training methodology with his women WR holders.
Their system has proven with excellent results for them IN THE PAST, but it can not be applied to our people or in a western society for sure!!
In China the talent detection is one of the key ingredients in their program. In Mexico, when we see a 16 year old girl that runs the 800 in 2:11-2:12, We think she might become a good distance athlete during the next years. But for the Chinese coaches means nothing!!! He says that in China a lot of 12-13 year old girls run those times with almost no training. He has told me several stories about how they chose the talented young men and women. They travel to the rural areas and small villages, using several of the known scientific methods (blood test, VO2 Max, etc.) but also some not so common like putting the boys and girls in a squat position against the wall and see how long the can hold the position, if one of them says "I am done" or "I can not hold any more", then they are slapped very hard by the selectors, they must endure, and if they begin to cry then they are considered lacking the mental strength or are not enough tough to begin training.
The chosen ones must complete every training task or session with no chance to question the program. The good side of the chosen athletes is that they get paid good money since the beginning, besides all the other expenses are paid (meals, housing, travel to competitions, etc.) and their families also get some material and financial aid.
This coach worked 6 years together with Ma Junren, he was the National Men's Coach and Ma was the National Women's coach.
When he saw our training methodology and our training environment he told me that I was a "soft" coach, that we did very little training, 130-140 km per week was "little" for him. That my athletes did not have the discipline for arriving 5-10 minutes late for the training sessions. So I began to asking what is "little" and why and what is "enough" for each athlete.
For middle and distance athletes they used to do 30-40 km every day in 2 sessions since YOUNG AGE, it means 190-240 km (150 miles) per week!! So I asked him:
"What happens if one day one of the athletes wakes up one morning very tired and does not want to complete the session?" "Do you listen to him/her and give him/her and easy day" The answer was: NO!! "They have to complete the training program" "You Marco have a soft heart !!!"
He showed me one of the pictures of the IAAF article during a 30 km long run where the coach drives a motorbike, he told me that coach Ma several times pushed his athletes with his vehicle to make sure they run fast enough (sub-3:30/km pace) or if they were tired and did not want to train for some reason, then coach Ma used to take the athlete on his motorbike to a far mountain or forest, then left them there with no money and no food, same training distance far away. So the girl had no choice but to come back 40 km on foot to the Village and the best and quick way was running. He believed this system made them very tough athletes during the competitions.
We could never apply this methodology with our athletes in Mexico, we have a different approach.
He has learnt Spanish and we have better communication, but currently as team leader or "Mission Chief" as he is called over here, he does more administrative job for the other Chinese coaches and almost has no time for the training.
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