Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show. My guest today: Olympic champion, former world record holder, and good guy all around, now a coach, Carl Lewis. Carl, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Carl: Great, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Russ: You bet. So you’re here because you’re a co-founder of Winning Dimensions Sports (Carl: Yes). Tell us about that.
Carl: Well, Winning Dimensions Sports is really a real dynamic idea that we had with my partner Kerry Spick and I. And the whole thing is for us to get the world running better, jumping better, kicking better, throwing better. And we needed the base for us to put together a series of activities, whether it’s videos, it’s online content, it’s new media; all these things in order to get out to people, because what I found is you have to actually evolve along the way. Just a couple of years ago, someone asked me to do a video, a training video, and I said, “Wait a minute here, that’s like so 90s.” So, how do we update that idea and get to the people? And so, we founded Winning Dimensions in order to be able do that to get to them.
Russ: Ok, and from what I understand, it involves a lot of sensing devices and a mobile app as well, right?
Carl: Yeah, absolutely sensing devices and mobile apps. But the biggest issue is, we started out saying, how can we get to the people and make it easiest to do that? And also, incorporate the social component of family, friends, coaches, and everyone so that everyone feels comfortable to do it, because the ultimate objective is to make sure that everyone has access.
Russ: Ok. I definitely want to get into the app a little more, the sensing devices as well. But before I do, I kept thinking about this once I knew we were going to do this; you know, I ran some track. I was a sprinter for a while, and I didn’t quite make it to your level, but I never understood what you can do as a coach to enhance the performance of a sprinter. I mean, I know the start is critical in how you bolt out of there, but once you’re going, with me it was just, everything I got to be straight and go, but, what can you actually coach with a sprinter?
Carl: Well, you know you have to start from understanding the race itself. Of course, the 100 meters is 100 meters long. Well, the human being can only run full speed about 10 meters, so you are speeding up and slowing down for 90% of the race. So, that’s really what you coach. You coach the body movement, where the arms stroke, where the legs apply, where you’re pushing, but also maintaining. Because, you run in 100 meters, you run up to full speed, you get that for 10 meters and then you start slowing down. That’s every single person. So, how do you manage that? Where do you hit full speed? How do you continue to slow down the least amount from the other athletes? So, there’s a lot to it. People think that you just go blasted out, because I asked this question-
Russ: Right. That’s the way I did it.
Carl: Yeah, well I asked a question, how far can you run full speed? And they think 40, 50, 150 meters, but when they realize it’s only 10, it’s like, wow it’s more of a strategic race.
Russ: Wow, very interesting. Ok, so back to the technology. I mean, how do you do that? Like what you just told me. I mean, how can you do that in an app or a video that somebody’s watching on their iPhone? I mean, this must have taken lots of research to figure the way out.
Carl: Well, absolutely, and the real thing is that I, as a coach right now, I have my tablet with me all the time, and I film people, and then I analyze that film myself. And then I can show them; move your arm this way, push your leg that way, this is what’s happening. Well, the whole idea is to create a model where I am on your tablet being able to show you what that perfect method is, and now you have someone to compare it with. So, if it’s just someone’s parent, they have that tablet they can film their child or they can say, “Look at this, here’s the difference and the comparison.” So, ultimately, I will be on everyone’s tablet, on everyone’s phone, and in everyone’s practice.
Russ: Ok. So, I know Winning Dimensions Sports is focused beyond track and field, but you’re kind of focused on that in the very beginning, and I can see you being the coach on the tablet for sprints, but what about high jump? What about pole vault? Do you have other athletes that are part of the program as well?
Carl: Oh yeah, we definitely will bring in other athletes that bring expertise in those events, but the reason we started with track, obviously because that’s my sport, and I ran and I jumped, so that’s easy for that part. But running, jumping, throwing, and kicking is a basic component of all sports, and we all know that, especially in the older days they said, “Everyone go out and run track because if you’re a faster athlete you’re a better athlete.” But, if you go back and look at it, there are, Terry Bradshaw was state champion in the javelin throw (Russ: Interesting.), you know, and so (Russ: I didn’t know that), absolutely, and so you look at other sports; there are throwers that were track athletes; there, obviously, the big line members, shot putters; Jonathan Ogden was a huge shot putter.
So, we understand that the basis of all sports really is in track and field, and then when you add the running component and the kicking, you have soccer and the other sports. So, we really felt like this was the broadest way to get started.
Russ: Real interesting. So, is your target market athletes, young athletes, college athletes, coaches? What is it? Or all of the above?
Carl: Well, fortunately the target market is everyone. You know, I hear people that run occasional 5Ks say, “How can I run better?” I was driving down the street one time and I saw a girl, just running, and I was like, “Wow.” This girl ran so technically bad that I knew that she was going to be injured just as a casual runner, and eventually be injured and have knee surgery, and have all these problems. And, you’re like, well how does that affect her? Well, if she runs better, her time will be better and it affects her health long term. So, it really gets from the youth athlete all the way to the casual 5K runner.
Russ: So what is the status of the company? I mean, I can’t buy the app today and improve my running, can I?
Carl: No, we’re in the development process now. We’re online, we have a Twitter page, @perfectmethod, and we’re developing that. It’s a great year to do it because it’s the Olympic year. Obviously, I’m busy with my coaching, and traveling and everything, but we’re here for the long term, and so, this has been about a year of us in development. It’s a lot to do because we’re trying to give people an idea and a concept of how to do something perfect. And to think of, well I can be the best that I can be, and so we want to be able to appeal to everyone that wants to be available, available to anyone that wants to be the best that they can be. And that’s athletes, parents, families, coaches; everyone that can do it.
Russ: Very interesting. Ok, so let’s go back into history a little bit with you and your career; your incredible career. Have your victories, you know, nine gold medals and one silver at the Olympics, many world champion series winners; what was the most memorable victory that you ever experienced?
Carl: Well, you know it’s really interesting. That’s a two-part answer. The first one was, when I was in 11th grade, I went to the age group national championships; the Junior Olympic National Championships. And, I jumped 25’9”, and a I ran 9.3 in the 100 yards. This kind of dates me. This was in 1978. That was the time when I exploded, because that year I started the year as a 23’ jumper. So, I became the number one high school jumper in the nation at that point, and one of the top sprinters. So that was kind of like my break out, so I’ll never forget that. And that was the turning point in my whole life. And then, of course, the first Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters, in LA. I mean, when you go to the Olympics, especially after I was on a team that boycotted. I had to wait four more years, and then I remember crossing the line, being so excited, finding a flag, because someone yelled at me to come over and threw this flag.
And then, going around the back stretch and seeing my parents in the stands. I’ll tell you this funny story, because my mother and father were clutching each other, and so they’re in the stands. And so later on I asked them, I said, “Well why didn’t you come down? I kept calling you down.” My father said, “I wasn’t going down.” And my mother said, “He was holding me. He wouldn’t let me.” So that, without question, is the one for me.
Russ: I understand your dad was very influential in your interest in this sport, and your doing well, and your growing up to be a successful man.
Carl: Yeah, my parents were amazing. I was very fortunate. I didn’t ask to be here, but I ended up with pretty good parents at the end of the day, and they were very inspirational. Both public school teachers, my mother started the track club that I ended up getting involved in, and so they really, by default, ended up with a perfect balance of how do you raise a child in sports. They ran the club, so they couldn’t throw all their attention on me. They just encouraged me to be the best that I can be, and fortunately, I turned out being very successful.
Russ: Wow. I remember many of your performances, but the one that always sticks in my head was the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and you know, we’re watching on TV and really, you know, it was exciting, and really pulling for you. And this Canadian bolts out of the blocks and just runs away, and I think even broke the world record (Carl: Oh, he broke the world record, oh yeah.), and you came in second. I mean, he was like 6-7 yards ahead of you?
Carl: Yeah, that was an interesting race because there were a lot of dynamics. You know, of course, we know Ben went on and tested positive (Russ: Right.), but we all knew it. So, there was the backstory frustration that we all had that, “God this guy is doing this and we cant stop it.” But then, another layer for me is that the previous year I gave my gold medal to my father who passed away. And so I was, I said, “I’m going to win it in Seoul.” So there were all these dynamics, but the greatest thing about that, for me, was I had to compete the next day. So, there was no going back, pouting. And number two, it brought a lot of the tension to the drug issue. So, to me, that’s a far bigger thing than me crossing the line first, and we got the medal as well.
Russ: Yeah. For those of you who don’t know what we’re talking about, about three days after the race (Carl: Yes.), you were awarded the gold medal because Ben tested very positive (Carl: Yeah, exactly. Yeah he did.) for steroids.
Carl: Yeah, that’s funny. Exactly.
Russ: Yeah, so what’s your position on performance enhancing drugs today?
Carl: Well, first of all, unfortunately there are always going to be people that cheat, but I think that we are really addressing it the incorrect way. I’ve always felt that. I think we go after the person, we try to catch them, and we try to get rid of them, you know, ban them for a while, and they come back, and that’s it. To me, it’s a bigger issue than just cheating. It’s also the social component of it, and the feeling of it. So, I propose that we suspend everyone indefinitely; immediately suspension indefinitely. And then, we investigate: where it came from, how did you get it, what’s the back drop, what’s the reason, you know? Because a lot of people, in some cases, were duped by their coaches or influenced by someone else. And then we, let’s investigate, and then when you decide to really cooperate, then you can come back. Instead, we just go and say, “Oh, you’re positive. You’re out of here,” and you’re ostracized, and you’re thrown away.
Because there is a lot of power to coming back, because first of all, athletes make money while they’re in it, taking drugs; athletes get fame. So, you have all these carrots that you can put out there to say, you have to go through step 1-10 before you can come back into the sport. And some people that may be almost, that may be pretty quickly, and some we may determine, look, you’ve taken so much, there’s been so much of an effect on your body that we can’t let you back. We don’t do anything like that.
Russ: Yeah. I was wondering about that. I mean, I always thought it was weird that they let people come back because I assume that performance enhancing drugs have a forever impact.
Carl: Well, you know, there’s studies now that are saying that there is a forever impact. So, it’s almost worth it to try it, if you get caught, get off, and come back, and then you have the benefit for the rest of your career. So, that’s something that needs to be studied more, and the only way that you can do that is if you have that idea of studying that and looking at the performance of the athletes.
Russ: So, what do you think of Usain Bolt? I mean, I love watching him run. I hear questions whether he’s taking drugs, because his home country is not real disciplined.
Carl: Right. Well, you know, we’re finding out a lot about not just Jamaica, but of course, Kenya. We obviously know about Russia, Ethiopia. There are a lot of countries that kind of always said, “Well, we’re too poor to have drugs testing programs.” But the whole thing is that, but you have enough money to send your athletes (Russ: Right. Good point.). So, my thing is, I think, with you saying, “needs to do,” is focus really more on advancing the sport. And I think every single individual that comes, whether it’s a sport, or business, or anything, your objective should ultimately be to leave it better than you were when you came in. And so, that’s my issue with not only him but with what’s going on now. Just a few years ago, the sport had 50, 60, 70,000 in the world championships in the stands. The Olympics you can’t count because everyone’s already there.
But now, the world championships that will be in the United States in 2021, all they needed was a stadium that could hold 30,000. So, we’ve come a long way, and there really is no concerted effort to do anything about that. Track meets are not interesting. Athletes are not stepping up and saying, “I will do things to make the sport better.” So, I think that’s really my charge. You know, we can talk about all of the drug issues, we can talk about the lack of testing, which we know are facts, but the bigger issue is, what are you, i.e., anyone doing to make the sport better?
Russ: Well, it’s so disappointing that there aren’t that many track meets on television anymore even.
Carl: Well, they’re not, but you know what? That’s not, that’s not their job. That’s our job to make it interesting. I recently went to an NBA game, and I go to University of Houston football games and basketball games; they’re fun. It’s not just the game. Every single stop in the moment there’s something going on. There’s a kiss cam, there’s something always going. The Cougars are walking around, it’s a production. Whereas, track and field, it’s just a boring event. Here’s the next event. There’s nothing going in between, there’s nothing interesting, you don’t really know the athletes, and I think that it’s that way because it’s still run by the same people that ran it in the days when everything was run that way. You know, so they really need to change the way they put the production together so it makes it interesting to watch.
Russ: Well, you sound passionate about that. Are you having an influence? Are there people joining you and saying, “Yeah, Carl’s right.”?
Carl: Well, you know, it’s really interesting, and this is probably a horrible thing to say, but I thought attrition would work faster. Gosh, track people, I guess all that running makes them live forever. But, the reality is that that’s the way I believe in our sport. You know, when I competed, we did all of these things and our sport was at an 8, you know, at the top. It was building, it was in television, and we did extra things. But now everyone’s saying, “Oh, you’re just some retired guy wanting attention.” Well, if I wanted attention I wouldn’t do it through a track meet. There are other things I could do, you know.
Russ: Absolutely. Well, good luck, because I’m a supporter of that, for sure. Ok, so back to the business; back to Winning Dimensions Sports. What actually sets you guys apart? I mean, I know there’s other people using technology to do something similar.
Carl: Well, the thing is I think what happens is that we’re in a culture now where there’s so many speed coaches. It’s pay to play for almost everything. And so, what determines who an expert is? If I’m just a simple person that goes into a gym, then it’s like, ok he’s giving me all this information about, there’s 50,000 trainers in America. Well, how do we really know that those trainers know what’s going on? And what sets us apart is we take the best of the best, we bring them together, and get the information. But there is a perfect model to do things. So, the examples that we have and the people that we have are people that also have the same concepts. You see, when I tell young athletes, or athletes of any age, especially the ones that I coach, I say, “Don’t try to be an Olympic champion. You’re not trying to win the Olympic gold medal. You can’t control that.” Because, I couldn’t control that day when Ben ran.
But what I could control is how fast I ran, and that day was the American record. So, if we can focus on having the perfect method; the way you run, your arms are correct, the movement, the jumps, all these things are things that you can control, then you’ll be the best absolute person and athlete that you can be. So we’re putting together a model where we’re helping you to become the perfect you.
Russ: Cool, really cool. Ok, so before I let you go, you have to paint a picture for me. Where would you like Winning Dimensions Sports to be if the world went forward, ideally, for you, say five years from now?
Carl: Well, first of all, it’s on everyone’s tablet and phone. You know, our portal is set up and our sensors are set up where, first of all, what we’d like is not just to have the sensors where people can practice and work out, but there’s also a social component where they can interact between schools, districts, people. “Hey, I’m closer to perfect that you are. Let’s have contests.” So, therefore, it’s that component, and it’s even a 5K runner, like I said. But also, performances are enhanced dramatically, because I think that once everyone understands that we’re going after a perfect method, we’re not settling for the medal, we’re going for excellence. And we’ll see a difference in records. Right now, the field events are really hurting in the world. There’s no one really challenging any of the field events.
The long jump world record is over 25 years old; the triple jump record is over 20 years old; the high jump record is almost 30 years old; the shot put record, the discus record, the javelin, the pole vault. I mean, it’s amazing because these events are technical events that need specific technical training. So, what we hope is that all those records are gone because we have taught people, look, go for the perfect you instead of just getting the medal.
Russ: Wow. Well good luck with your endeavor and thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Carl.
Carl: Great. Thank you.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Carl Lewis, co-founder of Winning Dimensions Sports, as well as a gold medal winner, multiple gold medal winner, and world champion in track and field. And this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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