Brooks Johnson

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Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the  United States
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1963 São Paulo 4x100 metres relay

Brooks Johnson (born February 28, 1934) is a former sprinter now one of America's most famous track coaches.

Early life[edit]

Johnson came from a humble background, his father shined shoes in Miami and his mother was a housemaid, but this was no impediment to his aspiration to make a success of his life.[1]

Johnson was a track star for his high school in Plymouth, Massachusetts.[2]

Life as an athlete[edit]

After high school, Johnson attended Tufts University in Medford MA. He describes his track career there as having more "lowlights than highlights."[2] He did in fact achieve some success as an athlete, including notably a gold medal as a member of the 4 × 100 m relay at the 1963 Pan American Games (with Ira Murchison, Ollan Cassell and Earl Young),[3][4] but injury curtailed his career.[5] He was denied a chance of making the USA track team for the 1964 Olympics because he was involved in an automobile accident on the way to a qualifying track meet at Stanford University.[1]

However, he was very successful academically at Tufts.[1]

Early coaching career[edit]

After graduating from Tufts University, Johnson earned a law degree from the University of Chicago. He never practised as a lawyer, instead working for the Governmental Affairs Institute in the United States Department of State in Washington D.C.[2] Johnson thought of being a corporate lawyer but when told by the lawyer father of a school friend that "Regardless of what I think personally, my partners will say there is no room for blacks in corporate law", he realised that this colour bar would mean that the law was not for him.[1]

Whilst in Washington, Johnson started coaching. This included high school athletes at the prestigious St. Albans School which he had joined in 1965 as coach, athletic director and teacher of cultural anthropology and history. One of his pupils there was the promising young discus thrower, and future vice-president, Al Gore.[2] His school lessons were also famed for their quirkiness.[1] At St. Albans in 1970 he also founded the Skip Grant program for students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.[6]

Johnson got the job at St. Albans when, as a community organiser, he confronted the headmaster, the late Charles S. Martin, and objected that he was running “an all-white school in a black town.” To the retort "What was his solution?", Johnson replied, "I am the solution.".[7]

Later coaching career[edit]

Johnson spent 12 years at St. Albans before moving on to the University of Florida (1975–79) as assistant track coach,[8] then head coach at Stanford University (1979–92), following on from the legendary coach Payton Jordan, and California Polytechnic State University (1993–96).[1][9]

Johnson has coached Olympians since 1960. His first was 1960 110-meter hurdles silver medalist Willie May. Since then, notable Olympians he has coached include Esther Stroy (a 15-year-old girl he trained through a neighborhood track club to get to the 1968 Olympics[7]), Evelyn Ashford and Chandra Cheesborough.[2] He is still an active coach with a small select group of athletes that includes Justin Gatlin, Tiffany Williams and David Oliver. His band of athletes are ones who have achieved success and want more, or as Johnson himself said "It is actually quite easy because a lot of the problems have already been resolved; these people were outstanding with Olympic credentials before they ever came here, so they know their way to the podium. Our job is to retrace the steps back to the podium."[10]

Johnson is currently based at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, usually to be found in his 'signature beige straw hat'.[1] Johnson was hired by the Disney Corporation in 1996 'to jump-start a fledging sports program', a program he has succeeded in transforming into a financial and sporting success.[11]

At the national level, Johnson was part of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic coaching staff in 1976, 1984, 2004, and 2008.[1] In 1984 he was women's team coach for track and field at the Summer Games in Los Angeles[2] and relay coach in 2008.[9]

Johnson was elected to the USA Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1997.[2][12]

Johnson also is a former director of the ARCO Olympic Training Center for the United States Olympic Team (there at its opening in 2003-04) and acted as High Performance Division Chair for USA Track & Field.[8][12]

On the future, Johnson does not plan to retire, as he said, "I like kicking (butt).I like to win, my whole life has been competitive," and he will continue "until they throw dirt in my face".[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-06-23/sports/os-george-diaz-brooks-johnson-0624-20120623_1_brooks-johnson-johnson-s-olympic-olympic-journey "An Olympic legacy etched in a 'benevolent dictatorship'", George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel, June 23, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g http://www.sptimes.com/2008/02/08/Sports/QA_with_Olympic_sprin.shtml "Q&A with Olympic sprint coach Brooks Johnson", Dave Scheiber, Times Staff Writer, Tampa Bay Times, February 8, 2008.
  3. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19630505&id=VJ8yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-OkFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1064,2006988 The Miami News, p 8C, May 5, 1963.
  4. ^ http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth99319/m1/8/zoom/ The Optimist (Abilene, Texas), Vol. 50 No. 27, Ed. 27, p 8, May 10, 1963.
  5. ^ "Brooks Johnson Profile". trackfield.brinkster.net. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.usatf.org/news/view.aspx?DUID=USATF_2007_03_15_13_12_38 "Thornton, Bolden slated to head 2008 Olympic Team Staff – Track & Field ", USA Track & Field, March 15, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  7. ^ a b https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/under-brooks-johnsons-tutelage-david-oliver-clears-every-hurdle/2011/05/21/AGN5shNH_story_1.html "Under Brooks Johnson’s tutelage, David Oliver clears every hurdle", Amy Shipley, The Washington Post, June 9, 2011.
  8. ^ a b http://trackmenarchives.webs.com/biographies.htm "Coach Brooks Johnson (Honorary)", The University of Florida Track & Field Archives. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  9. ^ a b http://chirpstory.com/li/1275 "A Quest for Wisdom - Exploring the Thoughts & Philosophy of Brooks Johnson", Clarence Gaines, chirpstory.com. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  10. ^ a b http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sports/77-y-o-American-coach-handpicks-athletes--relies-on-group-dynamics_8688233 "77-y-o American coach handpicks athletes, relies on group dynamics", Paul A Reid, Jamaica Observer, April 19, 2011.
  11. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/os-george-diaz-brooks-johnson-0624-20120623,0,6296003.column?page=2 "An Olympic legacy etched in a 'benevolent dictatorship'", George Diaz, Chicago Tribune, June 23, 2012
  12. ^ a b http://www.ustfccca.org/ustfccca-hall-of-fame/ustfccca-hall-of-fame-class-of-1997/brooks-johnson-ustfccca-class-of-1997 "Brooks Johnson, USTFCCCA Class of 1997", USA Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Retrieved July 19, 2012.

External links[edit]