Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taking a Look at Franz Stampfl

Being a Cerutty guy I have to admit that I knew little about his "rival" Franz Stampfl. His book,Franz Stampfl on Running published in 1955,sat on my bookshelf unread for many years.Recently I started to read it and from there I looked into his bio on Wikipedia. If you are unfamiliar with this Austrian born coach who coached British and later Australian athletes,I would encourage you to read the Wikipedia entry for starters. He was a fascinating man who underwent many trials and hardships during World War II.Perhaps best known for advising Roger Bannister prior to his becoming the first sub- four minute miler,he also successfully coached other athletes in a variety of distances and sports.
As I continued reading about him, I was struck by how similar many of his views were to Ceruttys'. Like Percy,he believed in allowing his athletes to become independent thinkers,not just willing "slaves" to a coach.Stampfl also believed the ideal athlete would develop himself mentally and spiritually,as well as physically.Both him and Percy recognized that hard training "nursed and nurtured" the competitive spirit. Stampfl wrote: "closely fought races are won at the moment when physical and mental pressure are at their greatest;the man who,as the result of training,can best cope with that pressure is the one who will run out the winner."
Stampfl first used the phrase "will to win" which I saw referenced years later in a Cerutty book.
He offers the following insightful observation: "Every competitor wants to win but not all have the will to win. This is a much stronger emotion and varies in intensity with the mental make-up of the individual. To that extent it is inherent but,like all other inherent qualities,it is capable of tremendous development under training and stimulus,or of near extinction under neglect.In every hard fought race there comes a time when a man continues to run though his lungs are bursting and every muscle in his body aches with fatigue,when his brain is dulled from pain and lack of oxygen and his legs are leaden(editor:I'm sure we've all experienced those feelings).At such moments the body underrates its own ability;it telegraphs that it can do no more when,in fact,it is still far from spent. The brain compels it to carry on but can do so only for a short time. After that,instinct takes over,the instinct for survival which is present in every human being but which from long training is greatly intensified in the athlete. With instinct in control,a numbness of the senses follows,pain and fatigue recede from the consciousness and only the compelling urge to run and keep running remains.This is the competitive spirit--a combination of will-power and instinct which,merging together,produce a higher quality in man,a singleness of purpose which sweeps aside the protests of a failing body and produces deeds of athletic heroism."
I don't believe I have ever read a better account of what goes on,and what needs to exist, in runners who are  reaching that critical period near the end of every race.

1 comment:

  1. I'm having trouble putting up a picture of Franz--will try to do so again tomorrow.His experiences during WWII were unbelievable. He was fascinating man.