Jan. 24, 2007
By Kerry Capps, The Orange & White, January 21, 2007
Travis Padgett sat in Charles Foster’s office in August and faced a familiar question as part of the Tiger sprint coach’s preseason ritual.
“What are your goals for the season?” Foster asked.
Foster wanted specifics, and Padgett responded with a pair of eye-popping numbers: 6.50 seconds in the 60 meters indoors, and 9.92 seconds in the 100 meters outdoors – both times faster than those that won NCAA titles a year ago.
“When you have goals that lofty, it raises my eyebrows,” said Foster. “So the next thing I ask is, ‘If you take me out of it, how are you planning to get there?’ And I’ll just listen.
“In a nutshell, that’s the way Airese Currie and Tye Hill and all the champions who have come through here. When I ask them that question, they usually squirm. Shawn Crawford squirmed. He said ‘I’m just gonna run, coach, I’m just gonna run faster.’
“I won’t accept that. I don’t know what that means and neither do they. I tell them not to bring those kinds of numbers to me if they don’t know how they’re going to get there.
“When I ask them that question, I want them either to take a stab at it, based on what they’ve already done; or I want to hear, ‘Coach, if I take you out of it, I can’t do it.’ Because if I hear that, it tells me they understand the need for information, and then we’re on the right track. Motivation isn’t enough. It’s not a ‘you’ or a ‘me’ thing – it’s a ‘we’ thing. That needs to be understood.”
Foster was well-satisfied with Padgett’s response, and with the work that the Tiger sophomore put in during the off-season to further his goals.
His training plan for an elite sprinter like Padgett, who ran a 10.0 100 and competed for the national title as a freshman, might seem a bit round-about and off the beaten path.
Padgett and many of his teammates spent time in the fall strapped into a harness, dragging SUV tires up and the dike adjacent to Rock Norman track.
“We have a dozen sport utility vehicle tires that we rigged up with a harness system for ‘towing,’ as we call it,” Foster explained. “At Clemson we have the great privilege of having the levies out there, holding the water back and keeping us from drowning. I’ve found another great use for them. The guys call it a ‘cliff.’ I assure them that it’s not quite a cliff.
“We’re trying to do the best that we can to defy the constant pull of gravity. The more we can do that, the better performances we’re going to get. The stronger we can become at defying the pull of gravity, as compared to the people we compete against, I believe that gives us an edge.
“I’ve sold my guys on that, and they’ve bought in on it. The rookies don’t really understand the workload, but it doesn’t take long for them to get the picture. At the same time, they know what to look forward to because of the work we put in on the front end.”
Padgett, like most newcomers to the Clemson program, had accepted the basic principles of Foster’s training methods before he arrived in the fall of 2005.
“When we recruit athletes, we talk a lot; so by the time they get here, they have a pretty good understanding of what my philosophy is,” Foster said. “One of the reasons we get good quality athletes is that they’ve already bought in on what I tell them up front. Then once they get here, we start work.
“When Travis came in last fall, he’d never worked that hard in his life – even though we had discussed it. During the course of last year, he really bought into it, and he’s probably going be a guy I have to slow down rather than push this year. “He knows what the next step is. He’s surpassed the first step, so when he comes to practice, motivation is not the issue any more. He knows what he wants. There’s a really good chance for him to do some special things during his short period of athletic prowess. He wants to take a shot and see what he can do.”
Foster said his immediate strategy for Padgett involves lengthening his stride.
“Travis is 5-8 and about 175 pounds,” Foster said. “You can look at him and tell that he’s well-chiseled. What I’m trying to with him is to get him to maintain his same degree of leg-frequency, picking them up and putting them down, while adding another six inches to each step he makes.
“We can do that through two means. One is to add flexibility; another is to achieve greater strengthening of the lower extremities and a better arm-swing, to thrust yourself forwardŠIf you can add both of those it gets easier, because you can add three inches through flexibility and three inches through power. That’s what we’re going to try to do this year – get him stretched out just a little bit better and get him stronger.
“We don’t want to lose any of his frequency. Part of Travis’ talent lies in his ability to pick ’em up and put ’em down. Few people can turn it over like Travis. Maurice Greene can’t do it. Tim Montgomery can’t do it. Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin can’t do it. Shawn Crawford is just about the same, though Travis may even have Shawn beat as far as turning it over. That’s his forte.”
Foster said there is a similar, individualized plan in place for each of Clemson’s sprinters and hurdlers.
“Each fall, I sit down with each one of my athletes individually and we talk about what they want to accomplish,” he said. “I ask them to set specific goals. Because while we’re in the conditioning phase there are certain things we can do together. But when it comes to technical stuff, every single sprinter is different.
“Gwantaveus Anderson has a chance to be another star. And had Corey Brown not had a motorcycle accident last year, I’m not sure that Travis would be as prominent as he is right now. Corey ran 6.65 (60 meters) in his first meet last year and beat Travis. Where would the graduation of improvement have taken him, without the setback? I don’t know. Travis wasn’t beating him. And at 6-3 and almost 200 pounds, he could just about get out with Travis. And then he could come get him.
“Don’t overlook Corey. He has a new attitude and a mission, because he saw it work. He knows that at one time last year, he was ahead of the game.”
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