In 1968, Bill and Evelyn Lewis started the Willingboro (N.J.) Track Club, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program. Now, 49 years later, their legendary son is carrying on a tradition they set in motion.
On Tuesday, 10-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis’ company The Perfect Method and the AAU announced their partnership. The man with nine Olympic gold medals who the International Olympic Committee once named its “Sportsman of the Century” is excited to share what he has learned with many of the country’s young athletes.
As he put it, “Life comes full circle.”
“It’s amazing,” Lewis said Friday in a phone interview. ”When I started around 1970, my mother had gone to the Pan-Am Games in the ‘50s, U.S. nationals – she brought her experiences to all of us as young kids when she and my father started the club. And now here we are, over 40 years later, taking mom’s lessons I learned as a youth and sharing it with kids again. It’s just amazing that we can layer all this information and serve it out with all the opportunities we have in this millennium.
“My mom grew up on radio, and now we’re in the internet age.”
The Perfect Method launched in January as a step-by-step training program established by Lewis, unquestionably one of the greatest athletes in the history of modern sport.
It was a long road to launch for Lewis. As he rode his bike around (he doesn’t run much anymore), Lewis saw people out on the roads with what he saw as improper running form. When a friend mentioned he should start doing instructional videos again, Lewis’ first thought?
“Great, but a DVD is so 90s!” he said with a laugh. Then it clicked. “We can put this information where someone can access it in a phone or tablet, so they can even use the information in the middle of a meet.”
As the subscription-based web portal (and soon-to-be app) was in the final stages before launch, the conversations between Lewis and those at the AAU were in motion. There was a strong desire on behalf of both organizations to ensure that young athletes had access to the best training possible.
Having been raised as an AAU athlete, Lewis didn’t need convincing that greater access to information from his end to other athletes would work well.
AAU Track & Field Chairman Charles Oliver, a former college All-American and longtime friend of Lewis known to many as “Coach O,” was an integral component in the partnership.
“The mission of AAU is to provide positive competitive opportunities for the youth of America. Carl Lewis is an iconic figure in the sport of track and field and a product of the AAU program,” Oliver said in a release. “Our partnership with Carl Lewis and The Perfect Method will provide AAU Track and Field the opportunity to have a global reach as we seek to impact young athletes and their families with our message of academic and athletic excellence.”
While track & field sprung Lewis to stardom, as he says, “running is the basis for every sport.” The partnership will not just be limited to the track.
The relationship between The Perfect Method and the AAU will debut nationwide and expand on a global level. Collaboration will begin immediately and the organizations will be announcing programs and a series of co-branded events soon, which will include training for coaches and athletes.
“The Amateur Athletic Union continually searches for ways to further develop athletes,” AAU president and CEO Dr. Roger J. Goudy said. “We feel the partnership with The Perfect Method can only enhance the training experience for all our members.”
Part of the initial agreement includes AAU Track and Field members getting the opportunity to trial the online coaching portal, which will allow coaches to teach The Perfect Method skills to their athletes.
A major aspect of the overall mission for the partnership is access to knowledge.
“The number one thing is information,” Lewis said. “I have a youth club, the CL Stars, and I try to share information with them. My mother was a physical education teacher, and we were raised with physical education as an important component of school. Now, they’ve cut PE programs across the country, and it’s an elective in most places. Knowledge is lacking, and an unintended consequence is that you no longer have P.E. teachers who are coaches. You might have a math teacher coaching. … so there’s a lot of misinformation going to kids.
“A lot of sports are now pay to play, you have kids turning pro at 13,” Lewis continued. “I want to help AAU kids stay kids. I tell them all the time, ‘You’re going to be old a heck of a lot younger than you’re going to be young.’ So now, that math teacher who is coaching has a place to learn, or maybe it’s a parent who doesn’t have time to be a coach, but they want to know that their child is getting the right information. Our company provides a way to bring the entire AAU community to one spot, giving all the information they need to share.”
Lewis admits that his access to the right information growing up was better than most. Thanks in large part to his mother’s prowess on the track, he met the legendary Jesse Owens at a young age, and Olympic medalist John Carlos helped out with the Willingboro Track Club in 1969.
His good fortune, mixed with willingness to work, are part of what made him special. The partnership of his company with AAU will provide access across sports, not just track & field.
“Now, everyone can have what I had for access,” said Lewis, who is also an assistant track coach at his alma mater, the University of Houston. “It’s amazing. I talk to coaches on other teams all the time. I don’t think information should ever be hoarded. I wish everything was shared. I don’t want to keep my secrets to myself.”
As for the future of the partnership, the 55-year-old Lewis predicts it to be bright. It includes not just coaching and training, but a mix of webinars and blog posts for the site that will be accessible to AAU coaches and teams. That includes sports psychology, diet and nutrition, the gamut of what goes into an athlete’s improved performance.
Just as he used to tweak his training methods on the track, he wants the company and the partnership with AAU to constantly evolve.
“Everyone can learn how to run correctly, whether you are a sprinter or just training for a 5K,” Lewis said. “We want to be able to talk to coaches and families from every sport, and hopefully 10 years from now when we revisit this, it will be across AAU in every sport.”
Lewis’ new venture, mixed with his original athletic venture of AAU. It appears to be a fitting match.