“When I walk in my office, I can’t walk in with a bad attitude or else the whole atmosphere changes. So you have to switch on and be ready for everybody.”- Willie Banks
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Willie Banks (@williebanks) is a well-known Olympian, having been a member of the US Olympic track team for Triple Jump in 1984 and 1988. Since then, he’s been an active member of the sport and Olympic community, serving as the President of the US Olympians Association and an organizer of the ANOC World Beach Games in San Diego in 2019. Mark and Willie talk about Willie’s experiences with the Olympics and his ongoing devotion to spreading interest in sports and track in particular.
- How Willie was able to use his resentment about the 1980 boycott of the Olympics to motivate him.
- How you need to “switch on” when you come to the office.
- How Willie used dreaming visualization for his competitions without even realizing it.
Hear how Willie has been able to turn his athletic career into spreading the word about sport and fitness.
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Hey folks. Welcome back to the unbeatable mind podcast. My name is mark divine. Super stoked to have you here today.
As you know, I know that you have a lot going on. A lot vying for your attention. And the selection of this podcast was one of 10 million things you could have chosen to do differently.
So I don’t take that lightly. I appreciate it.
My guest today, Willie Banks, is an extremely interesting individual. We’re gonna have a fun conversation, Willie. Thanks for being here.
Before I give you a little bit more detail – or probably let Willie tell us about himself in his own words – I want to enlist your help for our burpees for vets challenge.
I’ll tell the story – last December I challenged myself to do 200 burpees a day just for fun. And it was a blast right? And at the end of the month I was like “I don’t really want to stop.”
And so I was like had this really weird flash of inspiration that I wanted to do something with a team, something bigger. And I had started this Foundation a couple years earlier called the courage Foundation, which is to help veterans with post-traumatic stress. And I also had learned through that process that 22 vets a day with post-traumatic stress are committing suicide. And so I thought “what can we do about that?” I felt so powerless about that.
And I have friends and I had a client who also was a victim of that. And so that number 22 popped in my head, and burpees. And they combined. And out of that came this challenge for me to put out to my tribe to do 22 million burpees this year.
Willie: Oh my god.
Mark: I know right? That’s what they all said. It was like “oh, are you serious?” and then I said “well okay. I can’t do this alone. I’ll do a hundred thousand. That means I need 219 other people to either do a hundred thousand or let’s figure it out.”
And so I’ve got so far we’re up to about 11 million burpees I’m at 80,000 on my own chunk. I chunked it to 300 a day and it’s just a non-negotiable right? Because that commitment to that “why.”
Mark: At any rate, the whole point is we’re gonna raise awareness and money and we’re doing that. That’s why I keep harping on it. We’re raising 250,000 dollars – that’s our minimum goal. We’re at 200. We have four months left.
We’re going to use those funds to directly support vets who are suffering by putting them through the type of training that we know will help them. I mean mindfulness, breath work, yoga.
And then giving them a certified mentor who can work with them over the long haul through their real pits where they get stuck. And that’s when they’re most at risk.
Willie: That’s amazing.
Mark: Isn’t that cool? So burpeesforvets.com is the website for this challenge. The Foundation is called the courage Foundation. Their website is feedcourage.org. I’m on the board of the Foundation I don’t have anything to do with running it anymore. But I certainly want to be involved in these big challenges every year.
Willie: That’s amazing. My father was a marine…
Mark: Was he? Semper Fi…
Willie: Yeah, Semper Fi. And he treated us like his cadets. Yeah, bouncing quarters off our beds and “make it up again,” you know?
But I really respected what he did. He gave me the dignity, the training and the forthwith to become an athlete.
Mark: For sure.
Willie: And the discipline to become an athlete. When he passed away, I took it upon myself to really… To believe in what he said and took it upon myself to study the things and learn about how I can I help veterans.
And so I didn’t do your challenge because that sounds like an insane thing. I do of course but I didn’t posture I took the 22 for 22 day challenge of doing push-ups.
Mark: Oh cool.
Willie: Yes. So I did that. And I filmed it all and it’s all online.
But I praise you for what you’ve done for veterans. And what you continue to do for veterans. And much appreciated on behalf of my family.
Mark: Well they appreciate that big time. And I know your dad is up there going hooyah… Or ”hoo-rah” is what the marines would say.
It’s not too much to suffer a little bit for people who suffered and serve so boldly for us, you know what I mean?
Willie: God bless.
Mark: I hear that.
So Willie you are an Olympian. You’re heavily involved in charity. You’re involved in bringing sports across the world, and awareness. And all sorts of really interesting things. I remember… I think… I don’t remember which Olympics it was, but I remember your name and I remember seeing you in action back at like in the ’70s right?
Willie: In the ’80s.
Mark: Were you in the summer Olympics? ’84.where was that?
Willie: Los Angeles.
Mark: La. Right! That was the only Summer Olympics I’ve ever watched. How weird is that?
Because it was right up the road from me.
Willie: Exactly. So a lot of people remember that.
Mark: Yeah. So what was your sport?
Willie: I did the triple jump.
Mark: Triple jump, yeah.
Willie: So the triple jump is like long jump. Eventually you land in sand. But before you get there, you take three jumps. So hop, skip and a jump. That’s what it is.
Mark: (laughing) Hop, skip and a jump. So you basically get to play.
Willie: And that’s all I’ve done in my whole life. Is I’ve played. I’ve loved what I’ve done in track and field. I love what I’ve done in business. And it’s all been kids play…
Mark: So you mentioned your dad, and your family. Tell us… Take us back to the beginning. Like where’d you grow up and how did you really get into sports?
And how did how did you become an Olympian? Let’s start there cause not many people who can claim to be an Olympian.
Willie: That’s true. Only 120,000 of us. In the world
Mark: That’s amazing. In the world. Out of seven and a half billion people.
So I was actually born in Fairfield, California on the air force base – Travis air force base.
Mark: Travis – yeah, I’ve been there many times.
Willie: So my father was in Billiton so he had all the guys flying out. Then we went to Southern California. I lived in camp Pendleton – on camp Pendleton – and Oceanside. Yep so I graduated from Oceanside high school.
Mark: My office’s in Carlsbad. I live in Encinitas right now.
Willie: Get out of dodge! We’re neighbors. I live in Carlsbad.
Mark: Are you serious?
Willie: I live in Carlsbad right next to La Costa Canyon high school. Are you kidding me?
Mark: I know where… I drive by it all the time. So we got to come down and visit us all right? We have this little tiny office now with a little functional gym. Which is… You know where “in and out burger” is?
Willie: Of course.
Mark: Right across the street from that. Evany to Encinitas. That’s our beach there. Where we bring people to experience the ocean and the cold at night and whatnot.
And we do our SEALfit events up in Vail Lake in Temecula.
Willie: Oh cool.
Mark: There’s 400 acres. They let us use it because we’re really respectful of the environment. We always leave our campground cleaner than we found it.
And because our events are generally smaller than like say “Tough Mudder.” We like maybe have 50 people.
Willie: That’s awesome.
Mark: That’s cool. We’re neighbors. We’re gonna get together.
Willie: We will.
So I started out as a high jumper and I learned very early on that if you just enjoy and focus, you’re gonna do better. So…
And I also learned that you gotta listen to people. So when I became a triple jumper, it was my junior year in high school…
Mark: You didn’t start until your junior year….?
Willie: I didn’t start until my junior year…
Mark: I was on track and field it seemed like there’s a lot of like…. You just try everything the coach was like, “hey, willie, I need you over here.”
Willie: And that is exactly what happened. They had never had the triple jump in high school in California until my junior year. And the coach said “hey, I want you to try this.”
And I tried it and I was good. And then…
Mark: Did you hop, skip and jump a lot when you were kid?
Willie: I jumped a lot. I just jump, jump, jump. I jumped so much that my parents thought there was something wrong with me. Seriously. Took me to a psychologist, said “what is wrong with this guy?”
And he said, “Well there’s nothing wrong. Just get him involved in activities and he’ll calm down.”
Mark: That reminds me of my grandson. I actually have a grandson through my oldest stepdaughter and this kid will not stay put. Like he’s eight years old he’s like…
Willie: All over the place.
Mark: While we’re at the old training center – he’s like monkeying up that – he climbs the rope. 20-foot. He’s up there “hey, look at me pop.” and he’s climbing all over the monkey gyms and the pull-up bars and everyone’s like “oh my god. He’s gonna fall.”
And I’m like “you don’t know this kid.”
Willie: That was what it was all about.
Mark: When you say “jump,” I imagine like going up and down, up and down…
Willie: Well no. I would jump on things. I would jump up on top of the couch. And then on top of the Chester drawer. I would jump off of the roof.
Mark: Sounds like Parkour.
Willie: It was.
Mark: Have you ever done a vertical? What’s your max vertical jump?
Willie: Oh gosh. I was like 42.
Mark: That’s awesome. So you just loved to jump.
Willie: I loved it. It was the only thing I wanted to do. And I would get hurt, but who cared? Just keep on going, that was my motto “just keep going.”
Mark: Did you like to run too? Were you a runner?
Willie: Not so much.
Mark: It was painful, right?
Willie: So when track started, they were always looking for somebody to run. “I’ll be over here laying in the high jump pit. You guys go ahead and take care of that.”
But no I was not a much of a runner. But I had to run in the long and the triple jump. So that’s when I practiced the running.
Mark: Right. Short little distance, right?
Willie: That’s right. So when I come here to the Spartan and I see what you do on SEALfit, I can’t even imagine doing that with my body-type and with my mindset. I can’t imagine doing it, so I am so impressed by what I see here…
Mark: People just go the long haul and suck it up. That’s cool.
Willie: When someone tells me “yeah, I’m going on a hundred mile run.” I barely can make a hundred mile drive in a car. I get so tired.
And so it’s amazing…
Different Kinds of Mindset
Mark: So mental toughness and focus and success with your body/mind system can show up in many different forms. You know what I mean?
Mark: We were just talking to a guy who climbed Everest one step at a time. Crazy.
Willie: I’ve been up Mount Whitney and the last maybe 400 meters, I was ready to turn around. I didn’t think I was going to make it. It was inch, inch, inch, inch, inch. That’s about it.
Willie: So it is it not easy. I don’t have the mindset that you all have. But I know how powerful the mind is. I know how powerful the mind… I could probably do it but that’s only because I know what the mind can do. And I’ve used that for a long time.
Mark: But you had the mindset to become an Olympian so you’re being… Your humility is showing here.
Willie: Let’s say there’s two parts to the mind. There’s the mind… There’s your conscious mind, your subconscious right?
Willie: And you have to control the conscious mind. You don’t have to worry about the subconscious mind. My problem was I geared my mind – the subconscious mind – to quick hurt. And you have geared your mind to the long hurt.
Willie: I’m not there. I could if I had to because I can slug it out, because I’ve walked up that hill. I’ve walked across Whitney I mean I’m sorry… I’ve walked across the Sierra Nevadas when I was a young kid. And that’s what we did we just hiked in boy scouts – I’m an eagle scout, and so we learned how to hike. And I just hiked and I learned how to use that mental toughness that you have.
But then as an athlete doing the triple jump, the long jump, the high jump it’s all quick. Explosive.
Mark: It’s all fast-twitch muscles.
Willie: Yeah. And I didn’t have to do a lot of long, drawn-out pain control.
Mark: Was the hardest thing for you about that sport?
Willie: Getting through the pain, yeah. It’s just as painful… For instance…
Mark: The painful part is the sprint?
Willie: The painful part is the jump in the triple jump. Because you’re gonna come down you’re gonna land. And it’s 20 feet. I jump 20 feet I land on my right leg and keep going.
It’s like jumping off of a roof okay and landing on one leg.
Mark: Could you break a bone or twist ankles?
Willie: Done it all. Broken ankles, broken feet… I don’t have sesamoids anymore.
Mark: I don’t even know what a sesamoid is, but the fact you don’t have them is impressive.
Willie: The ball of your foot is all ripped up. It’s like crazy. I will not take my shoes off.
So it’s just your mind can do some crazy things.
I remember this one time, I was at UCLA and we had a big dual meet against our archenemy USC. I was a freshman and we had… On both teams we had Olympians, we had world champions… We had some of the greatest athletes in the world on either side of the team.
And I was just a freshman joining this team. And I’ll never forget – the night before I went out with my girlfriend, came back and I told her I said ” I think I’m gonna win this.” and she’s like “you’re a freshman, idiot.” and I said, “no, no. I feel pretty good. So I went to bed I laid on my bed and I was just thinking and it’s like I woke up. It’s like I woke up and I guess I’d been going through this dream for like an hour. I didn’t even realize it. And I was soaked with sweat…
Mark: The dream was you telling your girlfriend you’re gonna win?
Willie: I’m sorry, the dream was me going through the competition in my head. And I woke up and I was drenched with sweat. And I went to sleep. The next day I got up and I wanted to do what I did in the dream.
Went down there. I beat the Olympic champion in the long jump and I bet beat the two-time NCAA champion in the triple jump. And I won the meet on my last jump. I jumped the national record 55.1.
And it was all because I went through that process the night before.
Mark: Which you didn’t intentionally do. It wasn’t like you were going through a structured visualization.
Willie: No it wasn’t at all. I didn’t even know what visualization was, until later on when they explained the visualization… I said ” I think I did that my freshman year.”
It’s amazing. So then I started studying the brain and I realized that the conscious mind can do four things at one time. The subconscious mind can do four million things at one time. And I realized that that’s a whole ‘nother way of training and
Mark: A whole ‘nother level.
Willie: And a whole ‘nother way of being. If you understand that concept. So you train to let your conscious mind understand what you’re doing. Once the conscious mind gets it, it does it perfectly every time. That’s why an athlete trains and then goes out and performs. Because once you’re in performance mode, you don’t think about it, you just do.
Mark: Just do. Yeah. That’s fascinating. It’s really like you got me like doing some mind matching on how that could have happened.
Like, you must have a very visual mind. Where you thought a lot – with imagery – about the events. So without knowing it you were probably visualizing it. And then when you laid down the movie started playing of the performance without you activating it. It just kind of started playing.
And when you went to sleep, you weren’t probably completely asleep. It’s more like a lucid dream.
Willie: It’s what some people call daydreaming, and every one of us does it. But we use it wrong.
Mark: We just let it go randomly as fantasy.
Willie: Yeah, so what people don’t understand and what I realized three, four years ago when I started teaching girls softball… I’m not a softball coach… But I noted that girls dream a lot. They sit there and they kind of go off into this little thing and they’re thinking in their head. They’re just running a mile a minute right? Just a mile a minute.
And I realized I could use that. So I would take the girls…. Especially the ones that really couldn’t focus… I’d take them and I’d say “let’s try this little game here. Let’s try this little game.”
And they’d be like going crazy, you know? And I go “okay, come on.” and then I’d focus them. And I would drop something right in front of them. And they would try and catch it. And I would drop it and they couldn’t catch it. And then I would start talking to them and I say “so what is your boyfriend doing today?” and I would drop it and they would catch it.
Mark: That’s cool.
Willie: Because they stopped thinking about it. And they let their body do it. And do you know that team went from the last in the league to the eighth best team in the state. And the thirty-second best team in the nation. From last to one of the best.
Mark: That’s cool.
Willie: It’s because they focused. They learned.
We would stand in a circle and we would drop something in front of each other just around the circle and that thing would not drop to the ground. The pen would not drop to the ground, because they were all so focused.
Mark: They weren’t focusing on the pen…
Willie: They weren’t focusing on the pen. They were letting their body do it.
Mark: That reminds me of this drill that my Tai Chi instructor – will potter – used to do with me. See if I can get this right.
So he would hold a quarter up and I would have my hand about a foot beneath it. And then he would drop the quarter and I have to catch it.
It’s very hard to do if you’re thinking.
Willie: If you’re thinking, right?
Mark: And it’s impossible to do if you’re looking at the quarter. And so what you learn to do is just like really soften your gaze and you start breathing. So you focus on your breath. He drops the quarter, and you just go “pop.”
Willie: Because you let your brain shut down and you let your subconscious take over.
It’s like blinking. You don’t have to tell your body to blink. It does it automatically. You don’t have to tell your body to lift your lip. It does it when you smile. The brain is an amazing thing and we stop it from doing what it perfectly.
Mark: We get in our own way.
Becoming an Olympian
Mark: So we can come back to that. That is so interesting to me. But a little bit more about becoming an Olympian.
Okay so part of that I imagine so you’re on this team with all these Olympians… It’s super inspiring. You obviously had a lot of natural talent right? Or else you wouldn’t have beat these people and set national records.
But that’s only part of it isn’t it? It’s like I mean obviously those things have to happen. Inspiration. Great coaching. Raw talent. But you were a freshman and then you had to go do it again as a sophomore, as a junior, as a senior.
Willie: That’s right.
Mark: Bomp, bomp bomp. Many, many years until you perform in the Olympics in 1984.
Would you say the hardest part is just showing up every day then? What is the hardest part for you?
Willie: The first step is always the hardest. The first step. The actual standing there and deciding “okay, today I’m going to do something that no one else in the world has ever done.” and making that first step. Because the first step is the hardest…
Mark: Do you say that every day?
Willie: Every day I walk out there.
Mark: And does that mean really ” I’m gonna do the best I can…? I’m gonna do better than I did yesterday.” I mean how does that practically show up?
Willie: Every day I wanted to go out there and do… If I wasn’t gonna do one thing better, I was going to do something better. Better than I’d ever done before. Better than anyone else has ever done before.
And you have to have that mindset in order to improve.
Mark: What if I run out of things to improve?
Willie: You can never run out of things to improve. It’s impossible to run out of things. Because there’s so many things involved.
Mark: So give us an example of how that played out for you.
Willie: So for instance when we warm up we didn’t do static warm-ups we would do… We would go around the track two times and we would do different exercises. Skipping, jumping, lunging. All kinds of different exercises. And I was training with… Who is currently the world-record holder in the long jump. His name is Mike Powell. Mike and I would go together and we would start training. And we would start out. I was so out of breath… So tired after the warm-up…
Mark: (laughing) so your warm-up was other people’s workout.
Willie: Exactly. It was. And I had to come to practice with a certain mindset. If I came just like blah, blah, blah, I would be destroyed by Mike.
Mark: Just in the warm-up?
Willie: In the warm-up. And so every day it was like, “okay, we’re getting to practice. Take that first step.” boom. And we win. And it was just an hour to three hours of hard training. I loved it. It was the best time of my life.
Mark: Mm-hmm. That’s cool. And just to do that every day. Show up every day just to prove something…
Willie: Make that first step.
And it’s the same. I mean, every time I go to the office is the same thing. I’m sure it’s the same thing with you. When you take that first step in office you don’t just walk in.
Mark: No it’s like switch on.
Willie: Switch on. Because I know you are a motivator. And if you walk in unmotivated, you’ve destroyed the whole group that you’re with right?
Mark: That’s true.
Willie: You have to switch on. And the same with me. When I walk in my office I can’t walk in with a bad attitude, or else the whole atmosphere changes. So you have to switch on, be ready for everybody and everything that comes your way.
Mark: Yeah, everybody needs to do that frankly. Everyone on the team. That’s one of the key tenets… You just hit on for me, because one of the things I do… That I’m expert at is building elite teams. Because my seal team experience, but through SEALfit it’s all about the team.
And the team will drop to the level of the lowest common denominator. And that’s energy and attitude.
Mark: Rarely is it showed up in performance. That’s a lag indicator. Energy and attitude. And so everyone needs to show up as their best self every day. And teams can train to do that, right?
So the great teams – the winning teams that produced the most records and the most winning athletes and most Olympians, because the team naturally holds everyone to that standard right?
Willie: Exactly. And that’s why it amazes me when people are amazed at how well the United States does in Olympic competition. We hold the most medals. We have the most records. And they go “why.”
Mark: Because the mindset pervades all those sports.
Mark: Everyone has to step up.
Willie: When you bring in a team and that team is the best in the world, everybody around them is going to…
Mark: Feel the best in the world…
Willie: Right, they’re gonna feel it. They held – here in Squaw Valley in 1968 – they held a training… This was their training camp for Mexico City. They knew they were going to Mexico City and altitude. So they held the training here in Squaw Valley.
And I talked to all these guys. In fact I’m gonna be the master of ceremonies at the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic team.
Mark: No kidding? How cool is that.
Willie: And one of the things they talk about is being able to be here, and train together. And watch each other. And do you know the United States broke… I think it was like eight world records. They brought home… I think it was 25 medals. It was an amazing thing. It was the best Olympic team that the United States had ever assembled.
Mark: Really? 1968.
Willie: 1968. It was amazing.
Mark: That is pretty amazing.
Willie: And it’s just because they got all these champions together. All these alphas. Let them go.
Mark: Right. That’s fascinating.
So after your Olympics you clearly stayed involved in this sport. How did that happen and what does that look like?
Willie: Well there’s a reason for that. One reason that people get involved in anything is they feel either a kinship to it or they feel like they’ve been ripped off somehow. I thought like I was ripped off somehow. I was one of those.
And the reason why is because in 1980, I was the best triple jumper in the world. I had beaten everyone. And because we went because the Russians went into Afghanistan.
Mark: We cancelled it. Reagan boycotted it.
Willie: No, it was jimmy carter.
Mark: Oh, carter.
Willie: And I was furious. I didn’t get to go. And so that’s how I got involved the politics of sports.
Mark: Interesting. So you competed in ’84 though. Yeah I made the ’80 team, competed in ’84.
Mark: Did you win a medal?
Mark: But you would have you think in ’80
Willie: ’80. Definitely.
Mark: Okay, yeah. Okay, so you felt ripped off. And you wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to other athletes.
Willie: So I got involved and I’ve been involved ever since. Because I know…
Mark: And people say politics shouldn’t be involved in sports and vice versa. And I’m fully with that right?
What do you think…? This is a huge leap from that… But what do you think about banning the Russians for doping?
Willie: Yeah, see I think that’s a little bit different. I don’t think that’s politics, I think that everyone knows that you have to play by the rules.
Mark: I see.
Willie: And that’s a little bit different. Their politicians didn’t stop them. It was the fact that they actually tried to cheat. That’s cheating.
So sport is just a game that has rules right? It’s an activity that has rules. And if you break the rules you’re no longer playing the game. And that’s how athletes in our sport feel. If someone’s cheating by using drugs or performance-enhancing whatever it is… We feel cheated. And so we don’t want those people to participate, because they’ve taken our sport and turned it into something else.
Mark: I’m trying to go back in my mind. So I was at the 1980 winter Olympics. So the summer Olympics happened before that. Jimmy Carter was just was…
Willie: No, no. The winter Olympics happened before. So they were able to go. And the summer happened later.
Mark: But wasn’t Reagan elected in 1980?
Willie: He was elected in 1980 yeah he was a lessee he was elected in 1980 and then jimmy carter, remember he had the Iran crisis… So he was elected, but he didn’t come in to… Reagan didn’t come into office until January of ’81.
Mark: Oh I see. Yes, so you were caught up in that yeah.
Willie: It was crazy.
Mark: Why did he allow the winter Olympics to go on? Oh, it was because winter Olympics were in lake placid… Now it’s coming together for me. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.
Willie: That’s okay. No, it’s a little bit vague.
Mark: It’s so crazy, because I mean here we are we beat the Russians on the ice.
Mark: And then six months later he wouldn’t even let the US team go to Afghanistan?
Willie: Yeah, that’s weakness.
Mark: That is weakness.
Mark: So what impact do you think you’ve had on Olympic sport in the role post-Olympian? In your role as an advisor-slash-mentor-slash-whatever you would call that your various roles have been.
Willie well, let me put it to you this way. In 1980 – after the boycott and everything – a group of us got together and we decided “no more. We’re not gonna put up with this anymore. There’s no longer gonna be this thing called amateurism. It’s a farce. When people can lose their abilities to become financially stable by a politician just saying we can’t we’re not going to the Olympic Games.”
So we got together and we created a way for athletes to make money through what is called a trust-fund system. Money went into this trust fund and you can do it… Eventually that all broke up and now we’ve got pros competing and everything. So I would say that is one legacy that I would like to say is partly mine.
And the former executive director or CEO…
Mark: That was back, by the way, when you couldn’t be pro and an Olympian.
Willie: That’s correct.
Mark: When and why did they change that role?
Willie: We changed it in 1980-81.
Mark: Right around the same time.
Willie: Yeah. Because after that boycott what…
Mark: Everyone else was sending pro athletes.
Willie: Well depends on how you define pro. They were sending military people.
Mark: Yeah. People on the payroll.
Willie: People on the payroll. They say, “Well, they’re not competing for money.”
They were training. I mean they were getting paid for training. So what’s the difference? So yeah we….
Mark: I felt like a pro athlete as a navy seal by the way. Getting paid to train every day.
Willie: I’m sure, yeah. Getting paid to train. That’s some fun stuff, isn’t it?
Mark: Great stuff, yeah.
Willie: Yeah. I love it.
So I’d like to … The other thing I’d like to claim is I think I brought a little bit more athlete managed sport. So I helped to push the idea of an athlete’s committee which would be part of the decision making of issues in… Well, track and field…
Mark: Because there was too much separation between the decision makers and the actual athletes. Yeah, that makes sense.
Willie: Yeah, we needed to bring that closer together.
Willie: And then the United States passed a law actually in ’78 giving the athletes at least a 20 percent representation on all decision-making bodies. So we took that and we just shoved it down their throats. And said, “from now on, we’re taking our 20 percent at least.”
And I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing.
Mark: Mm-hmm. That’s fascinating. It reminds me… I worked with the US women’s velodrome team that won a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. And what you’re talking about is a big issue with them. Because they had this big kind of disconnect they didn’t have any funding compared to the brits and the other people who are like dominating the sport. And then they had the coaching staff was basically just spoon-feeding them their training plan, and they’re like “yeah, this isn’t working for us.”
And they weren’t getting the feedback. There’s this huge disconnect right? And I imagine that happens probably different degrees in different sports. Depending upon how well the coaching staff integrates with the athletes.
And so one of the biggest things we did – probably the most formative thing – is we elected the team captain. Because they didn’t have them. They’re a four-person team. Just then. The four of them. The entire sport.
And then we had them have a like a come-to-Jesus meeting with the coaching staff and say “listen, we want input on our training plan. Because we actually know what we need.”
Willie: How about that?
Mark: Right. And they said “okay.” and they started to change the training and mold it to their conditions, and to start doing a lot of that tracking. Kind of the optimized self type stuff.
And they started just all their time just kept ticking up, ticking up, ticking up and then they nailed it. Won a silver medal.
That’s pretty cool. And one simple shift.
Willie: That’s awesome. I love that.
Mark: So ultimately coaches don’t have all the answers, right? The athletes have a lot of the answers inside themselves. But they need to be held accountable. And they need the expertise of the coach, but sometimes you need to let them do what they do best, right?
Willie: I’m 100% behind that idea.
Mark: That’s cool. What do you do now? Like, what’s your main focus these days?
Willie: So right now, I’m the CEO and president of the ANOC world beach games – it’s the association of national Olympic committees. They’re having their very first world beach games down in San Diego. And October 9th through the 14th of 2019…
Mark: World beach games. What type of sports do we get…?
Willie: We’re gonna have surfing, kite-surfing, skateboarding, beach soccer, beach handball, beach tennis.
Willie: Yeah, we’re gonna have 17…
Mark: Beach tennis?
Willie: Yeah. Beach tennis is an awesome sport. You’ve got to check it out.
Mark: I’ve never seen a tennis ball bounce on sand.
Willie: It doesn’t bounce on sand. It’s just over it. It’s kind of like badminton, but only with like a tennis ball.
Mark: Oh cool. Interesting.
Will. Yeah. It’s very quick, it’s very fun. And you’ll see some great athletes playing it.
So we have that. Then we have we’re about to see a ski jump…
Mark: Whereabouts in San Diego?
Willie: It’s gonna be Mission Beach.
Mark: Sure. Awesome.
So yeah well we’ll synchronize on that. I’d love to come help you out…
Willie: That’d be awesome. Glad to have you down there.
Mark: Yeah, that’d be cool cause that’s – yeah, you’re my neighbor after all.
Willie: We’re neighbors, come on. Carpool.
Mark: The ski jump does not happen on the beach? That’s something different?
Willie: That’s gonna be in the bay. Right behind the beach.
Mark: Like water ski jump…
Willie: Yeah, water ski jump.
Mark: I used to water ski competitively way back when. Upstate New York when I was a kid. Slalom… I never went off the ski jump though. That looked a little too…
Willie: Have you done wakeboard?
Mark: I have not tried wakeboarding yet, no.
Willie: Yeah, we’re gonna have wakeboard, but… Yeah.
Mark: That’s one of those things. I’m just a creature of habit when I get behind a boat and I love slalom skiing.
Mark: And we have a course upon Lake Placid. My family has a summer house in lake placid, New York.
Willie: That’s another Olympic place.
Mark: It is yeah.
Willie: That’s cool, fantastic.
Mark: You live in Japan.
Willie: I lived in Japan for three years…
Mark: But not anymore…?
Willie: Not anymore. I moved back and we moved to Atlanta. I did the Atlanta Olympic Games. And then from Atlanta I moved to Carlsbad and I’ve been in Carlsbad ever since.
Mark: Do you think you’re gonna stay there?
Willie oh yeah. My wife won’t let me move any further than 15 minutes away from the Jazzercise headquarters. Because she’s a fanatic.
Mark: (laughing) that’s awesome.
I don’t know what to do… But she’s like me we love to dance and we dance fitness is… So I do a lot of Zumba, a lot of Jazzercise.
Mark: My wife is into Zumba and Jazzercise. It reminds me when I was in college I went to one aerobics class… I mean Jazzercise… It’s basically aerobics like what it was in the ’80s.
This solo guy in the class of 45 women or young girls I should say. Because we’re talking about freshman year of college. That was an awesome experience.
For a couple different reasons. The girls being number one. Number two is I looked like the biggest fool ever, and I never went back.
Mark: I wish I had though. What a great exercise that is.
Willie: I just loved it – I fell in love with it. I did the first one. I was like you guys a little bit, kind of tough all these women around. But there was all these women around.
So I got into it and now I’m just… I’ll pit myself against any other women dancing anytime.
Mark: That’s awesome.
So you got the summer the ANOC…?
Willie: Yeah. Association of national Olympic committees.
Mark: Okay, the beach games next summer. And then what’s next after that? Like what are the things to solve?
Willie: Well I sit on the world Olympian association executive committee. And we are trying to, of course, attack this epidemic of obesity that we have in our children. So we have 120,000 Olympians alive, and we are encouraging each one of them to do something in their community that will help kids to learn how to either eat right, or to exercise, or to do something that focuses more on getting out in public rather than sitting in their house and playing games or something like that.
So we have a mission and we’re pushing that mission hard. I believe that we can have a big effect on this – the upcoming generation of kids.
Mark: Oh it’s critical. I mean, the trend is that 50% of our population is gonna be obese in like 20 years they say or something like that… I don’t know the exact… Maybe you do.
But it’s irrelevant, it’s going in the wrong direction. Still. With all the information we have.
Well good for you. Thanks for doing that.
Is there any place that people learn more about that? Or how do people find out about some of the important things…?
Willie: So the world Olympian association would be olympians.org. You can go on there and you can find the Olympians.
As far as the world beach games you can look up awbg2019.org.
Mark: That’s a mouthful but we’ll put it on the website.
Willie: Put it on the website for me.
Mark: And how do folks find out more about you? You have a Facebook…?
Willie: Yeah, I’ve got Facebook Willie Banks, Instagram Willie Banks, I have… Let’s see what else…? Linkedin Willie Banks. Everything’s Willie Banks.
Mark: All the Willie Banks stuff.
Willie: Just look “Willie Banks,” and you’ll find me.
Mark: Just Google it.
Willie: Thank you.
Mark: Yeah man. It’s been great to meet you.
Willie: Yeah. You too neighbor. I hope I see you over there.
Mark: I look forward to getting together.
Willie: Yeah, I’ll race you now that you got a bad foot.
Mark: (laughing) uh-oh. Don’t challenge me. I’ll break it again.
Willie: Okay. Thank you so much.
Mark: Thank you.
That’s it folks. Willie banks. Check him out. I’m gonna try to get down to those beach games – that sounds like fun. It really does and Mission Bay is an awesome place.
So yeah, let’s help him get the word out on obesity with children, get them moving, get them eating properly. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy, right? These kids, they just need some inspiration. So we can do our part here and let’s help Willie out in that cause. Thanks so much like I said earlier for your for your support here. Thanks for your support for the burpees for vets. Super appreciate it. And until next time, stay focused, do the work every day and be unbeatable.