They risk being drowned out by more traditional university public relations fodder, but good things are happening in the bowels of the oversized Quonset hut formerly known as the minidome – really good things.
President Emeritus Paul Stanton appeared at a low-key news conference last week to celebrate a fresh accomplishment of Mike and Meg Stone, the dynamic duo he hired nearly a decade ago and who lead ETSU’s Center of Excellence in Sport Science and Coach Education. Like his last such visit, this one centered around an offshoot of the center, albeit a most impressive one.
ETSU’s designation as an Olympic Training site for the U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams was the second sport designation in less than a year. It builds further on the foundation started when ETSU first gained the right to fly the Olympic rings in 2012 with weightlifting designation.
Stanton made it clear that this good fortune (its significance still not fully grasped in this metro area, I believe) is very much due to the Stones. Mike is a publicity shy, world-renowned sport and performance scientist. Meg, a former Olympian for her native Scotland and indefatigable enthusiast for all things sport performance, is a tough yet charming go-getter.
Around them they have assembled an ever-growing team of top-flight researchers, teachers, graduate students, coaches and athletes. In many ways, the program is all about the Stones. Yet its wild if underappreciated success seems to me precisely due to the fact that, for the Stones, it isn’t all about them at all.
“I knew they were good,” Stanton reflected on his thoughts when he hired the couple. “But special things started happening.” He ticked off the development of a doctoral program in sport physiology and sport performance (at the time the only one in the country) and the center of excellence.
Eventually, the pair came to Stanton’s office and pitched the Olympic site idea.
Stanton said he was skeptical, but “it was one of those cases where you sort of wind somebody up and get out of their way, and before long people were coming from all over the country, and in some cases all over the world.”
The rest is history that still is being made. Folks are still coming from all over the country and the world. The last two announcements have been largely down to the arrival last year of Brad DeWeese, who spent several years training Olympic athletes at Lake Placid.
Last week, DeWeese said the Stones don’t ask for recognition or thank yous, even though in his estimation they might be at least indirectly responsible for more Olympic medals the last two decades than anyone in the world.
“If you ask any coach in international competition, they know who these individuals are, and most of the time they use the training theories and the recommendations that they provide. Regardless who wins the medal you can typically trace it back to the last name of Stone.”
I’ve interviewed enough of the Stones’ doctoral students to believe it. Wherever they’ve come here from, they’ll typically mention expressing their interest in sport science to a professor, who then said, “let me tell you about Mike Stone,” or words to that effect.
That’s why guys like DeWeese are willing to leave the relative glamor of Lake Placid to toil in the relative obscurity of the minidome. They know what we have here.
Change is hard, though, and the Stones aren’t typical “strength coaches.” I’m pretty sure they haven’t always had the easiest go of it here. Their methods – gospel to the world’s best coaches and athletes – have been justifiably embraced by some within ETSU’s athletic community, but not by all. They’re adults and they carry on, greatly to the university’s benefit and to our benefit as a community.
I just hope these prophets eventually gain more honor in their own adopted hometown. They certainly deserve it.