by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com
Greetings from Lake Placid, NY.
I am here this week doing more research on the area which I feel is as inspiring as any place in U.S. sports history, and working with The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB to develop staff building retreats here for college coaches to bond in their off season.
Lake Placid is the only U.S. city to host two Winter Olympics. As you build your staff, you may be challenged. Going into the 1980 Winter Games the Lake Placid Olympic committee president was Ron MacKenzie, their retired postmaster. He designed many of the ski cross country trails. When he tragically passed away in 1978, the new Lake Placid Olympic committee president was Rev. Bernie Fell, preacher at the local United Methodist church. He had been the town policeman, but got shot and changed work professions to the ministry after that. The town dentist had come up with many of the marketing materials back when they pitched for the 1980 Games.
They shut down schools for five weeks in the winter of 1980 so that town folks could volunteer. Lake Placid High School was made the media center. With the world’s elite media liking their wine and such, Lake Placid High remains the only high school ever in America to have a liquor license (a copy hangs in the current superintendent’s office today!). You can see it below just to the left of the famous track where Eric Heiden became the first to win 5 Olympic Golds in one Games.
Like you have to be resourceful with budget, so did they. They got government funding for the Olympic Village by saying it could be turned into a penitentiary right after the Games. This annoyed the Soviet athletes to no end, being in rooms 7 1’2 feet by 13 1/2 feet. Coach Herb Brooks brought in double wides for his team.
After their loss in the Miracle on Ice, clean up workers found numerous Soviet hockey silver medals in the trash in their rooms after the 1980 Games. John Gotti, years later, would spend time in this jail.
We know the Opening Ceremonies today as sometimes over the top productions with unlimited budgets. In February of 1980, the Opening Ceremonies were at Lake Placid horse grounds with portable bleachers brought in. However, it was a beautiful ceremony with little Scott Hamilton leading the U.S. athletes onto the grounds. Just 5 feet and 100 pounds, the US athletes were inspired how he had been adopted, had stopped growing with the initial diagnosis of cystic fibrosis and certain death, yet with his adopted parents relentless search had found a solution.
Lake Placid would produce one of the most memorable Olympics ever – with the Miracle on Ice and Heiden’s 5 golds in speed skating leading the way.
There is a spirit in Lake Placid unlike any other sports location I have experienced in my 52 years on earth. This little village has produced someone in the Winter Olympics every year since 1924.
Billy Fiske, the lead driver of the 1932 gold medal US olympic bobsled team in Lake Placid, would become the first American to die in WWII, joining the Royal Air Force in 1940 and dying in action. Billy had been just 16 when he won gold in 1932, the youngest ever to win gold.
Cecilia Colledge of Great Britian was just 11 when she competed in figure skating in the 1932 Games.
Though not connected to the Olympics there, golfer Craig Wood was born in Lake Placid. Talk about perseverance. He lost the 1935 Masters when Gene Sarazen hit the double eagle on 15, the shot heard round the world. Craig would become the first golfer to lose all four majors in extra holes. He kept plugging away. In the 1941 US Open, he opened with a triple bogey 7, but came back to win. He had won the Masters earlier that year, becoming the first golfer to ever open the season with wins in the Masters and US Open, something Jack, Tiger and others would do years later.
As coaches, you are always looking for ways to inspire your athletes to peak performance. During the 50-km cross country ski in 1932, a Japanese assistant coach set up a portable wind-up record player at the most difficult part of the course, a steep ravine. Every time a Japanese skier came by, the coach wound up his machine and blasted out the Japanese national anthem, which so galvanized each Japanese competitor that he scaled the ravine’s uphill side at a roaring clip.
Lake Placid has hosted some of the most inspiring moments in sports history, and the greatest moment in US sports history – the Miracle on Ice. There is a spirit in Lake Placid that is unlike any other sports place I have ever been.
As coaches, you can experience it through staff building retreats in your off season (what off season you have!).
Because many of the Olympic venues are still operational, it is also a great place to take your family during summer vacation.
For information contact Scott Gardner at: