Life Enhancing Lessons from Sports
Oct. 8, 2021

S2 E9: “And Now, the Rest of the Story” feat. Willie Banks

S2 E9:  “And Now, the Rest of the Story” feat. Willie Banks

Impassioned Triple-Jumper + 3x Olympian + Lawyer = International Athlete Leader


In today’s episode of SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE, John Moffet is joined by Willie Banks. The inventor of the famous “rhythmic clap,” three-time Olympian Willie Banks has contributed to the sport as both an athlete and contributor for over forty years, and currently serves as an elected member of the World Athletics Council.

Learn more about Willie Banks:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/hsjjapan/

Thanks to our episode sponsor, Roka! Use code "SLB" for 20% off your purchase at Roka.
https://www.roka.com/

Transcript

INTRO:

Here we go. You know what time it is. It's another episode of SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE.

Willie Banks:

So I put my headphones on, I was dancing around. And all of a sudden, something hit me in the back of my head. And I and I looked inward, and I watched myself jump. And it was as if God had said, on your next job, you're gonna break the world record. I truly felt that God had had said, I'm gonna get this blessing. There was no doubt in my mind. So I ran down, I took a hop, skip, and a jump, and I landed right next to where the world record marker was. And they said world record I said, Yes, I know.

INTRO:

Meet Willie Banks, three time Olympian, legendary triple jumper, and yes, former world record holder. i'm John Moffet, and thanks for joining Willie and me on another episode of SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE. Willie loves to jump. He always has and growing up he parlayed his abounding energy and natural ability into a full scholarship at UCLA. And in between making Olympic teams and breaking world records. Willie also became a lawyer. His crowd pleasing charisma made him an international star. And after his athletic career, Willie's infectious enthusiasm and passion for athletes rights led him to a lifelong career as a leader within the Olympic and Paralympic movements. I can't wait for you to hear Willie stories as a sports ambassador, innovator, entertainer. And one last thing. He's still breaking world records at 65 years old.

JOHN MOFFET:

Well, I think we should get going, what do you think, Willie?

Willie Banks:

I'm into it. Anytime.

INTRO:

All right, well, sounds good. Well, thank you so much for opening up your beautiful home down here in Carlsbad, California, which is just north of San Diego. I find that it's so much better speaking to somebody in person, especially after all the ordeals over the past year and a half or two years. So thank you for opening up your home.

Willie Banks:

And well thank you, you know, I'm thankful that you'd come. One of the things that I love to do is host people at my house. And you know, this area here is so comfortable. I just I really love the atmosphere in North San Diego. And Carlsbad is special to me. It's right next door to my hometown of Oceanside. So a I just came back home and I'm loving it.

INTRO:

Yeah, you mentioned that it's not this isn't very far from where you grew up. Describe what you are like to me as as a kid.

Willie Banks:

I was, I was pretty crazy. When I look back on it. I think that I was so fortunate to have parents who were patient, but very firm with me. I learned so much from my father who was a Marine, and he had discipline and he was he was quiet. very strong, very, you know, someone you wouldn't want to meet in a dark guy, right? But you know, I loved him and respected him very, very much. My mother on the other hand, she was always excited. And she was so loving and, and I had two brothers and two sisters. And we all just cling to her like she was, you know, heaven on earth. So again, I was fortunate now, that led to me being a little bit wild and crazy. It wasn't that I was doing things bad. I just had so much energy. In fact, my parents were so worried because I was jumping around on furniture and jumping off of buildings and things like that seriously, you know, we had these Quonset huts and I would get on the top and I would jump off. And they thought What is wrong with this kid? So they sent me to a psychiatrist. That one of the school psychiatrists at the school I was going to at the time in Barstow, California and put me through a battery of tests and eventually told my parents that you know, there's nothing really wrong with him. It's just that he's so full of energy, you just have to get that energy out. So he suggested that they put me in sports. Oh, and I, you know, my, again, my my blessing. My father was a marine and on the marine base, you could do everything for free baseball, horseback riding, soccer, golf, tennis, and I did it. My parents every day. Hey, you're gonna go plays soccer today, hey, you're gonna go do baseball play. And you know, I calm down and pretty soon I was much better kid. Much better student because I didn't have all this energy I was trying to get rid of, I guess today they'd probably say I had a DD but Those days it was just hyperactive and and I think it's better that they put me in sports than they give me a bunch of drugs.

INTRO:

Yeah I think that there is a commonality amongst the athletes that I've spoken with on the podcast is that there's... sports, at least in the early stages, is an antidote to something else. Like for me it was an escape, it was my place where I could just be alone and at peace because you know and as a swimmer you it's like a you know you're kind of immersed.

Willie Banks:

Yeah swimmers I always wondered man, that black line, does it become a little wavy at times? Because for me I would go nuts!

JOHN MOFFET:

yeah, well I think you have to be a little nuts

Willie Banks:

I was the exact opposite I went to sports because that's where my friends were. I wanted to be with people, I wanted to be able to bounce off of people and when my I did swimming and you know I started looking at that black line and it just got too much for me and I said you know, Mom, Dad, that was fun. But I don't think this is for me.

INTRO:

I totally understand. Well, you mentioned something very early on that you like to jump and jump off Quonset huts and jump and jump and jump. So when's this jumping thing when did this jumping thing really take hold for you?

Willie Banks:

When I was a little kid I tell you it got so so bad that you know my friends and I we built like these hide this high jump set we put two you know two by fours on the side put nails on the side of it and then we we had a bamboo pole and we would put on the the nails and go up higher and higher and then we got two mattresses and put it on the you know next to it and we started doing a high jump now we weren't too bright so we actually had the we actually had the pole on the wrong side the crossbar on the wrong side and so I jumped at it and it all collapsed on me and I got a big scar face so you know I but I kept going because I just loved jumping and I would run straight at the thing and just jump up and over it was so much fun.

INTRO:

How did you discover triple jump then? How did that?

Willie Banks:

Well that's kind of a long story, I don't think we have enough time for that story. I'll try and cut it short but anyway when I was, as I was saying, we set up our own high jumper and so I actually started out as a high jumper and I I really wasn't until I got into Junior High that I kind of took things seriously in terms of what jumped off track and field because I didn't really know what track and field was but my friend took me to I guess when we were in sixth grade took me to a track meet at the high school and it was Boys and Girls Club track meet and I just entered into these things and you know the 50 yard dash the high jump the long jump and I think I took two seconds and a third and I was in. I was sold.

INTRO:

You just like the competition?

Willie Banks:

I just loved everything about it. The good competition, my friends were there. People were clapping for me. Are you kidding? Oh yeah, just clap for me and I'll do anything. So one day I was in junior high in seventh grade and they had you know the the PE teacher said we're gonna have a look, you know, attract mean, we want you guys to get ready. And he brought down a student from the high school. And we all sat down to listen to him talk about his experience as a high jumper at the high school. And he I saw this guy's like, this guy is amazing. And he showed me how I was jumper I said, That's impossible. So I went up to the high school to see the high school track me with him in it. And when I got there, you know, my parents has dropped me off daily. Okay, go get. I went there and they started to track me and they started the high jump and people were jumping and jumping. And he was nowhere to be found. And I was like What is going on? So I'm watching and it gets to about six feet. And everybody goes out how like hi came all the way up here. And he doesn't even jump. So then I look to the left and then he was sitting on the ground and the official walks over to him is talking to him. says you know, well How high do you want to put it up? I'm like, holy cow. He's gonna start now. That's amazing. Everybody else is out. So I think he put it up to like six, three or six, four. And he does without taking off his sweat. He jumped it like while I'm practicing. I said I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be the guy that after everybody's out. I step up and I'm like step away because the master is about to get busy. And he did it. He went almost seven feet that day. And this guy is brilliant. He later his name was Jerry Cope,

JOHN MOFFET:

Okay.

Willie Banks:

And he later became the or he might even still be the assistant, athletic director for USC. Really, I had no idea and one day I was over there getting some kind of award. And he they started talking about Jerry Kolb. And I was like, wait a minute. That's the guy who got me into this sport. And they point to him, I'm like, You're the man. You're the guy. You're the one. So, you know, you never know what as an athlete, you never know who you're going to inspire. And who's going to aspire to be like you. And that's what Jerry Culp did to me, and from that day on, I said, You know, I want to be like that. I want to be the kind of guy that inspires people because this, this is special. There's nothing better than to be an athlete, and to enjoy running, jumping, swimming, throwing whatever it is, and being good at it. So that's what I did. Well, oh, I never got into the triple jumper. I forgot about that.

JOHN MOFFET:

That was my follow up!

Willie Banks:

So anyway, I became a high jumper and then a long jumper and hurdler in high school, and I was pretty good. My sophomore year, I made the state meet and the long jump. And I thought, Man, I am getting there. I'm finally getting somewhere. And then my junior year in high school, they introduced the triple jump to the California Interscholastic Federation. So I didn't know what it was. And I thought, okay, so they made everyone try. And at the time, I was coming out of basketball, which was my favorite sprint. And someone had stolen my shoes. Look, I'm from Oceanside. So you know, that was just part of being there, right? And someone stole my my regular running shoes. So I had my dad's basketball shoes, I ran out. And they said, let's do this triple jump, and on the show, they kind of showed you how to do it. And I did the hop, skip and a jump, which was a long hop, real short jumping along, you know, a little short step and then a long jump. And that was the triple jump and I and at that day, you know, I was the best. And so high school coach said, Okay, we're gonna have you do the triple jump, and I was like, Okay, great. So I went to my history class, and in the class is his name was Mr. Cunningham. And his son was the basketball coach. And so he was he was saying he was talking to me and he said, Hey, Willie, so what do you do? And I said, Well, now I'm a triple jumper and he said, oh, wow, well, that's great. I used to do that. Maybe I'll come out and help you and I looked at him like wait a minute, you know, I'm the best in the school. How can you help me? Like No, no, no, I was I was pretty good when I was younger. And I go What are you about a million years old right now. But he said you know, in the 42 and through 44, he was the NC to a champion. He was the national champion. So he'll come out and he'll show me and I go, Okay, okay, if you're that good, then maybe you can tell me a few things. So we went out and he showed me it's not long, short, long. It's even even even each phase has to be the same distance as a whole. So I did what he asked me to do and I did I improved in fact, I improved so much that I went to one school and almost jumped out of the pit I would have jumped out of the pit but I stopped and so they had to dig another six feet to every pit pit in my league because had I jumped out and gotten hurt lawsuit. Yeah, right. So they dug out the pits made you know longer so that I could jump into the to the sand rather than onto the grass or onto the pavement. So that was my introduction to the triple jump and that same year, my junior year when I first started I won the state meet. And the next year I want to state me I was undefeated until one guy beat me in Chicago. I couldn't jump against the wind I was bought a six 240 pounds or something like that. And so jumping into when was just not my special But I later came back and was able to beat him

INTRO:

Well yeah, that's another key component to athletes is that at some point they discover that they a enjoy it or good or both and you were clearly good enough to be able to earn a full scholarship to UCLA.

Willie Banks:

Yay! Go Bruins!

JOHN MOFFET:

And if I have the math correctly, I believe the summer of your senior year is when you went to the 1976 Olympic Trials. Is that right?

Willie Banks:

Let's see... so my... Yeah, I think I was a sophomore. I had already jumped the national champ national record National Collegiate record 55 feet one and so yeah, I went and I actually thought you know, hey, I'm gonna win this right. But unfortunately, I thought I was going to make the '76 and I was in good position to make the '76 team but unfortunately Rayfield Dupree came down on his last jump and beat me by an inch. And so I was fourth on alternate quote unquote,

JOHN MOFFET:

Right.

Willie Banks:

And so I sat at home and watched on television, my parents, my sisters and brothers. They went to Montreal.

JOHN MOFFET:

Oh God!

Willie Banks:

I know! I was the only one!

JOHN MOFFET:

Well that's insult to injury.

Willie Banks:

I'm telling you. I mean, my parents. I told my parents I was gonna make a team so they believe me so my father actually went out and took a loan on the house so he could purchase better car and a motorhome, you know, a trailer I get right all right. And so that they could go and watch the games in Montreal. So they drove out there and had a ball and I was at home watching it Come on television and not being very happy, but swore I'd make the team and at and, you know that what happened there? I made the team I was the best I you know, by a foot.

JOHN MOFFET:

Right.

Willie Banks:

And oh, well, we boycotted.

JOHN MOFFET:

Yeah, yeah. You were having a good few years leading up to

Willie Banks:

Yep

JOHN MOFFET:

I mean, you're like, Okay, you're probably used you had some redemption, you from your experience is getting fourth of the trials, which by the way, one place out of the try out, you know, make missing the Olympic team by one place at the trials is in absolutely excruciatingly painful.

Willie Banks:

Worst position you can be in, in sport,

JOHN MOFFET:

Right. So you had had plenty of motivation leading to 1980. And then you and I, of course, both know, but perhaps there's a friendly reminder to the listeners, what happened to all of us who were named to the 1980, US Summer Olympic team.

Willie Banks:

Absolutely. So we were named to the team. But the IOC does not recognize us, as Olympians, although the United States Olympic and Paralympic associate committee, I'm sorry, they do recognize us as as Olympians. So there's a little bit of a rub there. I understand their position. And by but it is it's quite painful to all of us to have to go and deal with with the fact that we were great. We were a great team, a very strong team. And it's just unfortunate that our government decided to use us as pawns in a political game,

JOHN MOFFET:

Which was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979,

Willie Banks:

That is correct.

JOHN MOFFET:

Yeah, I

INTRO:

remember I, of course, all of us remember acutely kind of that feeling. Is this is this kind of a point at which you started to develop your strong sense of I want to represent athletes I want. I want to be part of creating something where athletes don't have to go through this again.

Willie Banks:

Absolutely. I was furious. And I needed to France, our current IOC member from the United States. She, she had organized athletes to protest the boycott, and I joined that that protest. I was doing everything I could to try and overturn something that was never overturned, right? So yeah, that then got me very, very excited about getting in more involved in the governance of sport, and getting more involved in helping athletes. Better take care of themselves. So I specifically got more involved with track and field, I became a representative in track and field. I also helped write what we call the trust fund, ledger legislation in track and field. So in track, you could actually make under the table money, right, you know, you would dig, they were appearance fees that you would earn. And so, but that was a little bit shady. So what we decided to do, because they had this whole idea of amateurism, we wanted to, we wanted to end amateurism, because it wasn't making much sense. So in order to get there, we had to first develop legislation that was going to allow us to make money on our talent, but not make us pros. So we created a trust fund. Trust so that any monies we made, went into the trust fund, then that trust fund could be used for expenses for athletics, well, it, it started to grow. And, you know, then all of a sudden, it was like, well, I need a car to get there. And this Mercedes Benz is the only car that can get me there, you know. So it really became a trust fund, but this trust fund could have millions of dollars in it. And so it was starting to get a little bit crazy.

JOHN MOFFET:

Yeah.

Willie Banks:

And eventually, the Olympic Movement did away with the whole idea of amateur versus Pro, especially when you were seeing athletes who work for their quote, unquote, military in their country, making tons of money and, and we as quote, unquote, amateurs were not right. And it was a little bit unfair. So they did away with the whole idea of amateurism, amateurism, at that time. And I'd like to think that I along with people like David Greifinger, who was a buddy went to UCLA with me, help move that along quicker.

JOHN MOFFET:

In 1981, you really kind of started to make a name for yourself, outside of just your your athletic prowess in the triple jump. Stockholm 1981 you can't Google Willie Banks without this, this story coming up. But I'd love to hear from your perspective, the story of the rhythmic clapping.

Willie Banks:

Well, thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about it, because I love to tell the story. It's, it is really a story of, of a blessing that came to me out of nowhere. So it was very synergistic, and all the way it happened. And I think I always tell people, that being an athlete is Yes, a lot of work. But also, there's some, some luck, or some blessings, as I call them, that comes along with it. And those who are blessed are the ones who tend to be the most successful, they put in a lot of hard work to earn that blessing, but the blessing is there. So I was at the top of my game in 1981, I was the best in the world. And I had just set a national record. And the triple jump at the National Championships. And I thought, boy, I'm gonna get paid. I went over to Europe where we all would go, and you'd go from meat to meat, and you would make appearance fees. And I was making, I don't know, somewhere between $200 to maybe $1,000. If I was lucky, right? And I was like, wow, Oh, yay, I get to buy a car. And I started dreaming of, of what I was going to be able to do. So I went over and I had a manager, his name was Pete Peterson. And Opie went over with me. And he went into the room where all the meat organizers are and, and they reserve spots for each athlete who were going to compete in their competitions. So the first one was Stockholm, and I had already gotten that one. So Pete went in the room to get the rest for the rest of the year, or at least for the rest of the summer. And when he came out, he looked at me and he said, so Willie, I've got good news, and I got bad news. And I said, well give me the bad news first. So he said, Well, this will be your last triple jump, where they're not having the triple jump this summer. And I said why? What are you talking about? I just sent a national reggae so I don't know, they're just not having the triple jump. I said, so what is the good news? He said, Well, I got you a long, long jump competition in Luzon after this and I said, long jump. I haven't long jumped in five or six years. What are you talking about? says, Well, that's the best I could do. So I was angry. No, I when you get crazy like me, if you're crazy, like me, what you're gonna do is you're just gonna walk in the room, even if they say you're not allowed, and you're gonna find out why. So I did, I walked into the room. I walked up to the biggest me promote, he had six meats, and I said, Hey, I understand. You're not having the triple jump this year, what's going on? And he looked at me, he was an old Bobby, a London police officer. And he looked at me with this stern facing big guy, and he said, Listen here, you Why would I put on a triple jump? Nobody is coming to attract me to watch the triple jump. Now, if no one comes to watch the triple jump, I'm not getting paid. And if I'm not getting paid, I'm damn sure not gonna pay you get the hell out of here. And I was just like, holy mackerel. A light went off. And I said, He's right. Oh, I was depressed. Yeah, I didn't know what to do at that time. So I went back to my room and lay down I thought about it. And you know, I still had this hyper action activity about me from when I was young. And I had to get rid of that energy that was just flowing through me. And I went downstairs to the to talk to some of the guys. I said, Hey, man, they're not having the triple jump this year, anywhere. What are you going to do? And one guy lit up a cigarette right in front of me and started to and you know, back then, you know, you were like smoking a cigar. What do you do? So I said, Okay, forget it. So I thought, Okay, I gotta do this on my own. So I went to the stadium early, no one in the stands. And I started warming up because I had all this pent up energy. Yeah. And I finally, people started coming. And I kept warming up and warming up and listening to this music that I have pre recorded on a Walkman, you know, for those of you don't know what a Walkman is, it's a it's, it's like, you know, an i pod with a cassette in it, and I just recorded music onto the cassette and then use the Walkman. Anyway, my point is, I recorded this one guitar instrumental over and over, and it was called not just knee deep by Parliament funkadelic. And it was just so awesome for me. So I listened to this I just kept bouncing and, and stretching and going through the motions until the meets till the triple jump started. Once the triple jump started, they always bring you together, the judge brings all the athletes together to give us instructions. After they've given us instruction. I said, Hey, wait a minute, guys, before you go, we have got to do something special today. Don't think the triple jumps. Very interesting. We've got to do something that makes people want to watch the triple jump. So we're going to break records. That's what we're going to do today. We're going to break national record personal records. We're going to break a world record today. People looked at me and just turned to walk away. I thought maybe they don't speak English. I don't know. Anyway, I was I was I said okay, if that's if it's gonna be up to me, then I'm just gonna do my thing. So they all the first, the first, probably eight guys found it was so boring. I was about to slip my room. But I said, You know what? I'm going to jump far. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to show them how exciting it is to jump far. So I stood I took my sweats off and I go through my regular routine, which is I clap three times. I shake my fist three times, and then I run. So I clap my fist three times. And to my right. There was like five guys, they must have been drunk. I mean, this was Sweden and you can drink in the stands, they were drinking beers. And they clap three times. They kind of threw me off. I don't know why, but it threw me off. So I looked over and I shook my head back and forth like this is stupid. And I clap three times. They clap three times. I shook my fist I ran. I jumped a 50 by 54 A which is about I don't know four inches below the Swedish record, okay. And so I came back and they Were like clapping for me and I said thank you to this this five guys there was just right there the stands were full, but it was only these five guys. So I put my headphones on I started listening to this music and dancing as usual. Foul, foul foul, all these guys fouling and boring. So I got up, then when it was my turn, and I took my sweats off. And just as I got ready to start my three claps, these five guys started clapping. And so I looked over and I put my thumbs up. And I clap three times, shook my fist three times, and I went, so as my second jump, and I jumped the Swedish record. Sounds like good. Yeah. So then, the next time I got up the hole is this whole side of the stands where I was jumping, started clapping. And I ran down and I jumped even further. So I was jumping further and further. So my fourth jump, I, I, I jumped really well. And probably half the stadium was clapping. The Far Side didn't know what was going on. So then, I thought, you know what, I need to put some markers. So people knew how far I had to jump. So I ran over to the meeting organizer, and I said, Listen, I need three flags. He said, why you need three flags. I need one at the Swedish record, one at the European record, and one at the world record. And he said, I gotcha. So he put the flags out there. So on my fifth, which was my second to the last jump, my fifth jump, I decided, I'm going to try and break the world record on this one. So I stood up, and now everybody started clapping. The whole stadium, the whole stadium, and they were just sitting there just clapping like this. And I was like, Oh, this is pretty cool. And I stood there, and I did my three claps, I shook my fist, and I ran, and I hop and I skipped and I jumped right at the World Record flag and I jump up my arms, like spread up above my head, like, you know, I did it victory. Well, I kind of felt the board. And I felt like who I probably found big time on this one. But when I turned around and looked, the guy holding the flag, he was shaking. His hand was shaking, it was holding the red flag, which mean, I found out Yeah, and the people were, you know, in Europe, they whistle, this shrill whistle when they are booing. booing is whistling there. And everybody's booing at this, you know, there's no way and I'm like, you know, I figured I'm gonna go with it. No, I didn't know and you know, God. So I ran over, and he wanted to show me the mark. And I got on my hands and knees. Of course, you could have seen the foul by, you know, from Mars. That bad. And I looked at him and I was like, you know, sheepishly, I looked at him. I said, Yeah, you caught me. And he's so relieved, thinking I was gonna argue the fact but I was like, you know what the heck, I ran back, I wave to the crowd, and everybody started clapping and laughing. And then, you know, I thought to myself, I'll put my headphones on, and I'm gonna do something that I watch runners do, but I never see field defenders do. And that is after they do their race. They'll run around the track and people like cheer for them and throw stuff. Flowers a victory lap. Now I had I still had one more jump right? By that, you know, I'm taking my lap. No one's gonna beat me. So I put it in I slowly jogging around the track. And every section I came to, they would clap, they would stand up and sit down. That was the first wave I'd ever seen in track and field. Oh, that's great. How's it Whoa, that was awesome. So my last jump. I take off everything I stand at the top, and the place was silent. And I put my hands out as if I'm preparing to clap. And I brought them together. Boom, and you just hear the thunder. Everybody says...

JOHN MOFFET:

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INTRO:

You're back listening to SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE.

Willie Banks:

And I put my hands out as if I'm preparing to clap. And I brought them together, boom, and you just hear the thunder, everybody says. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, I'm standing on the tippy, tippy toes on my toenails. I'm standing because of the just the excitement of the crowd had me like floating. And I just ran as fast as I could a hop step at jump, almost got to the world record. And there was I jumped. I think that day I jumped like 57 feet seven, which was a half an inch off of my national record. And I jumped up and it was European record. People came out of the stands. They grabbed me they put me on their shoulders are walking around. They made the same mistake you did by giving me a microphone and I'm going crazy, you know, talkin Yeah, and I don't even know what I said. But I was talking. And it was just pandemonium and I'll never forget. After it kind of died down. I walked over to where all the meat organizers were. And I walked up to that one guy, the big cop. His name was Andy Norman. And I looked at Andy and I, I took my knuckles and I kind of rubbed them against my chest, you know, like and then blew on my fingers. So what do you think? And I had he said, You got me You got me. So he set me up with so many means the guy was from then on he was my angel everywhere. If I wanted to go somewhere, he negotiated the deals for me. Wow. I mean, he got me top dollar no matter what he is like, no, you're paying this guy. That's awesome. It was unbeliev now let me just tell you, you know, there was this one guy he used to and every radio broadcast with and now the rest of the story. So I'm just gonna go to you have a rest of the story. You if you remember the beginning of this rant I'm talking about p came out and said I had good news and bad news. And the good news was this long jump in Luzon right after the Stockholm meet so I went down to Luzon and I was I hadn't jumped in such a long time and I wasn't a great jumper but you know I did it. And I thought that was cool you know in Stockholm that was my 15 minutes of fame and nothing will ever happen after that but I didn't care because I got some meats and I was gonna make some money so I was jumping about my second or third jump. I was like this is not work and I was jumping like and what I did in high school. So then someone in the state in the audience said, Well come on Willie. And I turned and I put my hands up like what do you want? And all of a sudden, oh holy crap. Where did this come from? Oh, I forget people watch television there. And I ran and I I jumped eight meters 11 which is I think it's like 26 feet eight inches was at the time was a big jump. It was actually the Swiss record and so you know, once again everybody was like coming out and cheering and I was like, holy crap. So I realized that this clapping was not only kind of getting the people involved but it helped me to be a better jumper. So from that day on, everywhere I went no matter where everybody went, it was my turn to clap. My turn to jump they would start clapping and it just no matter how I felt, no how no matter what kind of pain I had, everything melted away except for just having a blast jumping on the

JOHN MOFFET:

Wow. What a story and it's the clapping and variations of that clapping still are deployed today.

Willie Banks:

Yeah, that's that's my claim to fame. I gave track and field the clap.

INTRO:

Well, so you were sometime in this time going back to UCL a this Time, however, to pursue your law degree, yes. So not only were you studying to become a lawyer, but you were training, yes, for 1984 Yes, once again, my teen or redemption from 1980

Willie Banks:

I, well, I made the team, but I got injured. And I was only managed only managed to come in sixth, which was a little bit sad. And I went back to my went back to the room, I shared a room with a bunch of jumpers, you know, Dwight stones and, and, and others. And I was like, You know what, I'm out of here because it was LA and I live in LA, I just didn't want to go to my apartment, because I knew that people would be calling and saying, Oh, you know, I'm sad. I didn't want that. I want to be myself. So I went to the, I don't know if you know, on Sunset Boulevard, they had a round hotel. Yes, still there. It's still there. And I checked into that hotel. And I just cried. And I said to myself, I was I was talking to my Lord, you know, and I said, I don't know what to do now. It's like I've, I've, I've set up my whole life to to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. And I think it was gonna happen. Now, you know, because I'd finished and and is like, God said, you know, what are you talking about? You're not done yet. There's so many more things you can do. And, gosh, but I didn't want to go, Mel says, there is the world record. Hmm. So I was like, oh, okay, that's a good idea. So. So I checked out of the hotel The next day, and I went back to the stadium, and I did some radio, and I had a ball, I had a good time, I may not be a gold medalist. But I knew, at some point, I would get an opportunity and I was going to shoot for a world record,

JOHN MOFFET:

I saw a great interview that was done in 1984. And you talked about that you want it to leave behind the legacy back then it's pretty amazing thinking about where you are as an athlete, and as a human in that state that you were already thinking that way back then what was what was going into that?

Willie Banks:

Well, you know, I have always been a person that, that that loved people, and really thought that community was important. I think I got that from my parents, they always said, you know, community is important, you have to take care of one another, you got two brothers and two sisters, and you got to take care of them. But then you've got an extended family, people that used to come to our house, our house was always full of other people's kids. And so I thought, you know what, I can't just live my life and just be me, I've got to share something with people. And, and I think that, that, that led me to wanting to help others, you know, as best I can and to want to share with others, the the bounty that was given me we weren't rich at all, but i thought i was i thought i was rich, in that, you know, I had parents, I had family knows, no death. At that time, it was just us. And then I had an enormous extended family of, of, of kids and other parents that took care of me and I just said, This is way I thought everybody lived. Well, when I started traveling, I found out that wasn't true. And I thought you know, we can do something about this. And as an as an Olympian. I think I owe it to the world for the bounty that was given to me to try and share that.

JOHN MOFFET:

I can't agree with you more. I appreciate all the work that you've been doing. But we'll we'll get to that in just a little bit. But you mentioned that world record that sort of the message in post 84 disappointment. Take me back to summer of 1985 and Indianapolis

Willie Banks:

Well, I was talking about community earlier and I was I joined a group of athletes that were super athletes, they were just unbelievable, eventually becoming medalists and, and world record holders themselves. And and we were all trained together at Santa Monica College. And then when it came down to the national championship that year, I knew I was in better shape than I had ever been in my life and I had already had the national record. So I thought It's not going to be that hard to jump on others, you know, seven inches or so to break a world record. And I felt that I could do it at sea level. The record prior to mine was done in Mexico City, which is high altitude rarefied air...

JOHN MOFFET:

and where Bob Beamon exactly is everlasting world record in the long jump.

Willie Banks:

Yeah exactly. So my coach said, Oh, we got to go to Mexico City. So I said, No, I'm not doing that. And we're gonna break this world record at sea level. And we're gonna do as soon as I can get into shape, and I was in shape, and I was so fast, so much faster. That I knew I had a good chance. So I went to the national championship and at that national championship, I was jumping against some athletes that were just unbelievable. They had, you know, people like Al Joyner, who won the gold medal in '84. Mike Conley, who took the silver, just a slew of great athletes. And we started out it was nice and warm. I like it. I like it hot. Man, when it's hot, my body just turns into, I don't know, a fighting machine. So once we started the competition, my first jump around, I felt great. I took a hop, skip the jumping, I found slightly. And when I came back, I was like, whoa, whoa, I'm ready. I'm ready. So I put my headphones on, I was dancing around. And all of a sudden, something hit me in the back of my head. And I and I looked inward. And I watched myself jump. And it was as if God had said, on your next jump, you're gonna break the world record. house like, shock, right? My eyes open big and my mouth open wide. And I was like, Oh, no, here it comes. So I ran over to UCLA high jumper. And he and I told him, I said, You know what? I'm gonna break the world record on my next jump, you gotta watch this. Wait, you told somebody I told three people, I told three or four people, I told the judge, I said, Hey, this next one's going to be a world record. So be ready. And of course, everybody looked at me like I was crazy. Yeah. But I truly felt that God had had said, I'm gonna get this blessing, there was no doubt in my mind. And at the time, you know, my teammate was running to 800. And I wanted to cheer her on. So there was no time to really, you know, do go through my little routine, because I was already guaranteed a world record. So I just stood at the top of the runway, and I just started running to beat her. Because the finish line was at the end of the triple jump pit. So I ran down, I took a hop, skip, and a jump, and I landed right next to where the world record marker was. And I put my fist up like world record, I ran over I cheered her through for Unfortunately, she came in second and I came back and they said world record I said, Yes, I know. Yeah. What a blessing. So I felt like that was I mean, that was a special day for me. Yeah, and just couldn't be beat, you know, just couldn't be beat and so many of my competitors came over and they congratulated me on doing you know that and, and, you know, again, it was it was family, it's all about us doing something together. And for me that was special.

INTRO:

One of the things I watched a number of your jumps just wanted to become familiar and, and one of the things that I respond to with athletes is when they're in their zone, and they're happy, and they are competing with absolute joy, yeah. And I'm telling you there are so many of your jobs that not only are you interacting Of course with the with the crowd, but you are you just you're just happy

Willie Banks:

Again blessings. Well, I can't jump unless I'm happy if I'm sad or something like that. I'm gonna get hurt in the triple jump. That's a dangerous event. So I'm always the first thing that I say it's it's crazy when I would stand up the triple jump and get ready to jump on the runway. I would say to myself, something that I think either Richard I think Richard Pryor used to say this hope bump funny. And then I would, you know, go through my routine and I would jump and I loved it because I felt like I was a rock star. I would come out I'll never forget once I came out of the tunnel and Berlin stadium the Olympic Stadium in Berlin 60,000 people you know this is this is a track meet in America it would be like a football game and I'd come out of the tunnel people would see me and immediately there would be this clapping going on and I would just dance to the clapping there were times when I would go into the stands I would grab a few kids I'd bring him out and we just run out and just have fun on the track. For me it wasn't about competing against it I wasn't trying to box somebody you know we had to be scared for me it was just about having fun and if I could go out and have fun I would jump well if I jump well I was gonna win so that was how I treated every competition I went into except in 84 where they wouldn't let me use my music they wouldn't let me move outside of a small area so I felt trapped and I didn't feel like I could connect with anybody in the stands because you weren't allowed to so you know just bad times so the Olympic Olympic experience was was great on the one hand because I was there and hey I had a good time but it was it wasn't the it wasn't the Willy banks type of of competition that I like where I could go and have fun it was all happy there's no there was no happiness about jumping there it was all about yeah when this metal for everybody else I'm like you know well that's not fun

JOHN MOFFET:

Yeah hometown kid pressure, pressure, pressure.

Willie Banks:

It was... I don't think it was so much the pressure as the fact that I mean music was was a part of my warmup being able to interact with the crowd was part of my my psyche and if you take all that away so I made that mistake that was on me that was not on the officials that was on me to to have put myself in a situation where I am tied down by these things that I did had I realized that perhaps I would not have been so encumbered by by the audience so so so much seeking the attention of of the others and just got into my own self and just did what everybody else yeah you know you just you just get into what you're doing and just do it whereas I was like hey everybody let's go do this you know let's have fun No, that's not part of the Olympic thing. At least that wasn't then yes probably loosened up quite a bit now.

INTRO:

Yeah, I'm not I'm not sure. But

Willie Banks:

Well at least in track and field now you can actually go and talk to your coach you couldn't then Oh, you're kidding No, you couldn't talk to your coach you had to stay in one small area and you could not cross the track you couldn't go outside of this boxed area and it was just so it was like a prison for me because I needed to get out and I needed to to expand and it was all about keeping everything controlled. So now you I think I would have been I think I would have jumped so much better now because they let music that you know they they play music they you know the I they would have actually I think they could have set it up where when I'm getting ready to go they got my favorite music on and I'm rolling man. That would have been like heaven on earth right? For me for a guy like me for others they don't like that. But for me that was what I needed to be to be my best

JOHN MOFFET:

and loose...

Willie Banks:

Yeah.

JOHN MOFFET:

You're talking about '84 and once again you found yourself unfulfilled by your performance and '84 and you went on to train for '88? Yep. Now keep in mind you're an attorney at this point and but tell me about that one jump that you did that was even longer than the world record at the 1988 Olympic trials.

Willie Banks:

Yeah. So that that was a competition with the greatest probably the probably the greatest performances of all times of so many different athletes the if you are a triple jump afficionado you would know that the worst jump there this the eighth best person in the finals was jumping further than my national record in 1981 the eighth best

JOHN MOFFET:

So this is the trials at the trial

Willie Banks:

My gosh. But I mean I was on the top of my game once again I was I was just I'm believably in shape and fast and strong. So I was jumping. I was jumping past the world record. I jumped past the world record three times. But unfortunately they were all wind eight. And this was at the same competition. At the same time as Flo Jo ran the world record in the 100 meters. Yeah, I was running about the same time. So I jumped actually almost 30 feet. I was like four inches I think away from 30 feet. So you know, the DA after the nine feet, eight inches, something like Yeah. And I was just killing it. And everybody was killing it. We were jumping like no one had ever jumped. And I was fortunate enough to come out on top. So after that, I went back well, I went back and I slept I woke up the next day, I couldn't walk.

JOHN MOFFET:

After you did that world best the wind-aided world best.

Willie Banks:

Yeah. I couldn't walk I had stretched my Achilles so badly that I could hardly walk.

JOHN MOFFET:

Do you think it was just that your body was so ready to go that you just pushed it harder than?

Willie Banks:

all of us when we do world best world records. We do something no other human has ever done. I thought I was in the best shape of my life. And I To this day, I think. But you know, Achilles had his heel. And I had my Achilles. Wow. And that was it. You know, I that was the last time that I jumped. Well, from then on, it was all about just trying to just trying to run I could barely run. So I didn't do well in the games after I'd done so well in the trials. I mean, I was expected to just blow everybody away and I couldn't run. So that pretty much into my career. I had three surgeries.

JOHN MOFFET:

Oh my gosh,

Willie Banks:

nothing really worked

JOHN MOFFET:

from that one? That one sequence of jumps in 1988? Wow. Wow.

Willie Banks:

But don't get me wrong. You know, again, once again, I still had a fantastic after even after I couldn't run, I still enjoyed the fact that I could get out and jump. Yeah. And I jumped, you know, even today, I still jump, I still jump. And I just go out and do what I can. I'm 65 years old, and I still love jumping.

INTRO:

I love that. I love that you kept the kid and you kept the kid in you. So in 1988 then because of your injuries, you had your third Olympic experience where you came out of it disappointed. certainly wasn't wasn't fulfilling your dreams. Was it new? Do you think that that How much do you think these three experiences affected and determine the direction in which you decide to take the rest of your life?

Willie Banks:

I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I think most people who who get involved with governance of sport has a gripe, right? They they came out, man this pissed me off. So I'm gonna do this right. And I started that way, you know, in track and field, I was pissed off at the fact that we had a boycott. And so I got involved. And my experience, you know, with the Olympic Games was was not the best. And so I wanted to see what I could do to change the fact you know, don't, why can't we talk to our coach? Why can't we run around? Why can't we do what we want? Yeah, these were questions I needed answered. So I got more and more involved. And then the legal my legal background just led me to do you know, to, to, to work with other, you know, with other people who were attorneys and accountants and things to help athletes, you know, become pros, because that's what this this really needs. People need to be able to take care of their training, as well as take care of their family. Right? And if they can't do that, how, how is this sport gonna last? So I really worked hard on that. And then just now I think I know this is, this is a little bit long, but I just got to tell you one story. I think what changed my life, it's a weirdest thing. What changed my thoughts and my life was I had a friend named Tom Mills, you might know him. Yep. And Tom was the head of the Spirit team. And he created all these things. And Tom that one day said, Willie, why don't we create a Olympian heroes series of cards. Okay, what is that? And so, he explained to me how to do this thing where we would we would create, like baseball cards of Olympians And we wouldn't cut the sheets on some of them. And then they would sign the the sheets. And then we could sell them as you know, as

JOHN MOFFET:

like collectibles, collectibles,

Willie Banks:

memorabilia, whatever. I go, Okay, so I got behind that. And but first we had to collect the signatures. And I was like, Huh, okay, so I called up these people, you know, I said, Hey, Hey, Mark Spitz would you do this? Yeah. Why not? Willie? Hey, Rafer. Well, you did it. Oh, hey, yeah, that sounds good. Hey, and I call all these famous, you know, top name athletes. Yeah. Maybe two said no. But the other said, Yes. So I have 20 of the most famous American Olympians on the sheet. And they all came in signed. And as they resigning, they told their story. Oh, yeah. And that changed my frickin life. Their story. were amazing. And it went from one to the next to the next. And it was so incredible, and so much a part of history that I said, This Olympic thing is more than just sport. It's, it's, it's like creating history. It's like, being a part of history. And let me just tell you the one story that really got me, so I'm sitting there, watching them sign, and I'm not on, right, because I'm not that big a deal. So I'm sitting there, and I'm watching the sign. And all of a sudden, you know, people are telling little stories. And then Mark Spitz goes, so you know what I'm sitting there in my room, I just won eight gold medals. And I was like, oh, man, I am going to party, I'm going to have the greatest time here. And all of a sudden, I hear this, paying me at my door and they rush in, they grab me. And they take me they put me in this plate and they send me back to United States. I'm like, I didn't get to have fun. And he said, The Black September group had broken in, I'm Jewish, they would have grabbed me. And they needed the, you know, the government need to get me out of there. And so they took him back to the United States. So he wasn't caught by the blacks. And I was like, in my mind, my mind is blown. I'm like, that's history. I remember that. 72 That was amazing. Bruce then says, that's a great story. Yeah, I remember that. So I remember, I'm sitting in the courtroom. My girlfriend is next to me. And we're kind of watching her ex husband's up there, tagging my eye on the glove. And now there's other stuff that don't fit then. I'm like, we're talking. We're talking about the OJ Simpson trial. That's right. Your girlfriend you know, in my head is is just expanding. I'm that's history. That is exciting. That is an amazing thing. And then, Rafer says, Wow, those are some great stories. So I'm walking with my buddy. And he had just gave him the best speech. And we're in LA. And, you know, we're figuring this is going to be a great night for us. And, you know, Rosie's on one side, and I'm on the other and we're walking down the, this, this tunnel towards the cars and bang, bang, bang. And then, and all of a sudden, my friend Bobby Kennedy drops to the ground. Rosie jumps down grabs this guy, I'm like wrestling as well. And we're all going crazy and FBI and I'm like, oh my god that Bobby Kennedy was shot by Saran throughout. And this is history. And reefer, it says, so I'm at home. My friend Bobby, I don't know he's gonna live or die, right? And I'm taking off my jacket, reach in my pocket. And there's the gun. I forgot i'd

INTRO:

picked her hands her hands. Yes,

Willie Banks:

his gun is in my pocket. I had grabbed it. And I call the FBI and they come over and I have the damn thing with it. And I'm like, those are three of the most amazing stories of history that nobody knows about, that I know now. And that all came from this whole Olympic experience. And I had a chance to sit down with every single one of these amazing athletes and hear these stories. And I said, that is what I want to happen. And that's why I think your podcast and other podcasts like it is what changes the world because people will hear these special stories and they'll go You know what, I want to be like that.

JOHN MOFFET:

Well, I certainly Thank you. I'm definitely Trying to spread the positivity and the joy and the power of not just Olympic and Paralympic sports, but also just sports in general and the the ability for sports to transform. Starting at a very young age, you and I are looking at each other, we have very, very parallel stories where we were where we were one person before sports, and then sports created us into a wholly different person. And it's just immense, immense power to affect the world positively. And that's why I think people come together every two years for the winter and summer games.

Willie Banks:

That's correct. That's correct, dude, you know, there is nothing like it. And it doesn't have to be the Olympic Games. It could be anything. I mean, see how many people call these football games at each? Each Saturday each Sunday? People live through athletes. And so I've always thought that, you know, that's an amazing thing. And so we have to take care of that, because people are living through this through us. And if we act like jackasses, then we're creating a community of jackasses we have to, we have to respect that fact that we have this talent. It's a gift. Oh, yeah. And, and that gift we have to show is, is for everyone. It's not just for us. And that's how I've tried to live my my spirit. And that's why again, I still jump because I'm out with, with, you know, I'm in the Masters track and field. And I'm out with guys who, who never reached my level. But now they have a chance to kick my butt. And I'm happy. I'm like, bring it you know, because really, it's the challenge is I've done this all my life. So I'm fighting injuries, but I know how to do it. Yeah, they're just getting started. They're healthy, but they don't know how to do it. So which one of those negatives will win this time, right. So that's how that's the whole point is, is, again, community building, this community meant helping others live better.

JOHN MOFFET:

And it teaches you, it teaches... there's lessons in it that help with life. And that's the whole point of this podcast is those invaluable lessons that all of us have learned and that anybody can learn from. That's

Willie Banks:

that, well, you're doing a great job. And I truly appreciate whenever, you know, again, you're an Olympian, you understand, and you you're doing such a great job of helping others understand and much appreciated.

INTRO:

Well, thank you well, much appreciated for you to share your stories. We were speaking about a speaking of why people come to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and why they go to football games, etc. And you are one of two people that I know that actually got to attend the Tokyo games. What What, what, under the circumstances of the pandemic and all this turmoil that all of us have been enduring for the past year and a half what brought you to Tokyo as an official.

Willie Banks:

So I was nominated by the United States, USA track and field Federation to run for a council position on world athletics, which is the fetter the World Federation for track and field. And I fortunately I was, I managed to to win a seat on the council. And because I'm on the council, we actually run the sport. So I was able to go there, we had our meetings there. But we also I served as a judge during the track track meet. So if there was any controversy, I would be part of a group of individuals who, you know, adjudicated the controversy. Now. It was surreal. It was the most surreal experience at a track meet I've ever had the best athletes in the world running in front of no one, you know. The stadium was gorgeous. It was amazing. The people the Japanese people were amazing. They did a fantastic job. It was well organized, it was clean it was they they really took great. They made a great effort to make sure that everyone was safe. And sure there was a little bit of tension because you know, as an athlete, you know, you don't want anybody telling you what to do you know, because you got to get into your own world. But generally speaking, I think they allow the athletes to to, to really exercise They're, they're there right and, and do as they needed to do in order to be the best. And you can see that from all of the great performances that came out of track and field and swimming and just some awesome performances in front of No way. So except team members and coaches and things, those were the only people in the stands.

JOHN MOFFET:

So the Willie Banks clapping thing,

Willie Banks:

I would have been toast.

JOHN MOFFET:

Yeah!

Willie Banks:

I would have been worse than, like, Oh my god, there's no one here. But you know, it was cool, they were clapping, it was the teammates. Everybody was clapping. So the whole, like, the whole stadium was full of athletes. And well, not full, but the sections were of athletes. And they would clap. And in my event, the world record was set by a woman in the triple jump. And she everybody was standing and clapping for her and she came down and broken, it was amazing. And everyone you know, from from sprinters to to jumpers to throwers, were doing some amazing things and, and, and it was just their teammates to help them to do that.

JOHN MOFFET:

Wow. Certainly a unique experience, watching from my end, but I'm sure actually being there. You mentioned that you still like to jump out. He started jumping when you're a little kid and it's just in you. This is part of you. I didn't realize this, but a few days I believe before you left for Tokyo. You were in a meet tracking field meet. And you were doing the high jump.

Willie Banks:

I think it was right after I got back. Is it? That was post? Maybe it was before? I don't remember.

JOHN MOFFET:

Yes.

Willie Banks:

It was recently

JOHN MOFFET:

it was over this summer.

Willie Banks:

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET:

Over the summer. You broke the world's world masters record

Willie Banks:

for 45 and older for the high jump. Yep. Yeah, I I you know, it's funny, because I didn't really know, I didn't know I was jumping and jumping and jumping. And then I jumped one height. And they said, I said I thought it might have been a national records. I said that might be a national record. And so everybody was saying we don't know, we don't know. So they measured it. And we did a whole you know, they went through the whole record setting deal. And then afterwards, some guy comes up and goes, You know what? That was a world record. I got no national record. He goes, No, that's a world record. So I went we went back on to the Masters Page and there it was, the word

JOHN MOFFET:

you broke it

Willie Banks:

I broke a world record, I didn't even know. But again, I did... I do it for fun. I wasn't really looking for a record, I was 15 pounds overweight. I look like a big fatty. And I but I was like I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do. And I broke a world record. So that was fun.

JOHN MOFFET:

So 35, 36 years after breaking your first world record, yeah, you're breaking another world record. I mean, you're still that little boy, you're still that little boy loves to jump.

Willie Banks:

Thanks, John.

JOHN MOFFET:

We spoke before but that you see is power, the power of sports to really inspire the world and to to change, to change, certainly the triple jump. And I have had the pleasure of spending time with you it being in the room with you. And let me tell you, you're the you're the poster child not only for track and field and for your event, the triple jump, but for the entire Olympic movement. So for that I want to show you tell you how appreciative I am of Willie Nanks and all that you've done for many, many, many years.

Willie Banks:

Well, thank you, John, I appreciate that coming from someone like you, who really understands what you know, it means to be an Olympian and someone who is actually doing something, you know, in the Olympic movement. I thank you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

INTRO:

Well, I appreciate you spending time and opening up your home.

Willie Banks:

My pleasure, buddy, anytime you're welcome, anytime.

JOHN MOFFET:

The quote that Willie has chosen to share with you is from pioneering civil rights leader Martin Luther King, at the height of the civil rights movement in 1965. He said, "The time is always right to do what is right." This is John Moffet. And I'm glad you joined us today on this episode of SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE. If you enjoyed the show, share it with a friend and leave us your five star review. Until next week, let's all do what is right.

INTRO:

Thanks for listening, kids, to SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE!

Willie Banks Profile Photo

Willie Banks

3X Olympic Athlete