In American sport, suicide can refer to a type of gruelling running drill, usually performed on a basketball court. Athletes run suicides by repeatedly sprinting from a starting point to each of a series of lines across the court, and back again. The drill is intended to improve speed and agility; its gruesome name reflects the intensity of the physical effort it requires.
The OED is currently researching the name of this running drill for possible inclusion in the dictionary. The earliest evidence found so far is from a North Carolina newspaper, in 1967:
‘I promised them I’d run three suicide drills in a row if they won.’‥ Varsity coach Herr Hawkes explained a suicide. ‘It’s a sprint-type drill that zig-zags at top speed on the hardwoods.’
1967 Burlington (N. Carolina) Times-News 11 Mar., p. 3b
The context of this example suggests that the term was not well known at the time, but it may have appeared previously in specialized publications, such as coaching guides. Can you help us find an earlier example? The name is most commonly used in the plural form, or as a modifier, as in suicide drill.
Posted by OED_Editor on 23 May 2013 12.36