Coach Education Cymru Stylee

Excuses, excuses….

Ok, so I missed my personal Friday deadline once again, noone is going to be more disappointed about this fact than me, however, there is one big upside to this and that is that I can write this weeks blog about the three big coach education/development events that have been on in  the last 3 weeks. I’ve been lucky enough to attend all of them, but am now really looking forward to next weekend so I can just have some chill time. The three events, in order were:

  • The Welsh National Coaches Conference, at Celtic Manor on Sunday 20th October
  • The Welsh National Development Program Day at Niac on Sunday 27th October
  • The World Athletics Center (still feels weird spelling it this way, damn Americans) Coaching Clinic, at Niac on 2nd November

I’m just going to run through what each entailed and my general opinions of each, for what its worth

Welsh National Coaches Conference

Held in the beautiful surroundings of Celtic Manor, the £20 attendance fee was a bargain, and I’m guessing would barely have covered the cost of all the coffee, cakes, biscuits and hot buffet lunch provided. And thats before you even listened to any of the content on offer. Talks from Scott Simpson(Head of Performance for Welsh Athletics and my personal kick-ass coach), Dave Rowland (top level S&C and England Athletics Mentor), Mark Ridgewell (highly experienced sports Doctor and Head Dr at the Welsh Institute of Sport) and Fuzz Ahmed (Coach to Olympic Bronze medallist Robbie Grabbarz and part-time terrorist actor).

The over-riding theme was how to keep athletes healthy. This is a massive thing in Wales and also in the UK at the moment, and although the answer is a bit complex its great to see that people are trying to change this. Personally, as an athlete who has spent far too much time injured, I think this an integral part of both keep athletes in the sport and allowing them to reach their highest possible level of achievement, and this was something covered by Scott in his talk. He backed up a lot of his points with exerts from “The Price of Gold”, an excellent documentary on Vimeo which follows a group of Swedish athletes and the sacrifices they make to become the worlds best (very worthy of an hour of your time).

Having these sentiments then echoed by a really top-end Strength and Conditioning Specialist and then a Sports Doctor really helped to drive the points home. Each specialist bringing a slightly different viewpoint to the table. Then Fuzz Ahmed with his uniquely entertaining style of presenting but also wealth of coaching experience at the highest level was again able to ram home this message, highlighting the difference in Robbie’s 2012 performances compared to 2013 were mostly linked to the amount of time he missed being injured.

A superb conference overall and very clear (and super important) message running throughout.

National Development Program

The NDP in Wales is aimed at younger athletes rather than the coaches,  athletes ranked highly in Britain up to the under 23 age group get invited, and when invited then their coaches can come along too. The coaches who turned up got the pleasure of working with the national event leads for a practical session before having an exciting lecture then a practical session in the afternoon. 

The athletes and parents had a lifestyle talk, by Brett Morse and I basically covering a lot of the stuff I talk about on here, so you didn’t miss anything if you’re reading this. The coaches however had an in depth talk from Steve Fudge on how he trains and prepares James Dasoulu, and more importantly how he keeps him in one piece despite his dark history of injuries. Any coach who doesn’t think they’re overtraining their athletes needs to hear “Fudgey” talk about his big running session of the week being 2 x 90m. Thats two repetitions over 90m being the big speed session of the two times he runs quick in a week!

Backing this up, there were practical sessions in the basics of S&C, multi-jumps and multi-throws or Self maintenance and mobility (my own personal baby). I haven’t heard any negative feedback about any of these session so hope everyone found them useful, then again, I am an intimidating guy, so people rarely insult my work to my face. Overall I thought there was a lot of good information and again followed along the same lines of trying to establish the importance of keeping athletes healthy.

World Athletic Center Coaching Clinic

This was epic! I attended the Phase 1 Sprints and Hurdles part of the course, so cannot comment on John Godina, but to have prolific sprints coach (and fellow beard aficionado) Stu MacMillan talking along with a talk and practical session from coach to current 110 hurdles world record holder Aries Merritt, Andreas Behm. Educational feels like and understatement.

Anyone who’s familiar with Stu’s blog will be familiar with his well-informed and philosophical approach to training and coach education, and in his opening presentation on how to develop a coaching theory he took his usual approach covering a lot of great information on this often overlooked topic.

Andreas Behm, this guy humbly presented on the mechanics of the sprint start, acceleration and sprint mechanics before showing the execution in a practical session. Theres something so powerful about hearing about the importance of these fundamental movements from the coach of a current World Record holder. And anyone who decided to leave before the “Masterclass” where we were treated to an hour presentation of Andreas’ journey through 2012 with Aries really missed one of the highlights.

The day afterwards Stu and Andreas spent a whole day working with young athletes in Swansea, I couldn’t make this as I still need prioritise resting up for my own sessions but I heard it was pretty good as well.

The only downside to the weekend, for me anyway, was how its such a shame that its takes the coach of a current World Record holder to tell people to focus on the basics and quality of movement mechanics, far before adding any volume. Luckily enough, however, we had that opportunity and I hope people listened.

Coach Education in the UK on the whole

Having worked personally in the development of the UCoach based coach education system which is currently being rolled out in the UK, I think the convenience of being able to complete these courses in your own time and from your own home is invaluable to volunteer coaches who give up enough of their own time at the local track and don’t want to be committing to weekends away for coaching courses as well. However, the online basis removes the interactivity which makes events like these hosted by Wales invaluable. The ability to sit and ask questions to coaches like Fuzz, Steve, Stu and Andreas over these last three weeks has been awesome and in a slightly saddistic way, I really hope that any coaches who didn’t take advantage of these opportunities realise what they missed out on. Sadly I’m not sure they will.

On the plus side, I learned a lot. On the negative side, this will not help me pole vault any higher at all.


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