05.Oct.09 World class sprints coach accelerates the learning of coaches
Nine sprints coaches come together recently to learn from the
experience and expertise of renowned sprints coach Mike Smith in
Southampton. Four coaches who were part of the ‘Developing Excellence in
Coaching’ scheme in the East region and five coaches from Hampshire
attended this interactive weekend. It presented a valuable opportunity
for the coaches to work collaboratively and share their knowledge and
methods of coaching with 100m to 400m sprinters.
Over the years, Mike Smith has had major championship success with 400m sprinters, notably current British record holder, Iwan Thomas. He also coached Olympic 400m hurdles medallist, Kris Akabusi, plus Roger Black and Todd Bennett. Rather than just present a series of lectures during the weekend, Mike focused on maximum involvement of the coaches through a mix of practical, discussion, video and question and answer sessions.
Day 1 saw the coaches outline their coaching experience and identify what they hoped to get from the weekend. Mike then delivered a session around immediate pragmatic planning for the season ahead and also shared his views on how to plan for the long term and how to manage the long term ambition of athletes. The coaches then moved to the hills and woods near Southampton Athletics Track to look at alternative methods for winter work away from the track. Local athletes willingly demonstrated the kind of sessions that Mike has used with great success. It was emphasised that 400m sprinters will generally not use the track during the conditioning period and instead build a strong aerobic base using varied length of runs over mixed terrain.
Staying with practical work, Mike highlighted how he developed the strength and conditioning of his athletes using Medicine Balls and circuits. Local athletes demonstrated a range of specific strength exercises and the coaches were able to ask questions and share their ideas on how they developed this important component of training. Day 1 finished with a discussion back at the hotel around peaking and threw up the important question of whether it is possible to peak?
Day 2 again was very interactive and started with a session at the track looking at sprint drills and a discussion around speed development for 100m to 400m sprinters. At this point the coaches split into 2 groups with some athletes to look at appropriate sprint drills. This was an opportunity to focus on observation and analysis skills and provide feedback under the watchful eye of Mike. It was encouraging to see how well the coaches - some of whom will be part of the England Athletics Local and National Coach Development Programmes - worked together to improve performance.
After lunch the coaches were treated to a TV documentary filmed by BBC Wales of Iwan Thomas leading up to his gold medal success in the 400m at the Budapest European Championships in 1998. This provided an insight into the mind of an athlete at a major championships and Mike was able to share the challenges leading up to the event and particularly how they coped with injury. This session really raised the issue of the ‘Psychology of success’. Day 2 finished with a Question and Answer session which proved to be very thought provoking. This was also another good opportunity for the coaches to share their expertise with others. Questions were centred on sprinting biomechanics, race tactics, group dynamics, mental preparation and planning.
Rob Thickpenny, CCSO for Essex and workshop organiser said, “Hopefully this is the start of many more local workshops where coaches come together to learn from a vastly experienced coach and share their own coaching ideas to ultimately raise the coaching bar”.