Ask the coach: mixing groups, pole vaulting and youth coaching

Back in June we asked if you — our coaching community — had any questions for our Event Group Leads.  Needless to say, there were quite a few!

With so many great questions to choose from, we’ve decided to pick a ‘question of the month’ for each of our Event Group Leads to answer.

Each month, you will be able to find the Q&A on our website.  This month’s questions are:

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions!  We shall be answering more questions next month.

Should my 5k/10k athletes ever train with my 800m/1500m athletes and if so, how often?

Spencer Duval, Event Group Lead for Endurance: There are many similarities in training requirements and sessions for 800/1500ms and 5k/10k athletes. All these events are endurance-based events with key requirements to use the aerobic energy system. To differing degrees these events also utilise the lactate energy system and alactic system. Hence, it can often be very beneficial for athletes to train together throughout the year.

The degree of shared benefits may vary at different times in the competition and training year. It may be that in off-season, preparation or base phases of training, these two groups of athletes may train together very frequently, especially if both participate in cross country. In this phase of training there may be greater focus on aerobic work which benefits both groups of athletes.

During the competition phase it may become less beneficial for athletes to train together as frequently. However, 800/1500m athletes may benefit from some longer, threshold and aerobic type sessions similar to 5k/10k athletes. Similarly, 5k/10k athletes may benefit from some faster, V02 max, speed and speed endurance workouts as well as some sprint workouts performed by 800/1500ms athletes.

The exact amount of benefit and shared sessions will depend on each individual athlete. Similarly, appropriate weekly mileage will depend on a number of key factors. These include:

  • Chronological age of the runner
  • Training age/history of the runner
  • Biological stage of development (pre-puberty, puberty, adulthood, masters & veteran)
  • Lifestyle factors (time available to train as well as other factors such as education, work, family and social commitments)
  • Injury history and injury risk
  • Preference towards higher intensity (pace) but low volume training or low intensity but higher volume

Particular thought should be given to young athletes training with senior athletes. Young athletes should in most cases be on significantly lower volumes of mileage than senior athletes and should not take part in high volume sessions which are not appropriate for their age and stage of development.

Sometimes it can be tempting to place faster young athletes into adult groups but the volume and structure of the session must always be adjusted to ensure it remains appropriate for young athletes.

The development of energy systems in young athletes is significantly different to adult athletes and this should be reflected in the structure of their training sessions and the training focus of each one.

Do all poles have a natural bend and how much bend should be used for younger vs older athletes?

Darren Ritchie, Event Group Lead for Jumps and Combined Events: Poles will start to bend under the weight of the athlete as their technique progresses and they start to move the pole more efficiently and the grip gets higher. I recommend only a small bend in the pole as the athlete learns to swing. This will help control the jump and allow them to move the pole and learn to swing.

It’s not so much about older or younger, its more about how efficient they can be on take-off to move the pole and be technically efficient to swing and keep pressure on the pole as it starts to bend.

Is there a reference focussed on throws that I can use to introduce a variety of sessions for beginner and improver athletes aged 8-14?

Nick Ridgeon, Event Group Lead for Throws: One of the best resources we have put together over the last couple of years is the technical excellence framework (TEF) for all the disciplines. We use them a lot in the talent pathway programmes to support the development of the athlete-coach partnerships we are supporting. All of the TEFs are available via AthleticsHub and are supplemented with recorded webinars. I would start there and use your knowledge, experience and skill as a coach well versed in 365 to create appropriate games and challenges.

Another piece of work we still need to do is connect the 365 curricula to the TEFs. This will enable you, and other coaches, to progress the athletes to develop full throws that are technically sound. It will also help to align physical development around the specific requirements of the event. This is several months off but hopefully I can work with Scott Grace to get this out to coaches in the near future.