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Maxine Robbins has gone from becoming involved in the sport as a parent to being part of the England Athletics coaching team for the Loughborough International this year. The role was the latest success Maxine has enjoyed since first becoming involved when her daughter took up pole vaulting. At the 2018 Loughborough International Maxine was England Athletics’ Team Coach for Pole Vault.
Maxine commented, “I was very surprised and extremely proud to represent England. It was great to get some recognition of my coaching. I went not really knowing what to expect. I didn’t need to worry as the England Staff made me feel very welcome and put me at my ease."
The athletes on the team Maxine was responsible for were this year’s Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist 2018 Luke Cutts (Sheffield & Dearne) and Jade Ive (Sutton & District). Maxine said, “Both had their personal coaches in Loughborough so my main role was to make sure they had everything they needed and get them to the call room on time.” Jade came second in the women’s competition with 4.00m while Luke took the men’s event with a vault of 5.20. “The athletes and the England Staff were all very supportive the whole weekend which made a huge difference for my first time in the Team Coach role and I really enjoyed the experience.”
Maxine has come a long way and been through a lot since her first involvement in the sport. She is qualified physiotherapist by day working in the NHS and private practice and has built her expertise as a volunteer coach alongside this. She recalls how it started, “One of my daughters was adventurous and tried Pole Vault initially with Emma Lyons [who represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010]. “She loved the event and started competing and I was soon spending many hours at athletics tracks. I soon discovered there was a lack of Pole Vault coaches and it was suggested I took some coaching qualifications to help out.”
Maxine completed her Coaching Assistant course in 2011 and then completed her Athletics Coach qualification in 2013. As her qualifications were progressing so was her role at Notts AC, “I initially helped out as a coaching assistant and then started my own Pole Vault group. It all began with just two athletes aged 12-13. They were my guinea pigs and I learned so much from them. Both are still vaulting today, represented the Midlands at School Games and are ranked highly in Under 20 age group.
“While an assistant coach I brought in an England Athletics Flying Coach (Jon Baker) to assist the local group. This led to a place on the Local Coach Development Programme and Jon was my first coaching mentor. I believe I was the first Athletics coach to take the pole vault online course and was invited to join the National Coach Development Programme. I met some fantastic coaches on the National Coach Development Programme and tried to soak up the incredible expertise and experience that was in the group. They have all been a great support on my coaching journey and proud to count them as friends.”
Among those who began to support Maxine as part of the National Coach Development Programme were Ellie Kormis (Spain) and Beth Harris. Ellie Was England Athletics’ National Coach Mentor for pole vault. Maxine said, “I was still establishing myself as a credible coach. I could ask any stupid question about the gaps in my knowledge. She would respond to my numerous e-mails and watch videos of my athletes.
“She came to watch me coaching on several occasions offering great support and advice. She was certainly a huge role model.”
Beth was a fellow mentee on the development programme. Maxine said, “Beth is my other coaching role model and has always been there for me. At the time Ellie, Beth and I were the only female coaches on the NCDP. Beth inspired me as she had not been a top Vaulter herself, like so many of the coaches, but was still well respected in the pole vault community. She had trodden the path I was travelling with great success.”
In 2014 came a significant event in Maxine’s life, but even this did not stop her coaching, in fact her coaching was something that helped her through it, “Unfortunately in 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and so any further coaching education was put on hold. I was not allowed to work during my treatment but did continue to coach my small group. I always say that coaching kept me sane during the difficult 12 months of my treatment.”
Since treatment Maxine has seen her successes continue and worked with a wide range of athletes, “Since 2014 my group has steadily grown in size and consists of all levels from beginner to International level. I also have a few Decathletes - the oldest in V70 age group. The group, although training at Notts AC, come from several local clubs. I love the way they all support each other in training and in competitions - something I encourage. Over the years several have won English Schools, National Age groups, School Games and Midland medals.
“I am constantly honing my coaching skills to keep up with the athletes in the squad as they reach new heights. We all learn together.
In 2018 Maxine completed her Event Group Jumps qualification and was also nominated by England Athletics to be part of the UK Coaching course Women into High Performance. Maxine said, “This exposed me to many inspirational ladies from a variety of sports. The course allowed me to reflect on my coaching values and philosophy. The support from these ladies has been phenomenal as we all face similar challenges. The speakers were world class and inspired me to think about my future role in the world of coaching.
“In 2018 I was also selected along with one of my athletes to be on the Talented Athlete / Coach pathway. This involved further education sessions and athlete testing. The testing has been very interesting, and I have had to have help to decipher the data to progress the athlete appropriately. This was all new to me but I have a much better understanding of the use of testing and technology and the benefits it brings to elite athletes.”
Maxine is continuing her progression as a coach and said, “I see my coaching role as a facilitator. It is important to me that the athletes enjoy themselves. My sessions are to work on the process, put the hard work in and the results will come - i.e. not outcome driven. It is not all about the results and the athletes being under pressure to perform. They often do better when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. I believe in the athletes performing the basics well and I aim to coach good technique from the start.”
And Maxine is now also passing on her expertise to others. She said, “I am fortunate to be now working with a Coaching Assistant - I hope I can facilitate his learning journey as others helped me.”