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Recently, I have been doing a number of presentations on the long jump. I’ve done three for Ireland Athletics, one for Belgian Athletics and another two for England. No pressure then!
Well, at least I’m talking about and showing videos on something that I am passionate about. It is almost one of those scenarios where a hobby has morphed into a job of sorts.
Fifteen years on from when I seriously started coaching in south-west London my experiences as a coach have moved on significantly. And in a number of ways I’d not have thought would have happened.
One thing that has become apparent as my coaching career developed was how much I thought I knew and then realised I didn’t.
I was a near 26-foot long jumper in my prime … so, not unnaturally I thought I knew quite a bit. However, now, I look back and can see how much I didn’t. I’m still learning now. It really is a case of the more you think you know the more you realise you don’t know.
I’ve always possessed an enquiring mind and I like to try to find answers and do research. However, coaching the long jump is both science and art and many of the “answers” don’t actually exist in textbooks or out there on the web. You have to find your own answers and develop your own solutions. And this must be packaged within a coaching philosophy (“Your way of doing and implementing”).
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I talk about the latter on my YouTube channel in the members’ area and look, for example, at training planning methods and how once you follow your preferred model you still need to put your philosophy onto it.
When taking the presentations I mentioned at the start, I stress that a coach needs to develop their way of doing – yes, this must be based on science but it must also be based on knowing what works from your own coaching experience.
And, you have to be quite dogmatic in sticking to its key tenants (as long of course as your philosophy works!). You can’t be a philosophy or training inclusion butterfly, flitting from one idea to another, always tinkering too much and making big changes, as you won’t follow a pathway that will take your jumpers to the destination that provides the strongest of opportunities to improve and adapt. Consistency is needed. Too many diversions along the way will do just that and divert them from adapting and developing optimally.
However, having said that you still need to be reflexive and welcome to a little tweaking in particular when you have relevant experience - specific experimentation.
An example, on a recent presentation for Ireland I talked about the long jump take-off and how there are different ways to set this up. Fifteen years back I would not have known very much about this topic at all. I explained how I was experimenting with step placements into the board and also pushing from the penultimate step into the take-off step. This was done with a couple of experienced jumpers who had the technical and physical long jump literacy to do this. I’d explained to them that I didn’t know what to expect i.e. it might work or might not. We discussed what happened and there were differences that affected the jump. One jumper seemed to benefit more than the other (more on this in another post/video).
So, unless you try different things, you’ll not know what else might unlock another 15-20cm. As a coach I am in a position to be able to understand what I am trying to do (most of the time!). All coaches hopefully will get to this level where, for example, armed with a huge long jump (or other event) backstory and history they can begin to really understand how to coach their event (I’m not so far down the line on my triple jump journey). It’ll take time, effort and some tinkering. Develop your philosophy. Develop your knowledge of what does work but don’t be afraid to listen, experiment and tinker (within your parameters). In doing so you will become the coach you dreamt of becoming and just maybe your athletes will thank-you!