National Event Day Workshop & National Coach Athlete Workshop
I’ve just returned from two days at Loughborough University in Leicester, England. Loughborough - for those of you who don’t know - is one of the top sports science universities in the UK and also a major base for GB Athletics. Many of the country’s elite athletes and coaches work out from there.
I was asked to come along to the two-day event as a coach/observer/participant organised by England Athletics. I’m also an England talent coach mentor - which means that I act as a resource for a couple of other coaches and their athletes on an occasional basis throughout the year - and it was good to catch-up with them at the event and talk jumps.
On day 1 we started with a lecture on biomechanics theory - of jumping, sprinting and throwing, athletes and coaches from all event groups were in attendance. Activities were then put on for the specific events thereafter and on a few more occasions as one throughout the days.
There was some very useful info presented in the biomechanics session which focussed on, for example, the plyometric (stretch-reflex, eccentric-concentric) action. It was re-affirmed that eccentric capacity is particularly crucial for the sprinters and jumpers (as a side point for the heavy throwers concentric strength is of more importance). Being able to absorb force is crucial as this will affect the speed of the stretch-reflex and the subsequent concentric action. Tendon capacity is a key element too - tendons store and return immense amounts of energy, potentially more so than muscles.
A very interesting comment was made that through very recent research it was discovered that in the triple jump over 23 times body weight needs to be absorbed during the phases. This was new to many of us - as most of us coaches had put the figure at around 15 times… this amount of force to be dealt with (whatever the multiple) displays that need for eccentric capacity.
After this lecture the athletes in attendance had a testing session - this looked at technique and speed. A speed gun was used to assess the latter. All coaches were encouraged to talk about the techniques of the jumpers in small groups “live” as it were. This can be a little awkward as you are talking about another coach’s athlete and it’s often the case that the athlete and their coach, knows potentially what a problem may be and probably has plans in place on how to fix it. However, if all coaches see this feedback as a positive task, then equally positive outcomes should result. As coaches we all have slightly different thoughts on what’s-what and “comparing notes” as it were can be a very useful process. You also have the occasional “how-did-I-not-know-that-moment, of which more later.
The first day culminated with a sports psychology session and this looked, for example, at how athletes and coaches rate their performance and progression. There was some lively debate as to how we coaches should monitor our ability i.e. can a coach ever reach 100% of their ability? I ended up with 3-4 lines on my graph - having one for my knowledge, another for achievements with elite athletes and another for achievements with club athletes, for instance. None of the lines had an unaltered linear gradient - each tended to go back and forth on itself. I personally can get as much satisfaction from seeming an athlete go from 4m-5m compared to 7.30m to 7.80m in the long jump. Trouble is the sport as a whole probably tends to view the latter as being more of an achievement than the former.
Day two began with functional movement screening of the athletes in attendance. They were tested on an over head squat and lunge, for example a (O/H aspect was performed by pulling a stretch band apart). These and other exercises were selected to identify areas where an athlete may need to focus on to improve their range of motion, body control and awareness, for example. In doing this a programme of remedial (pre-hab) exercises could be implemented to improve such functional movement, reduce injury potential and to benefit performance. Dealing with the later - if a test shows up, hip or ankle instability for example, then in all likelihood this will be manifested in an aspect of event performance. In the long and triple jump you want all force to be applied linearly - any lateral movement is a wasted one. There was some interesting debate as to how to fix things!
Next up Scottish long jump record holder (8.01m) and now head of coach development for Scottish Athletics, Darren Ritchie presented on his philosophy of long jump and coaching. This was a very engrossing presentation and it was great to hear how Darren’s career progressed as both athlete and coach (I actually competed against him!). It made me reflect on my own pathway. I had a quick chat with Darren after and we talked periodisation and the difference between coaching different types of athletes and how the periodisation model has to be adapted - more on that on another day perhaps. But, for now this shows, how important it is to bounce ideas off of each other.
The last session of the weekend was a practical long jump one, again taken by Darren. Coach Ritchie took a couple of athletes through the type of warm-up he follows, picking up on functional movement and technical issues, for example, as identified through drill/exercise performance. The warm-up followed the RAMP protocol (raise body temp; activate, mobilise, potentiate). The jumpers then did some short approach jumps and Darren provided some feedback. I picked up a few more exercises from this practical session and also some food for thought on different ways to take-off and a “why didn’t I know that?” nugget on hand position on the rearward moving arm in the hitch. I do have my own thoughts on this (take-off) and it made me think that if a particular type of jumper (strength based/type) did materialise at my coaching sessions I could potentially use a different take-off methodology to the one I tend to use now with my predominately speed-based jumpers.
All-in-all the weekend was an informative and enjoyable one, and as well as the knowledge imparted formally and informally, it was good to catch-up with coaches - who as former athletes I’d known for er… decades and also to make new friendships and connections with those known for much less time.
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