Just an observation…

Why is it when you allow a fellow coach to observe an athlete you coach that they automatically pick out negatives and not any positives….


NEW: Postscript…..ran a small test. Asked several coaches to observe an action. ALL picked out negatives, never positives. Conclusion: Are coaches  able to see and recognise positive actions? Sometimes reinforcement of the positives improve and negate the negatives…

Speak with you soon,



Indoor Season finished – at last!

What a long haul. Weekend after weekend of competition and travel. Vital training sessions lost….!

With a half of our training group being combined eventers the indoor season has been very difficult in maintaining a balance between training and competing. But with all the will in the world it is very difficult to maintain such a balance. Technical work has taken precedence over physical training. This has meant that the development of maximal and optimal speed, speed and strength endurance has had to take a back seat.

Because the training group are not full-time athletes, training time is at a premium. They have to go about their day to day activities which include school and all the inherent problems  that this brings. They have to have social time and time to involve themselves in other activities.

However, with talented young athletes with undoubted potential, an increase in technical ability will produce better performances. But this will only take them so far…

They need to train. Not like adults but enough to complement this increase in technical performance.


My training group are now finding it difficult to adjust from a technical diet to one of ‘hard dirty work’.  This transition will take time and they have to understand the coaching process. We need 6 weeks of speed and strength development coupled with technical work.

They have to understand the process and be patient….but some aren’t able to adjust to this!

A MUSING: One winter it would be nice to ‘miss’ the indoor season and train consistently throughout the winter and spring months and just compete in the warm summer months with just emphasis on major championships.

Speak with you soon, Nigel

Combined Event Hurdling

DSCF2731The hurdle event for combined event athletes is crucial. One mistake [hitting hurdles/falling] and the whole event programme is danger of falling apart. This is an event that needs to be worked on throughout the preparation phases….


With this in mind, speed attainment as part of the programme is a major necessity for the following TWO reasons…

Run times between hurdles, not clearance time, have a higher correlation with final time.

The first step after the hurdle is important since that’s when the hurdler accelerates after losing speed from the take-off in front of the hurdle. The hurdler also loses velocity during each foot contact so foot contact should be as short as possible

Speak with you soon, Nigel

Sometimes training can be repetitive!!

Read this short article recently – really resonated with me….

“It’s easy to do stuff in training  that you like to do. The great athletes do the things they don’t like that will make them better. They are comfortable with being uncomfortable all the time. What are you going to do today that is uncomfortable that will make you better?”

I have a coaching group of 12 regular young athletes. They are all in the early stages of skilled learning. They have to learn to understand their event and how it works. This is a long process…

They have to be patient but some aren’t!

The ‘teaching phase’ is very important in these early stages of skilled learning. Too many coaches want to coach before teaching. My philosophy is that once a young athlete begins to understand the basics of the event only then will improvement begin to take place.

A few weeks ago I had concerns that too many of my horizontal jumpers were fouling at the board. The old adage of ‘take it back a shoe’ was not the answer. We could have taken their initial check mark back into the ‘car park’ and they still would have fouled!

The answer was to go backwards to go forwards. So specific drills were the order of the day. More work on the penultimate and take-off strides had to be put back on the menu.

Working from 6-8 strides using jump pads and very low SAQ hurdles was the order of the day. Not just one session but several to help maintain reinforcement. Many, many  reps to FEEL the effect of that penultimate stride contact and the shortening of that last stride coupled with a dynamic lifting of the free thigh…

Repetition with relevant feedback – group and individual. Patience was required from every athlete. But some athletes find this process difficult….

They felt uncomfortable, they wanted to be in their comfort zone.

Speak with you soon, Nigel



‘Expert or Prophet’

DSCF2791Happy New Year to you all…..

What is an expert? You see them everyday in the media informing us about items and topics that we might not know anything about.  Too many times you listen to a great many experts whose opinions differ dramatically from the next expert about the same item and topic.

Can be quite confusing…

By all means observe, listen and learn. Take on board popular opinion and thought but use it well.

You then need to rationalise this information and use it to your best advantage.

Take athletics…..

We have experts within our field of athletic coaching.  They all have a differing coaching philosophy.  There is a danger that you might get confused and not explore your own individual thought process about your own coaching philosophy.  This sometimes grows so much that we sometimes turn these’ experts into prophets’ and believe that their way is your way.

Be very careful. I ask the question…

What has happened to ‘original thought’. We are beginning to follow all the latest fads and innovations in the coaching of athletic events.  I’ve noticed this at first hand at the venue where I have my coaching base.

We are beginning to coach the drill and not the event. We start to believe that if it looks good and keeps athletes occupied for long periods of time then that is the way. But is it functional, does your training have transfer from drill into the whole event?

You need to become your own expert. But this takes a long time. In my case it has taken over 40 years to become an over night expert.

Yet, I still question and challenge myself on a daily basis. I read profusely. I ask questions.  I listen to my own group. I encourage them to ask me questions.  I challenge myself. The more I know the better it is for my own coaching group.

A prophet I’m not. An expert – almost there…

All the best, Nigel


Junior Triple Jump Development – especially females….!

Genevieves Birthday 003 (2)The Triple Jump is a tough event. All those extra forces placing strain on that young developing body. A recipe for disaster. But is it?

When should youngsters be introduced to triple jump?

Take a look at this link about how Athletics Scotland are going ahead with introducing triple jump to the younger athlete..


Interesting to say the least.

NOTE: For the article see below…..

What I find is that by the time the younger athletes – especially girls, are allowed to compete at the U17 age grouping, they, in the main, have found other events to compete in. It’s so frustrating.

And the fact that suitably qualified coaches are hard to find doesn’t help the cause.

I used to tutor extensively on the Primary Teachers Athletics Coaching Courses and basic triple jump is introduced at the age of 8.  Young children are able to after a few lesson,s to place a hop, step and jump in the correct order from a stand and from a  very short approach.

But, early development of triple jump to athletes aged 12-15 must be structured carefully and constantly monitored. There are safety issues about load bearing but practicing on plyometric strips, in well cushioned shoes and utilizing short approaches and 5m take-off boards will help foster and encourage development.

I know that there are people out there who have listened and read about the adverse effects of introducing young athletes to triple jump too early. But carefully introduced and sympathetically monitored will help positive development.

I’ve been coaching this event for over 30 years. I taught for as long and introduced thousands of young pupils/athletes to the event without any injury.

Speak with you soon,


“Scottish Athletics have recently been in discussions with Senior Coaches and Technical experts at both UK Athletics and England Athletics around the inclusion of Triple Jump at our Championships for developing athletes in the U15 Age Group.

The forces involved in this event can be particularly damaging to young developing athletes if correct technique is not maintained,. However, the balance and co-ordination required to perform the three phases benefits the long-term development and skill advancement of the athletes involved.

For the 2016 Indoor Season, scottishathletics will be offering Triple Jump to both U15 Boys and U15 Girls with the following limitations:

*9m, 7m and 5m boards will be available only

*The run-up will be restricted to a maximum length of 15 metres from the take-off board

As the National Governing Body for the sport in Scotland, scottishathletics believes we have a responsibility to encourage the skills involved in this event but also to balance competitive instincts with the duty of care for the long-term involvement of athletes within the sport”




Teaching/Coaching/Drills and Tricks…!

Genevieves Birthday 003Many years ago I gained a Master’s Degree in Human Movement Studies. It had a profound and resounding effect on how I coached and how I still coach. One of the key components of the course was the acquisition of skill. How do you become skillful? Are you born skilled? Is skill learnt? It made me aware that athletes learn at different rates, react to different coaching styles and respond to different coaching cues and that patience plays a huge part in the process.

I taught for 30 years and probably ‘physically educated’ over 20,000 pupils of all ages and abilities. I ‘honed and toned’ my teaching/coaching skills over an extended time period. I had a huge responsibility in the physical education of so many talented youngsters. Not just athletics but all team games, swimming, badminton, gymnastics and a host of other sports.

So, I ask the question: When does teaching end and coaching start?

I ask the question because an article I read by John Kessel a few weeks ago made me question the athletic coaching that goes on today. I coach in a large indoor sports arena three times a week and I observe all the coaching that goes on around me. I make no comment because it doesn’t affect how I coach and has no effect on how I coach my own training group, but suffice to say I wouldn’t like a son or daughter of mine to be coached in some of the coaching situations I regularly observe week after week. It might be loads of fun but I do wonder if there is enough positive transfer from drill to event…..

On You Tube you’ll find hundreds of different videos of various athletic drills and skills promising to take your athletic ability to the next level. These videos show endless hours of coaches working with athletes. I can’t help but notice that its these ‘fancy drills’ that many coaches utilize within their coaching programmes and is their vision of what they think it takes to improve performance. People absolutely eat it up.

A lot of these fancy drills look fantastic and lots of fun but many do not resemble anything that happens in the actual athletic event.

Kessel talks about a similar phenomena in volleyball. Here he talks about all of the “drills” you see online and how they are made to look nice and organized, but have absolutely no grounds in the actual science of motor learning.

In reality, we are just a bunch of stumbling fools. Puddle splashers and toe stubbers. We thrash our way to success…and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

These made-for-You Tube training techniques look great but paint the wrong picture. The truth is that many have literally NO resemblance to what the real process of development looks like. It seems as though the better they look, the farther they skew from the actual science of learning and development. By spending time working on these fancy drills, athletes get better at doing the drills and not at what really matters: performing in an actual event.

I would say that at this moment ‘we are coaching the drill and not coaching the event’. I hasten to add that in the main, it’s the younger, less experienced coach who is adopting this fancy drill approach.

Decades of science and motor learning research have shown the best and most effective learning happens when practice:

  • Is random and not blocked
  • Teaches the whole skill, not just part.
  • Is event specific.
  • In short, the more closely your athletic practice resembles the actual event, the more of it transfers to the event.

The problem here is that this type of practice goes against most “traditions” and will make the coach feel like things are out of their control. The chaos, confusion and randomness of event specific practice can get ugly, and lots of coaches don’t like ugly. This fear of training ugly often drives us to doing things in practice that are structured, controlled, and look nice, as opposed to following the science that points to a better way to develop athletes.

Athletes: – If you really want to get better it’s not about being alone at a track learning tricks. First – understand what it means to have  a growth mind set.  Then – spend as much time as possible learning and practicing the event.

Coaches: – Rather than spending time dreaming up pretty drills and fancy tricks. Figure out how to create a growth mindset mentality within your training group. Then think about ways to make your practices as competition-like as possible, and how you can maximize the time and reps that your athletes get in these situations.

If you want to be great find ways to train ugly; If you want to be a YouTube sensation learn tricks. Tricks are not skills and being able to do them will not make you a better athlete..

Speak with you soon,



Finding that ‘Optimal Speed’ at Take-off..

Me Again 2 002 (2)Bio-mechanical analysis has determined that no long jumper can take-off effectively at maximal speed and expect to jump long distances.

The key to long jumping is speed – speed on the runway and speed at the point of and just after take-off.

But there has to be a compromise of the speed attained on the runway in order to take-off in the right position with the right body angles. This is a part of the whole-skilled process that some coaches and jumpers find great difficulty with.

You have to determine that speed that will enable you take-off effectively. This takes practice, practice and more practice….

There is running speed and jumping speed. Tests indicate that if the jump speed is near maximal – or speed loss of less than 10% in the last 6 strides to the board then possibly the result will be that the jumper is taking-off at his/her optimal speed.

Top jumpers succeed in maintaining run-up speed without a too drastic loss of horizontal momentum at take-off.

I have explained many times that a great deal of my skill coaching time is taken up with runway development. I believe that if the jumper can get this part right then longer distances can be achieved.

Runway development begins as soon as the jumper returns after the recovery period following the competitive season.

Every technical session contains some element of runway development.

Speak with you soon,