‘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,



Speed for Jumpers

Genevieves Birthday 003Speed is the key in horizontal jumping. The ability to accelerate, maintain that acceleration to the board, then attacking the board through the last 6 strides is paramount…

Here are some typical sessions to develop the Anaerobic-Alactacid System….


BUT FIRST: I don’t use percentages when deciding a speed for a drill or runway based activity. I use 3 numbers. Three is a fast stride, two is fast but with something left and one is maximal….

  1. 4 x [5 x 60mts] @ Speed 2 [1 min/4 min]
  2. 3 x [4 x 60mts] @ Speed 2 [2min/4 min]
  3. 2 x [3 x 80mts] @ Speed 2 [3min/4 min]

After Xmas…[4 weeks]

3 x [3 x 30mts] @ Speed 1 [2min/4min]

3 x [2 x 40mts] @ Speed 1 [3min/6min]


Leg Speed Focus…

  • 4 x 50mts with body lean to 20mts/Transition—tall by 35mts FAST ‘rollover legs’ 35mts to 50mts in TALL position.
  • 5 x 75mts split up into 30/15/15/15. That is 0-30mts @ 75%/next 15mts fast roll over legs/next 15mts stay tall/next 15mts fast legs.
  • Tall Running to Knee Lift—’as much in front as behind’. 4 x 3 runs over 70mts @ Speed 2 with 3 minutes rest between runs.
  • Accelerations Runs to 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 metres [SLOW to FAST].
  • Runs to 80 metres  30 fast/20 slower/30 very fast x 8
  • Runs to 70 metres  20 fast/20 slower/30 very fast x 8
  • Runs to 60 metres  20 fast/20 slower/20 very fast x 8‘Flying’ Runs’ [Note: all done from a 10-20 metre run-on]
  • Flying 50’s x 8 with good recoveries between reps.
  • Flying 40’s x 8

Hope this helps the cause,


Coach Fatigue

Genevieves Birthday 003I’ve just had a month away from the sport. Time to self-reflect and re-charge my batteries. I have logged up nearly 400 hours of coaching tine since the start of the year. It does take its toll.

Below is a very interesting article on coach fatigue….

It isn’t just athletes who can crumble under the pressure of training and competing – it can happen to coaches, too, as Dr Josephine Perry reports…

Coaches motivate others to live their dreams, throwing time and energy into supporting their athletes, usually for no financial return. Of the half a million people in the UK with a sports coaching qualification, around 20,000 are coaching in the UK’s 2000 athletics clubs.

Most would agree it is a labour of love, an undertaking that rewards in many ways, not least the psychological and physical development of those under their wing. For some, though, the effort and dedication to the sport becomes all-consuming with hours spent at the track gradually eating into family, work and social life. Such pressures have lead to a rise in burnout among coaches who find that the time they have to rewind and reflect on the sport is squeezed to a minimum.

A four-year study of 417 coaches by Sports Coach UK revealed that a decision to quit coaching is rarely planned in advance. Indeed, eight out of ten coaches in the survey who had stopped coaching admitted they had not intended to 12 months previously.

Delve more deeply into the results and the reasons become clear.

According to the study, each coach who had stopped their involvement had been working with around 30 athletes; more than half of them were unpaid volunteers with a further 19% getting paid only for a fraction of their coaching time. Whether they were full-time coaches or part-time volunteers, there was an overriding sense that pressure was mounting, that their lives were being thrown off kilter by the time and commitment pressures of their coaching role.

Life balance

Chartered sports psychologist Dr Paul Davis from Northumbria University has found the ‘life versus coaching’ conflict can be very difficult for many coaches to manage.

“We see coaches who find it difficult to maintain balance. They can feel under stress and may feel they are transferring their life stress on to the track,” says Dr Davis. “If you have general day-to-day stress and not enough time to recover, that impacts on your ability to think and respond and manage responsibilities. This can mean you are not bringing your best self to the coaching session. The athlete will pick up on that and it will impact how you both interact.”


Coaches can also feel a burden of responsibility – for the sport, education and personal development of other people, for keeping athletes motivated and for the influence they have over those they are coaching.

“If my athletes are not improving, or enjoying the session, then I feel as though it is my fault and I am doing something wrong,” says Tom Wain, athletics coach for the under-16s at Banbury Harriers. And he’s not alone. Furthermore, there’s pressure to develop and maintain qualities needed for ongoing improvement as a coach.

There is a need for constant diplomacy when giving feedback to athletes or dealing with parents, other coaches or team administrators.

They also need to build their own resilience. Coaches can become emotionally invested in those they support and, consequently, their athletes’ losses not only become the coaches’ losses but can also prompt self-doubt and diminished confidence.

Elite pressure

At elite level, the stress to achieve is often multiplied. Davis’s research has found coaches “will feel organisational stress from their national governing body wanting them to deliver on performance outcomes, but these are often beyond the control of the coach”. This can compound the stress felt by a coach, particularly if their athletes need to achieve in order to qualify for lottery funding and risk being dropped if they don’t come up to the mark.

A study published last year by the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences found as many as one in four high-level coaches feels a high level of fatigue – a crucial symptom of emotional burnout – at the end of the competitive season.

“This is a significant number and an issue sports organisations and coaching education programmes need to address to make sure coaches can remain in their jobs for a long time,” writes Marte Bentzen, who led the research.


But as Bentzen says: “Burnout is more than just feeling tired.” It is a workload-related syndrome that creeps on gradually. The condition is characterized by feeling a high level of fatigue, blunted emotions and reduced performance not just as a coach, but as a human being. Warning signs include loss of energy and confidence, feeling overwhelmed by the coaching task and structure and losing motivation. Ultimately, it is leading to valued coaches being lost from all levels of the sport.

So what can be done to stem the rise of burnout? Davis stresses that coaches should prioritise their own well-being. “They need to use mental skills like athletes: relaxation, mindfulness or self-talk,” he says. “A great technique would be ‘written emotional disclosure’, each day writing about emotional experiences during the day to help you process them and make sense of the emotions they bring. Through this you can respond more positively in the future and write strategies which will allow you to bring your best self to the session.”


Bentzen’s research suggested that coaches need to be better educated on how to organise their working hours, set limits and how to maintain a healthy balance between their working life and personal life.

They also need to be made aware of how they can care for their own well-being and maintain their energy levels through proper rest and recovery.

Australian studies have also found that the more the coach feels they have organisational support and have learnt coping strategies, the less likely they will be to burn out.

So, if you are coaching and feeling like it is getting on top of you, reflect upon your motivation for coaching and write it down, ask for help when you need it and call on your social circle for support.

These should help you remember more of the benefits, and less of the stresses.

Speak with you all soon,




Long Term Planning for Jumpers

Recommendations for Long-Term Planning

I take no credit for this blog. This is an extract from a great article on long term planning for horizontal jumping by Nick Newman [UK Jumps Coach now based in the USA].

Nick says he approaches programming from the perspective of broad to narrow. Understanding big-picture principles provides essential bases for successful day-to-day practices.

Here are his FIVE recommendations in addressing long-term development:

  1. Elite athletes must keep general training to a minimum. Gone are the days when building an “aerobic base” and regarding it as beneficial to specific development was acceptable. General work can enhance recovery and aid in injury prevention but shouldn’t be developed beyond what is absolutely necessary.
  2. You should address specific training and technical development all season long. This includes continually using the most important exercises and best training methods.
  3. Generally speaking, “less is more” in most aspects of training. Elite jumpers respond best to greater intensity and lesser volume. Much of the literature—especially regarding plyometric training—emphasizes volume far too much.
  4. Training quality is the most important aspect of programming and planning. You should monitor daily sessions for all specific exercises. The target is always the highest-quality speed and power expression. The session or particular exercise should stop when the outcome drops below desirable levels.
  5. With specific training continually present in some form, it is important to think in terms of emphasis shifts rather than rigidly focused training blocks. Done correctly, emphasis shifts provide seamless transitions throughout the year.


Speak with you soon,


Some Thoughts on Horizontal Jumps Training…

Genevieves Birthday 003A larger volume of speed endurance training  is sometimes necessary to prepare long jumpers for long lasting competitions [Italian Research] and indeed longer technical sessions. Jumpers are not that keen on these sessions! But they are important. I personally do not include a lot of longer intervals. We tend to stay in the ‘zone’ [mainly 30—120mts]. But sets of 150’ s, 200’s an above can be included into the programme.

  • Also in season, if the jumper has a lot of competitions this might have an adverse effect on reactive capacities. So there is a case for cutting out minor competitions and just concentrating on the ‘majors’.

There is a definite trend in the development of long jumping to attach particular significance to the speed of the run up.

  • Recent research indicates that better results are achieved from an improved run up velocity. This applies in particular to elite athletes.
  • Again research shows that most long jumpers develop in the run up speeds around 93-95% of their maximal potential. However, changes in the run up speed make it necessary to change the take-off action because the higher the run up speed, the shorter is the time available for the take-off impulse.
  • This creates the need to pay attention to the development of an extremely explosive take-off at high speeds. So a specific weight training programme linked with a plyometric programme will create the type of strength required to effect a take-off at those higher speeds.

Speak with you all soon,



The State of Junior Horizontal Jumping in Wales

Not a bad year for male and female long jumpers at U17 level. Nine boys leapt over 6.00mts and nine girls also jumped beyond 5.00mts….

The top two male jumpers were Kellen Jones [Newport] and Ceirion Hopkins [Neath]. Kellen jumped out to 6.77m with Ceirion not far behind with 6.73m. Both boys represented Wales this year at the British Schools Championships in Ashford.

Both boys now enter the U20 age group in 2017 and hope that both work hard this winter and look to jump out near or beyond the 7.00mt mark…

Behind them you have Shaun Zygadlo [Pembs] with 6.42m and Ioan Rheinallt [Colwyn Bay] with 6.32m

Pushing these lads are two combined eventers – Harri Wheeler Sexton [Cardiff 6.29m] and Michael Thompson [Swansea – 6.29m]

On the girls side, the top ranked female was Catrin Lord [Cardiff] with 5.62m. Catrin did this leap at the Wales v England U20 match early in the year. Behind her we have Emily Thomas [Cardiff Archers] with 5.53m, Sarah Omoregie [Cardiff] [5.39m] and Lauren Evans [Cardiff] with 5.37m…

All girls with the exception of Emily now move up to the u20 age group. We all hope that all these promising long jumpers train hard this winter and attempt to maximise their undoubted potential…

I’ll take a look at those young long jumpers at U15 level next.

All the best, Nigel