On your marks, get set, go!
This week I had the good fortune to rub shoulders with some of Hampshire’s brightest and best coaches from Athletics.
Meeting Erik Little…
On Tuesday I met up with old friend Erik Little. Erik did some work for Coaching Hampshire & IOW a couple of years ago, helping us to promote the benefits of fundamental [functional] movement with our young leaders and then again with Hampshire’s Badminton set. Two-years on Erik has continued to guide the next generation of track and field athletes to achieve their goals. Like most coaches, Erik is judged on the accomplishment on his athletes. In what has been described as Hampshire’s most successful year ever, Erik coached three of the Hampshire athletes who won English Schools medals as this year’s National Championships.
Its clear that after just talking to Erik for an hour, he is not only immensely passionate about coaching, but he has the knowledge and experience to match. Having coached Olympic level athletes in Canada, Eric was offered the chance to be fast-tracked to performance coach status, but refused, explaining “I want to learn from the bottom-up, not the other way around”.
Like many coaches, Erik developed his understanding of coaching by learning from others. In the early days Erik reflects on the knowledge he picked up from the Eastern Europeans who were already experimenting with ‘Plyometrics’ and what Eric now describes as “High Velocity Strength Training”. Over the past two-decades Erik has been developing a system to make marginal, albeit measurable, gains in the performance of his athletes. Whilst a 3-5% improvement in physical performance doesn’t seem like much to some, you can bet that those are performance gains elite athletes would die for.
He also knows that there’s some reluctance for coaches to fully embrace physical development particularly working with younger athletes, where puberty and growth spurts can often be confused with improved performance. This challenge encouraged Erik to devise a way for coaches to learn about functional movement and movement efficiency, without the need for a degree in biomechanics or sport science. Using his skills as an illustrator, Erik has painstakingly created over 1200 drills that can be used in a systematic and progressive way, that can support coaches and athletes in their own development.
I’ve systematised the area and encourage coaches to create their own system using the various drills…move away from sporadic or occasional usage, or worse, wait until injury forces a change. I use the acronym MOVERS for the programming and have also organised the thousand or so drills into categories that are developmental, apply to many sports and have measureable results. I link the area as well to dynamic posture work using MBalls etc.
Erik has agreed to present a couple of sessions for coaches in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and we hope to run sessions utlising Erik’s unique approach, both pre and post Xmas.
Supporting Coaches Workshop
On Wednesday 25th September I co-delivered a coach education workshop with Chris Benning. Chris is the Club & Coach Support Officer (Hampshire) for
The session was aimed at the various ways we can support our coaching workforce, looking specfically at recruitment, development and retention.
Recruitmen isn’t just about having processes, but its about understanding the type of club you are. Before you can begin to recruit the right coaches, you need to know what you are recruiting them to do. Delegates where asked to consider: –
- Your club’s aims and objectives – what do you want to achieve and how
- Your values – the characteristics and behviours of your athletes, coaches and supporters
- Your performance measures – what does success look like e.g. more members, individual improvement, winning championships
Many of the delegates talked about the challenges of getting coaches to look outside of the club for additional development. Some even confessed that their own coaches made little effort to share ideas within their own club workforce. The workshop highlighted a variety of ways to support coaches beyond traditional qualifications, which included: –
- Formal – coaching qualifications (assessment of knowledge and understanding)
- Non-Formal – workshops, videos, books (skills development that can support qualifications)
- Informal – mentoring, observation, coaching practice and self-reflection (experiential learning)
Finally we looked at ways to reduce drop-out and keep more coaches coaching for longer. The group discussed why on average 75% of athletics are aged over 40 and whilst the Leaders in Running Fitness has seen a dramatic increase in female coaches, why there are still more men than women involved in Athletics coaching. Some of the obvious ways to retain coaches included: –
- Saying thank you
- Promoting the work of coaches in news articles alongside the success of their athletes
- Nominating them for local, regional and national awards
However, the topic that caused the most discussion was the idea of paying coaches. Whilst some were of the opinion that paying coaches would send their respectives clubs into a spiral of financial ruin, it was generally accepted that volunteering should not cost volunteer coaches any money. Most agreed that by making even a small increase to subscription fees, expenses (or a contribution towards them) could be made.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to support and manage your coaching workforce more effectively, then get in touch then send us an email or check out our Coach Education pages on the website.