Few track and field coaches have put together as diverse a resume as Jerry Clayton. The University of Michigan head coach has coached 16 NCAA champions across nearly every field event, including a world champion in the high jump and multiple Olympians in the throws. The key to Clayton’s success is to focus less on the minutia of technique and more on getting athletes to feel the movement. On this episode of the podcast Clayton walks us through his approach to develop technique and strength.
Notes and Quotes
Clayton’s resume is even deeper than mentioned above. In addition to multiple NCAA champions he has coached 2 world champions, 2 Olympic medalists, 88 NCAA All-Americans, 39 international team competitors, and 33 participants in Olympic Games and World Championship competition. Our conversation discussed his influences, motor learning, and translating ideas across multiple events.
- 3:00 – Clayton’s background in motor learning. “When you are teaching kids you cannot give a lot of information, and it is amazing how they figure it out themselves.”
- 5:30 – Clayton’s background in coaching and influences.
- 8:45 – Why movement is more important than technique.
- 10:30 – Learning functional strength training from the Soviets.
- 12:30 – Internal vs. external focus of attention. “Rather than focusing on where your right foot is, focus on your center of mass. “
- 14:15 – “You do not move in frame advance. You have to look at the whole movement and rhythm. “
- 16:15 – “The implement is the coach. “
- 17:00 – Why we can learn more from the Soviets about the art of coaching than from periodization. “I wasn’t looking at what the Soviets were doing with elite athletes, but what they did with developing athletes. “
- 19:00 – Motor learning and getting athletes to find the right positions. “I use obstacles that require the body to make adjustments without the athlete needing to think about where to put their foot. “
- 20:30 – Using light and heavy implements to improve technique and translating this idea to other events.
- 24:00 – Learning from Europeans on how to look at the big picture rather than minutia.
- 27:30 – More on light and heavy implements.
- 31:00 – The interplay of specific strength and technique.
- 32:15 – Priorities, specificity, and where the weight room fits into training.
- 35:45 – Do you get enough overload from functional strength training?
Coaching multiple events
- 36:15 – Translating ideas across events.
- 38:45 – Case study: working with world high jump champion Donald Thomas. “I look at what the athlete gives me and try to work towards the model without losing what worked for them. “
- 44:15 – Case study: training Clayton’s son for the NFL combine. “Reawakening the athlete within.”
- 50:45 – Advice to young coaches. “All events in track and field come back to rhythm and balance. “
To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
- Don’t forget to join HMMR Plus. Sign up and get access to numerous webinars, online meetups, articles, our sports science newsletter, and more. We are also brought to you by the GAIN Network.
- You can learn more about Clayton from the Michigan webpage. Dan McQuaid has a preview of their new facility.
- Clayton mentioned Gary Winckler as one of his influences. We interviewed him on Episode 9 of the GAINcast and also did a written interview with him in 2014.
- We’ve discussed heavy and light implements many times on the site, including Episode 10 of the HMMR Podcast and a series from Nick Garcia about training with different implements, how elite coaches use different implements, finding the right implements for your throwers.