Coaches need to reflect and debrief, but translating the theory into practice can be difficult. Xavier Roy recently completed his PhD on the topic and as part of his research he worked hands on with a Canadian football team to see how coaches reflected on training, and what steps they took to implement changes. On this episode of the podcast he joins us to discuss his research and also share thoughts on training for football and current trends both north and south of the border. Read more
Over the past ten days I have taken a trip back in time. I returned to my former home and training partners. I returned to working with my coach in person. I returned to the routine of a life 100% focused on training. In other words, I returned to Kamloops.
After nearly a year away from coach Bondarchuk, I needed to touch base with him. We talk or exchange emails every week, but that isn’t the same as getting in person feedback from him. The feedback is something he also needs, since it is also difficult for him to determine my progress without observing me first hand.
One of the most overlooked names in coaching circles is that of Derek Evely. His coaching career has been going strong for more than fifteen years. After successful stops in Kamloops and Edmonton, he is now the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre, one of the country’s two national training centers as the UK prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.
Evely started his career at the Kamloops track club, which has a history of success that predates Dr. Bondarchuk’s arrival. As a coach, Evely trained Shane Niemi to a national junior record of 45.83 seconds in the 400 meters. He guided a young Gary Reed, who went on to win a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 2007 World Championships. Many people also forget that Dylan Armstrong started as a successful hammer thrower. Evely coached Armstrong to the North American junior record in the hammer throw of 70.66m in the hammer throw (since broken by Conor McCullough), a second place finished at the World Junior Championships. He then began transitioning Armstrong to the shot put, where he quickly approached 20 meters. However, what he may be best known for in Kamloops is bringing in Dr. Bondarchuk to help Armstrong further progress in his new event.
Since leaving Kamloops in 2005, Evely worked for four years with the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre in Edmonton. There he helped develop one of the world’s best online coaching resources, athleticscoaching.ca, and coach a stable of athletes including world 400 meter medalist Tyler Christopher and Canadian national 400 meter hurdle record holder Adam Kunkel.
Evely has been in the U.K. since 2009. While his new role is as an administrator, he has also found time to start coaching the throws again and apply the concepts he learned from Bondarchuk and others. In his first season working with Sophie Hitchon, Evely guided her to a World Junior Championship. Now in their second season together, Hitchon has already broken the U.K. senior record with a throw of 69.43 meters and she is still a teenager.
Since my experience with Bondarchuk has been almost exclusively from an athlete’s point of view, it was great to talk with Derek on Sunday about how he applies the methods as a coach. Below is part one in a three-part edited transcript of our conversation. Just to forewarn you, to get the most out of this interview it helps to have a little understanding of Bondarchuk’s methods, which you can learn more about here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice
Finding the Right Exercises for Your Training Program
Martin: Yesterday I was listening again to some of the podcasts you put together when you were in Edmonton and it made me think once again about the putting training theory into practice. If I understand it correctly, you are basing your training methods for Sophie Hitchon and Mark Dry on the Bondarchuk methods, is that correct?
Derek: Yes, absolutely. I would say it is probably 70, 80 percent or more based on that.
Martin: My first question then is: on one of the podcasts you said that one of the more difficult things for you to learn from watching Bondarchuk was how he chose exercises for his athletes. I understand the big picture: more throwing and special strength exercises, no exercises like curls and the bench press. But at the smaller level, why does he pick a 6.3kg hammer instead of a 6kg hammer or the back squat instead of the front squat. You said they seemed kind of randomly chosen and I’ve observed the same. I am sure there is some methodology to how he chooses them, but I have no clue what it is sometimes. It seems almost more of an art form at that point than a science. As you’ve coached more and more athletes under his methods, how have you figured out what exercises to use at what time?
When I wrote about my training last month, things were going quite well. Distances were at an all time best, but my technique was mediocre. This month has seen the reverse. My results have declined, but my technique is progressing. This reversal often happens in my training and is one of the many paradoxes in the hammer throw. You would think that my best results would occur when I had the best technique, but it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, but I think Kibwé‘s new program has me beat. Nevertheless, my energy level has plummeted and my results have slowly gone with it.
Throughout my career as a hammer thrower, I’ve constantly been traveling to find coaching. I traveled to Harold Connolly‘s cabin in southwest Virginia, to clinics on both coasts, and across the country to learn from the country’s top coaches. As a young college thrower, I went to training camps in Hungary, Belarus, and Slovenia to learn from the world’s top coaches. Then, in 2005, I met Anatoli Bondarchuk after he moved to Kamloops. He wrote my training programs while I attended law school in Seattle and after years of making the five-hour drive to visit him on the weekends, I’ve spent most of my time in Kamloops since graduating in 2008.
This week, Kamloops will be the host of the 2010 World Masters Indoor Athletics Championships. Kamloops is often the host of sporting events and is even known as the Tournament Capital of Canada. With thousands of athletes coming from across the globe, this will be one the largest events the city has ever hosted. The whole town is behind the event and it should be a great success.
Take one look at Canadian freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau’s face today when the final results flashed on the scoreboard and showed his name in first place. Take one look and you will immediately know what the Olympics are about: the athletes. Bilodeau had the weight of the country on his shoulders. Canada entered this Olympics in a unique position; it was the only country that had not won a gold medal while hosting multiple Games. As a favorite on the second day of the games, many tapped Bilodeau as a person that could break that streak. And he did, reminding us in the process that as much as a country wants to succeed, these games really come down to individuals. The Olympics are about those athletes that rise to the occasion and win. And the Olympics are also about those athletes that weren’t even given the opportunity to compete.
I’m beginning to get very excited about next season. I was able to travel back to Seattle last week for American Thanksgiving and had a great time seeing all my family and friends. Once I arrived back in Kamloops over the weekend, I was greeted by a few surprises at practice, including a visit by a fox and a bear trap.
At last week’s speech to the Bellevue Overlake Rotary Club, I was asked a question that I’ve received a number of times before: what is a day in the life of a professional* hammer thrower. As you will see, what sounds like a glorious life is often monotonous. However, I am nevertheless thankful to have the opportunity to chase this dream and enjoy every day as much as the one before. Without further ado, here is a typical day in my life.
The Kamloops training center was recently named a National High Performance Training Centre by Athletics Canada. Athletics Canada is the national governing body for track and field in Canada. They named six training centers, each with a focus on different events. Thanks to the efforts of club president Judy Armstrong, the Kamloops training center will now be Canada’s new national throws center. This not only gives further distinction to our training group, but it also will give the local track club more resources to continue its support of elite athletes in their quest for the 2012 Olympics. There will be a press conference and celebration at 10:30 am on Friday at Kamloop’s Tournament Capital Centre for those interested.