Yesterday when I working on two chapters for the new and revised Level One Coaching Manual to be published by Human Kinetics I realized that thirty years ago this past week was when we had out first instructor training school and curriculum development meeting. We gathered at Cal State University, Long Beach. Ron Buss was the women’s track coach there and he graciously took care of all the facilities and organization. There were around fifty of us (Somehow the records have been lost as to the exact number – another story for another time). It was an amazing week! Each aspect of the level one curriculum was presented and critiqued and revised onsite. The last two days we had essentially our first level two for those instructors, it was very high level presented by coaches like Ken Foreman from Seattle Pacific and top sport science people. The highlight of that segment was Dr Joe Vigil then of Adams State talking for three hours on the most intricate details of exercise physiology with no notes. It was vintage Joe Vigil. Read more
The Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network (GAIN) is a community of professionals interested in learning and sharing to improve their abilities and enhance their professional status. Read more
Germany is the top throws country in the world. Other countries may have more depth, but Germany has developed an unmatched elite throws team. Despite being a fraction of the size of rivals like the United States and Russia, it is the only country in the world that has a legitimate medal contender in all eight throwing events.
This past weekend I travelled to the Kienbaum national training center outside of Berlin for the German federation’s annual throwing conference. The training center is already a heaven for throwers. Add in 100 energetic coaches and you start to see why the country has so much success. But as good as thing are, the Germans face the same problems every country does. There was much heated debate about how to get kids started in the sport earlier, retain them longer, and provide better support for elite athletes.
But this debate is also key to their success. Rather than being antagonistic, everyone was on the same page because they were working towards the same goal. That teamwork and structure forms the foundation of their success. Despite being the best, they want to improve and learn from the best in Germany and around the world in order to do so.
Up to 20% of the body’s energy is dedicated to the brain, but it is often an overlooked element of training. And I’m not talking about the mind in a metaphysical sense, but the brain as a physical muscle sitting in our head. Each time we move, each time we learn, and each time we throw there are physical changes that occur in our brain. Over the past week I have summarized my own presentation and highlights from other presentations at the International Festival of Athletics Coaching. But with the brain playing such a central but often overlooked role, it is important for my last post about the conference to focus on this important topic.
Professor Vincent Walsh is a leading expert on the brain at University College London where he runs the Applied Cognitive Neuroscience. He gave two talks over the weekend that focused on how this 20% of our energy is being used and how to optimize it and maximize our performance. Much of the discussion centered around things we all have learned intuitively after years of experience. But it is reassuring that the science backs this up and helps provide some solutions on how to move forward.
Over the weekend I had the chance to both present at and attend the International Festival of Athletics Coaching in Glasgow. While it was a pleasure to teach other coaches, I always enjoy the student role the most.
The IFAC conference is unique since, unlike most other conferences or seminars I have attended, it brings together coaches from every event. Therefore I took advantage of this and actually skipped the other throws presentations by Vésteinn Hafsteinsson. Hafsteinsson is indeed one of the world’s best throwing coaches, but I can send him an email anytime and ask questions. This was a one time chance to learn from some of these other coaches. Below are two topics that I found very interesting over the weekend: long term athlete development and integrated training systems. Check back later this weekend when I move on to one final topic: the brain and learning technique.
Becoming a better coach requires learning new ideas. In Switzerland, that can be a bit more difficult than in other countries. The coaching education program here is quite insular. It is great for beginning coaches, but more advanced coaches are not often exposed to the leaders and new ideas in other countries. Last year I worked to change this by co-organizing a clinic with Harry Marra, the coach of world decathlon record holder Ashton Eaton. We hope to put together another event in the Spring. But in the meantime there are also many coaching conferences in Europe that already bring together to top coaches. This Autumn I have the chance to attend two of them: the International Festival of Athletics Coaching (“IFAC”) and the German Federation’s Throws Conference. I will post about what I learned at each conference.
The first stop is the IFAC, which is currently going on in Glasgow, Scotland. Not only does this conference give me a change to learn, but I also get the honor of presenting alongside some of the top names in athletics coaching like Harry Marra, Vern Gambetta, Frank Dick, Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, Jacques Borlée, Yannick Tregaro, Benke Blomkvist and many others from both within and outside our sport. I actually led two sessions: a theory session on Friday and a hands-on technical workshop on Saturday morning.
The theory presentation covered the topic “Simplifying the Soviets: An Easy Approach to Soviet Throws Training Methods and Periodization.” The presentation is an updated version of the topic I presented at the UK Athletics Hammer Workshop in 2011. It essentially boils down Soviet hammer throw training methods into five basic principles. I would have loved to go into periodization and programming in more detail, but with just one hour all I had time for was this basic overview. Nevertheless it was well received and it led to some informative discussions in the evenings where I had a chance to go into more detail about implementing the five principles. A copy of my slides are below, although much of discussion explored diverse tangents that help provide context or answered some of the great questions asked throughout the presentation.
This is Part Three of the original article that appeared in the IAAF Technical Journal that was published under the title “Coaches Education – a perspective,” New Studies In Athletics, Vol. 6 # 4,1991, pp. 7-11
Can you teach someone to coach? Coaching is definitely an art. It is a feel for saying and doing the right thing at the right time. I question if this can be taught. On the other hand the technical aspects can be taught and coaching skills can be improved in this manner. Communication skills, leadership skills, and psychological skills all can be enhanced through education. All of this is dependent on the desire of the coach to want to be better. Just because a coach attends a course and passes a test is no guarantee of that individual’s ability to coach. This is another reason that the focus should be on education rather certification. Read more
A couple of weeks ago when going through some old computer files I came across an article I wrote on the USA Track & Field (Then known as TAC) Coaching Education program. This weekend I will be going to the USOTC in Chula Vista for some planning meetings on the coaching education program. As I have gotten back involved over the last eighteen months I have become increasingly aware of how few people know the history and origins of the program. The programs started with a meeting at the 1981 TAC Convention in Reno. A group of us felt that we needed to start a coaching education program. Read more
Calling it an experience is not meant as marketing hype or hyperbole. It is truly an experience in learning and discovery. It all starts with the faculty. From the inception of GAIN I have worked to have a faculty who are the best at what they do, who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. They are not self-promoters and all over the Internet but they know their stuff and have produced results. I select faculty who are willing to share and can teach. Read more
Many of you have asked what the GAIN program looks like. This is time schedule and the topics for 2013 GAIN. You can see it is a total immersion program and quite comprehensive in it’s approach. Not a moment is wasted, every opportunity for learning is used. In another post I will talk about the faculty. Read more