2015 ANB HP Training Camp

From April 29th to May 10th I was living the coaching life.  Now I guess for semantics sake I always live the coaching life but this 12 day period was a little more specific in that they were spent at a training camp in Clermont, Florida at the National Training Centre with 9 athletes from across New Brunswick. This marks my sixth warm weather training camp as a coach and fifth at the NTC and I can honestly say that this has been the best one yet.  Sun and fun around a track I say.

National Training Centre

National Training Centre

Coaches: myself, Steve Leblanc, Earl Church

Coaches: myself, Steve Leblanc, Earl Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not to take away from all the other camps as they each had their own strengths but rather to point out that everything seemed to line up nicely for this camp with the biggest influencer being that we only had 9 athletes and 3 coaches in this provincial camp so the numbers worked out very nicely.  With myself I had three sprinters of which two I work with in Saint John all year round and the other I have a good relationship with her and her coach.  In the throws group coach Earl Church had 2 javelin throwers and one hammer/discus thrower.  In the third group coach Steve Leblanc had a multi-disciplinary group with two combined events males and a female who is primarily a pole vaulter but dabbles in a few other events.  We as coaches overlapped on occasion and swapped a few athletes around during some of the workouts but needless to say the 3 athlete to 1 coach ratio was amazing.  The quality, focus, attention to detail that we were able to provide the athletes with was second to none.  Both athletes and coaches benefited from this set up and with the weather being a consistent temperature of 27-31 degrees it never seemed too hot to take away from the work that we were trying to achieve.

I have a great professional set up but on occasion there is a bit of stress in that I am pulled in quite a a few different directions.  Administration, groups, programs, and a plethora of athletes across numerous event groups makes things tough.  But for this week and a bit I can honestly say that I had laser focus and I believe that the athletes benefited immensely from it.

2015 ANB HP Training Camp

2015 ANB HP Training Camp

In the planing stages for the camp coach Steve set up a schedule that resulted in two blocks of 4 days that had two sessions per day with a single session on the 5th day allowing for some added recovery and a relaxed evening on the fifth days. This format can be tough but is not horrible provided that the athletes make smart choices and coaches are on point in terms of reading their athletes.  The goal of camp was training so that is what we did.  An added benefit of having such in-depth knowledge of what my guys have been doing in the lead up to camp and what their goals and plans are for the rest of the summer really let me focus in on their plans for the camp.

Our established goal for the sprint group (athletes and coach) was to focus our work on the track.  We  decided to stay out of the weight room as any work done in the gym would take away from what we could do on the track.  An added note on that aspect is that while our gym set up at home is small it is always available and definitely a strength of our program (no pun intended).  This is in contrast to our lack of indoor facilities and variable weather during the spring outdoors so a focus on the track was key.

Dan Brown (400m), Nadia Wysote (400m), Coach, Jake Hayes (100m)

Dan Brown (400m), Nadia Wysote (400m), Coach, Jake Hayes (100m)

So with a plan in place and it being the third (Jake) and second (Dan) camps they knew what they were getting into and how to maximize their recovery between sessions.  I have to commend these guys. They did an awesome job.  Being in this situation is tough at times…a hot, bright sunny day, a good morning workout, and a few people in the pool laughing and having fun. Now, I am not going to tell them what they can or can’t do and over 10 days.  Looking back I think only once did they spend a bit too much time in between workouts being a bit too active.  Did this ruin their camp? No.  Did this ruin their day? No.  Did it make their single afternoon workout a little harder than it needed to be? Yes, but did they go to bed early and learn from it….absolutely.  And lets be honest you can’t be workout robots. Everyone has to turn off at some point and enjoy themselves.

Block Practice

Coach Earl Church working with his javelin throwers

Coach Earl Church working with his javelin throwers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The interesting thing for me as a coach was how this camp flowed.  We have been back in Saint John for a few days now and I can honestly say that this was the best camp that I have ever been to and while the number of athletes, weather, facilities, and overall group dynamic all played a part in that I think the biggest thing was myself.  My development and understanding as a coach about camps has improved.  My ability to monitor and adjust my athletes program has improved and thankfully due to the numbers my ability to focus was improved.  What I mean by this is that I was completely focused on the aspects of working with my athletes. I had plans.  I talked to the athletes.  I adjusted said plans.  In the lead up to the camp I told the athletes that my guess was that we would accomplish 50% of what we planned for in the weeks before camp and this number was fairly accurate.  We had a plan, a guide, a road map on the camp.  We increased, decreased, switched, swapped, and manipulated the workouts based on this plan even on occasion letting the athletes choose the specifics of the workout. Sometimes we swapped a morning and afternoon session.  On other occasions we played with other variables, for example how we started the reps with options being 3 point starts, flying starts, or block starts.  However, throughout the camp we kept the themes of health, wellness, and quality in place.  And now a few days past I think we accomplished all our goals for the camp.

While I can say that the camp was a success the objectiveness of our sport will decide that.  I feel confident that the guys are in a good place and when they get the opportunity to race this weekend, provided that weather and competitive demands line up, that they will perform well.  I don’t want to say that they are going to open up with personal bests but I do believe that they won’t be far off.

I guess the overall theme of this post is that experience counts.  10000 hours may not be the exact rule as it once was thought but I do know that every year I coach, learn, and study I am a better coach than before.  I believe that I am only scratching the surface of my coaching career so in a few decades I will look back at these words and laugh.   Hopefully I will also nod my head and be proud of that my young self was on the right track (pun intended).

Quality selfie in the sun

Quality selfie in the sun

Lessons missed but learned over time

When I took my first coaching course way back in 2002 the curriculum was like anything introductory, a broad overview. It provided all the tidbits of information necessary. Now, full disclaimer this posting is not a critique on anyone or anything that I have learned. I am very proud and grateful of the coached education system in Canada and the coaches whom I have had the chance to learn from. And while nothing is perfect I do feel that the Canadian system is a leader in coach’s education globally. While each sport has their strengths and weaknesses and all sports in Canada have had a lovely time in dealing with changes in the coaching education system from numbered levels to names to changes in those names. It has been a fun and on many occasions confusing experience but I do believe in the foundation and direction of it all.

Here is a list of all of my formal education courses that I have taken over the last thirteen years. Noting that this list does not include clinics, camps, and more holistic experiences but if you want to see all that send me a message.

September 2002        NCCP Theory 1

March 2003                Technical 1 – Track and Field (Kevin Cumming)

September 2003        Certification 1 – Track and Field

September 2003       Technical 2 – Track and Field (Distance – Doug Lamont)

March 2004                Run, Jump, Throw Instructor Course

November 2004        NCCP Theory 2

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Gymnastics (Doug Hillis)

April 2005                  Technical 1 – Volleyball (Leslie Irie)

November 2005         NCCP Level 3 – Theory

February 2006            Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Trained)

April 2006                    Technical 2 – Sprints & Hurdles (Glenn Bruce)

April 2006                    Technical 3 – Distance (Claude Berube)

May 2006                     BSc. Kinesiology (Exercise and Sport) – University of Saskatchewan

August 2006                 Level 3 Technical – Sprints and Hurdles (Derek Evely, Kevin Tyler, & Mike Murray)

February 2008             Planning and Periodization Specialist – Bompa Certification System

May 2008                      Certification 3 – Sprints & Hurdles

October 2008                Charter member of Coaches of Canada – Chartered Professional Coach (ChPC)

December 2008           Club Coach (Level 2 Technical) – (Terry Mountjoy) Jumps                                     “Trained”

November 2012           Competition Development Course – Jumps (Les Gramantik)                                    “Trained”

March 2013                  Fundamental Movement Skills – Learning Facilitator

July 2013                      Competition Development – Endurance Certified

December 2013            IAAF Level V Sprints & Hurdles Diploma Program – Candidate (Submitted August 2014)

May 2014                       Run, Jump, Throw – Instructor (Certified)

Through this time period not only have I changed but also the world. Yes, I am young and only going to be thirty-one years old this year so my perception obviously is that the world has changed. But I only need to use the Internet as my example. During this time period the amount of information online is greater than anything I could have ever imagined. From a coaching perspective I can watch workouts on just about any athlete from anywhere in the world through YouTube or FaceBook. I can listen to audio podcasts from hundreds of coaches giving their viewpoints on things. I can search journal articles in seconds to read about the latest studies that was carried out.  I can read workouts from athletes done in the 70’s one second and then compare that to a video of yesterday’s workouts..maybe Workout Wednesday on FloTrack . This amount of information is sometimes extremely overwhelming and it can be hard to know exactly what is correct. This is why having some key beliefs and philosophies are important as well as a basic scientific understanding of your sport/event area but that is not where I intend to go today.

At this point I am going to touch on my list of four things that were and have been missed in the educational experiences and this has nothing to do with the courses but rather the level as a coach that I am now starting to coach at. These are things that for myself have grown in importance. So without further a do…

Flexibility

We can’t control and manipulate everything. Sickness happens. School, family, life. They all happen. We plan, organize, and try to manipulate the body to adapt and improve. But at the same time we must be flexible to change. I tell my athletes if the plan is so specific that it doesn’t account for small changes the impact of this is going to lead to significant stress, if not psychological issues, to both the coach and athlete.

Snowmageddon 2015

Snowmageddon 2015

Lately, the major concern for Atlantic Canada in terms of why flexibility is important is in regards to weather. In Saint John we have already seen upwards of 180cm of snow, which resulted in a state of emergency being declared, and now being told to expect another 50cm this Sunday. Why is this important?  Well when the city shuts down so to does practice. So what do you do? For myself it comes down to a state of mind. Be positive and confident that you can take a day off from the track.  Think of it as extra rest that is needed. From there focus on what you can do. Maybe a strength circuit, maybe some Mach drills in the basement, some pre-hab drills, rolling, stretching, and visualization. Can we get the heart rate up? Yes. Can we get some tissue work in? Yes. Can we sprint? No, but should we sit around and moan about it or be positive and embrace what we can do. Be positive. Be optimistic and be flexible when it is needed.

Data Part 1 – Objective Numbers/Tracking/Comparison

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. This business adage holds very true to coaches also. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), KSIs (Key Success Indicators), gap analysis, competition data and norms, practice data and norms, testing, workouts, health, sleep, diet, RPE (Rate of Perceieved Exertion), volume, intensity, contacts, weights. This list can go on and on and I am the first to admit that it can be very daunting. However, the more data, the more numbers, the more objective information that you have as a coach the easier your role as a coach can be at times.

When I started coaching I did my best to track volume and contacts and I will say I did a pretty good job of this. But what I didn’t do was relate this to intensity. All volume was equal and all volume that was planned for was the goal. Definitely something that I don’t preach any more. Volume and intensity are themselves highly variable. Some friends and I have a Facebook chat where we are known to talk random crap but more frequently on coaching matters. On this subject of tracking load the following was noted….”2x150m @ 14.9s is a shitload more load than 4x150m @ 17.5s.” But as a coach who works with athletes across all events this can be a daunting task. How do you calculate a load on 6 short long jump approaches? 6 full approaches? How about triple? What about the combined events athlete? The thrower? HRV can work and is supported by many but it also costs money, compliance can be an issue, and for some individuals it isn’t the best. But in the end even though we look for norms, causation, and some sort of rationalization with what we do it is always an experiment of 1 (N=1). Because no matter how similar athletes are they are individuals and no two are exactly the same. However, all information is not equal. Is it repeatable? Is it scientific in nature? Why are you tracking it? How are you tracking it? Stop watch, free lap system, laser timing system, opto-jump? Are you using video? Are you objectively comparing or subjectively? And while I am not a pro and have developed and refined my systems over the years they are still in their infancy and being improved, slowly. I have been fortunate to get a freelap timing system. I bought a video camera years ago that allows for some decent slow motion video clips and am making a very active effort to video much than previously.   Proably one of the most important though is that I am very lucky and fortunate as a full time professional coach to have time.  Do I do a perfect job? Not even close. But am I slowly learning and getting better? I like to think so.

Data Part 2 – Excel/Numbers (whatever program you use)

This one is short and sweet. Get good at using an online system/software. I used to use excel then went to numbers as I have grown more used to my Mac but am now coming back to excel using YouTube videos to add in some power and skill in using it with hopefully some courses in the near future. I did learn quite a bit in university so am not a total noob but am not as proficient as I need to be. So slowly but surely I am improving. It takes time. It is tedious at times but it is extremely valuable. I keep a results file where I track results of athletes that I work with – not all but a good majority. And as one of my females is graduating grade twelve this year a few post-secondary institutions are recruiting her. So a few clicks of the track pad and all of her results since 2012 when I started working with her are emailed to them, which is a great thing to be able to do. Throw in funding and grant applications, meetings, and reporting on athletes the ability to access objective data is huge. Numbers speak far louder than approximations and subjective words plus if you do need to provide numbers it will save hours of trying to find them when it comes.

Knowledge and Humbleness

This last one is again straightforward. Get comfortable in doubting yourself…to a point. What is he/she doing? What does this study mean? What does that study mean? How does it fit together? Should I do that? Should I change? Should I adapt the plan? I believe that all of these are part of the learning process. The process of gaining and seeking knowledge and improving yourself as a coach. But this has to come with balance. There is too much information out there. So what do you do? Do you attack a specific area? Do you go with a shot gun approach and go all over the place? Do you change on a whim? What is your litmus test? What is your process for implementing change? What are your rules?

Don’t get me wrong. My athletes constantly tell me how confident I am. At times this is true but what they don’t see is when I sit in the office refining their plans for the next phase. Comparing that to their annual plan that I laid out months before and continually change, minimally. Reflecting on the last phase or two. Seeing how they all come together. Comparing this plan to notes I have made about other programs, ideas, suggestions to employ in the future. When I was in Florida in 2013 for IAAF Sprints and Hurdles Academy course John Smith spoke on this topic. Now, I paraphrase but he stated that he isn’t a smart man and when he sees or hears of something new he must find the answer for that topic in regards to how it fits. Fits in relation to him, his athletes, his program, his beliefs, and experiences. Further stating that there are things that he saw decades ago that he is still not smart enough to understand so he hasn’t implemented it.   What did I take from this and make apart of my coaching and life philosophy. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why coaches do everything that they do but when I see something I write it down/make a mental note. I try to study it. I research it. I think about it. At times I too am not smart enough to understand a topic and leave it on the back burner until one day I might. Other times I get the answer rather quickly and I see that my program is missing that component and would benefit from it. Other times I find out that the item in question is not for me, not for my athletes, for my program at the present time. Do I forget about that item forever? No, because it may be something that I need in the future so I put it in the file cabinet to be accessed in time. I know that there are a number of correct answers. There are a number of incorrect answers but there is exponentially more found in the middle where it just depends on who, what, when, where, why, how. In the end….I am smart enough to know that I am not that smart!

So with all that in mind I thank you for reading this post. I hope you have learned something yourself or possibly even learned something about me. I know that as I continue to write and post I learn about myself and enjoy this process.

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

UNB crew at McGill Team Challenge 2015

McGill 2015

McGill 2015

What I really think…

So this year I started a coaching mentorship program through ANB. This been awesome for me to do.  I have really enjoyed my time spent working with the three amazing ladies.  They have taught me so much and far more than what I have taught them.  But we are currently on our last phase in regards to seasonal reviews and planning for the future.  What started out as a little insight for them has turned into something that I have to put here.  Now, don’t get me wrong this is supposed to be positive. It is helping me fuel the fire and work out some frustration.  I am far more happy than angry and far more proud than disappointed. But I let the fingers go to work and this is what they have came up with and I think it works. I apologize for the grammar.

 

The end of the year is always tough but always something that I look forward to. I look forward to it because usually I am tired and need a break. I need a mental break from pushing. I need some time off. It is always tough though no matter how good it is. It is tough because I always fail. I always know that I failed the athletes. I always see the weaknesses when it is too late. I see the things that were undeveloped. I see where I failed to prepare them. I couldn’t see them earlier. I was blind. But when it is too late the become so clear. Sometimes you still get success. You might get a record, a medal, a personal best but I can always see more. I can see better.

I can see things that would have resulted in a greater success. Maybe I am being too hard on myself but I don’t think so. I can be happy. I can be pleased. I can be pumped. But when it is all said and done I know that perfection and no matter how good the results were that they can be better. So how bout this year for me. 5th place at National Juniors, 6th, 8th, 8th place at National Legions, 2 provincial records, #1 in NB in 37 events or something, and maybe a hundred personal bests. But here is what I do know it is my first year of coaching where one of the athletes that I work with didn’t medal at a major outdoor national championships. The first year where I was more pissed then happy. Not with the athletes but with myself. I love my gang and while they might irritate me and cause me stress I care about them more than they will ever know and I feel as though I failed them. I feel as though I let them down. I failed to see the problems until it was too late. I failed to prepare them to reach the podium.

I am constantly reminded that I am doing a good job, putting in so much time, and that I can’t compete for the athletes. I know this but at the same time I still feel the way I feel. The feeling will fade. It will subside and be replaced with fire, passion, and burning desire to improve and strive for even more success. I believe in myself as a coach. I believe that I do know what I am doing but that my skill set isn’t anywhere near completion. It is impossible to put a number on it. I read, I study, I listen, I watch all the time and yet I feel as though I am still only scraping the surface of what I need to know. I know that this will never change. I know that I can not know everything because there is too much to know. I know that knowledge is one thing but wisdom is another. I know that I am still so young in this coaching game but that doesn’t change the fact that the athletes that I work with trust me to put forward a plan that will help them achieve their goals and right now I can’t help but think that I failed them. But this same feeling of failure is what is getting me to write this, what is getting me to review last years plan, this years plan, and next years plan. It is the feeling that gets me to read another book, so listen to another podcast, do go to another conference, to not go home and see my niece and nephew, to drive myself crazy but would I change it. No! I love what I do. I love that I can do it professionally and make my living this way. I love that my job is important but at the same time I get to laugh with those that I work with more than we cry. I love this feeling right now because I know that this is helping my battery recharge and when we get going in a few weeks I will be more ready to go then my athletes. I know that I will be ready to push them (and myself) for another year. I know that I will be ready to #riseandgrind.

So I am now back at it. Listing the strengths, the weakness, the wins, the losses, the details, the dates, the thoughts, the ideas and will put it all down. I will review and refine. I will drive myself even more crazy but I won’t stop. I won’t back off. I won’t stop thinking and trying to be the best coach that I can be. I will be the best that I can be tomorrow but I know that I will still be an idiot and failure when I look back next year but hopefully I have a few more smiles and tears of joy then tears of failure and frustration.