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.
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.
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.
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.
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).