A week in Santa Barbara

Simplicity. Basics. Fundamentals. These things have popped up on my coaching radar time and time again over the past year. In the past 12 months I have been around North America taking notes, studying, talking, coaching, and learning. Through out them all has been an interwoven thread of simplicity and the sophistication that comes from that. Point blank…..coaching and athlete success is all about simplicity. It is not about making things exciting, new, different, or one of a kind. Rather it is about being able to understand and do the simple things exceptionally well.

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

Ashton, myself, and Brianne

This past week I got the chance to witness simplicity at its finest through the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centres Combined Events Mentorship Program which had us watch two of the greatest athletes in the world, Brianne Theisen Eaton and Ashton Eaton train in Santa Barbara. World medals, commonwealth gold, and Canadian records for Brianne and Olympic gold, world records, world titles and countless other accolades for Ashton. But this wasn’t just the athletes on display as the week also included about 12 hours of contact time with Coach Harry Marra. Now full disclosure is that this week was extra special as I was many years ago in the same training group as Brianne when she and the rest of the Humboldt crew drove to Saskatoon (my home) for practice. Then when I retired from my own athletic pursuits in 2006 and started coaching full-time I got to help her out a few times as I was assistant coach to the group led by Todd Johnston. So when she took me for a tour of Santa Barbara and pointed out the breath taking views, celebrity homes, and a bachelor tv show location we were able to catch up, chat about the past, future, and reflect about our starting points back with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club. I have been extremely impressed by her for years and continue to be very proud of her. But back to coaching and this amazing week.

Brianne recieving some feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Brianne receiving feedback after a rep over the hurdles

Some take aways and a few key notes from the program:

The program that these three work in (Harry, Brianne, and Ashton) is extremely unique.

The focus and intensity of their practices was impressive. No moment was off limits for improvement. Simple shadows would be on the schedule. However the focus, intensity, and significance that all placed on the drills was huge. Technical development, physical and mental connections, and overall event mastery were on display all the time.

The interaction between coach and athlete and even athlete-athlete-coach was also very unique. The dialogue was back and fourth. It was supportive. It was flowing in all directions. I have heard Dan Pfaff talk about elite athletes needing PhDs in their events and hearing the conversations between Harry, Brianne, and Ashton makes me believe that these two are definitely well on their way…that is if they don’t have it already which they probably do.

Homework, debriefs, and self reflection where motor patterns are further developed are also an integral part of the program. On occasion these debriefs are simple emails, short and to the point, while at other times stretching a page or two incorporating technical cues, feelings, thoughts about the past, goals and ideas for the future. A great display of athlete ownership and personal responsibility.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

Ashton working on the shot with Coach Marra keeping a close view.

I didn’t see anything new and I didn’t expect to, however I did see a few different applications of exercises and routines. For example I knew that medicine ball routines were a frequent warm up modality for Brianne and Ashton but never really understood how it fit in. But after being able to see it first hand I can definitely see the benefits. Will it be implemented into my program immediately? Doubtful, but will I give it more thought and look further into the process and implement it when it really makes sense? Definitely!

You can’t be afraid to develop and train for goals. You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there for all the world to see. While it is true that if you don’t put yourself out there you won’t be a failure the ability to then achieve success would be severely impacted.

I love getting together with my coaching colleagues. Sean Baynton from the CACC was the organizer of this event, Les Gramantik was our Canadian mentor coach and then the following were fellow apprentices: Simon Louise-Seize who coaches out of Laval (also my roommate for the week), Kurt Downes from Windsor, Ming Pu Wu who used to coach in China, then Montreal Lake Saskatchewan, and now Winnipeg, Nick Stoffberg from Edmonton, and Gar Leyshon from London.

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back - Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front - Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu-Wu)

2015 Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre group (Back – Kurt Downes, Nick Stoffberg, Jason Reindl, Sean Baynton, Gar Leyshon; Front – Ashton Eaton, Harry Marra, Les Gramantik, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simon Louis-Seize, Ming Pu Wu)

Chats on the way to the track, at the track, during the awesome lunches at Westmount College, at the beach, the hotel, over dinner and wine sessions (it is wine country after all) were all productive and insightful. There were also tons of laughs and great stories over tapas and wine. No matter the topic or who was speaking at the time there was something to be gained. A note to be made. A tidbit to be rememberd. A previous idea or application of knowledge that could be built upon. The cross pollination between us all in terms of experiences, ideas, background, education, etc makes us all able to contribute. The brainstorming and idea generation was huge and just getting together with these guys was an awesome coaching education experience.

The combined events are awesome. I have had a huge respect for the event and the athletes who choose to accept the challenge that comes with it. As an athlete I trained with many decathletes and heptathletes and as a coach I quite enjoy the variety that comes with it. I also competed or practiced in all the events at one point in time (thanks Saskatchewan Legion Camp) so I do get it. But the number of events that Brianne and Ashton covered in a day was an eye opener. This wasn’t just touching on the event to say you did it. This was a deliberate focused practice. While the time in minutes may have been short it was still purposeful and effective. In my vocabulary I would refer to it as micro-dosing. This concept although not foreign to me was displayed in a new format and made immediate sense.

Building off of this micro-dosing was the continuous display of motor learning. Coach Marra is a true master coach. His experiences pass over 5 decades and his understanding of all the individual events is something that I aspire to one day achieve.  He embraced teaching opportunities but also let the athletes work through it alone at times. He connected events, movements, and how the body interprets it all. But this leads me to the thought that expert coaches help bring about continuous displays of expert level athletic performance. What I mean by this is that it is far easier to have a flash in the pan. To get an athlete to have a great year. But to do this safely and in a manner at which the athlete can be at the top of their game for multiple years and cycles in a much more difficult situation.

Coach Harry Marra

Coach Harry Marra

Egos. Harry is a great coach and Brianne and Ashton are two amazing athletes but they all know they aren’t perfect. They know they aren’t maxed out. So what do they do? They seek out help and listen when opportunities present themselves. The week prior to us being down the group utilized the skills of coaching legend Tom Tellez. Also the interactions between Les, Brianne, and Ashton were embraced by Harry. At times coaches can be very possessive and almost psychotic about the interactions the athletes that they work with have with other coaches. Now I am not naive to think that everyone is as fundamentally respectful and as honest as Les was in this situation but I doubt that this group would shy away from listening and learning if it presented itself. In the end while everyone has an ego I was able to see humility, honestly, and a desire by the coach to turn over all stones and search for ways to help the athletes that he works with.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

Les providing some insight during the training session.

There are many roads to Rome. Commonalities exists at all times but individual differences in the athlete, the coach, the group, and between them all are apparent. Equipment, facilities, weather must also be noted but the path to success is dynamic. It is always flowing and changing. Know and truly embrace science, fundamentals, and the basics. Master those and proceed from there.

IMG_3945

The Saskatchewan Group – Sean, Jason, Brianne, Ming

 

 

So that is my breakdown, recap, debrief, and period of reflection for the trip.  An awesome week that has left me feeling energized and motivated.  Coaching is tough and at times it is draining.  I am human.  I have good days and bad days but after this week I am riding a definite high.  Plus the increased vitamin D from the sun and lack of snow were also huge benefits.

One of the blessings about flying across the continent is that you get a lot of time to yourself. This time for me on the way back home to Saint John has been the perfect time to jot all of this information down on the notes page of my phone. But after all of this learning and reflection I can say that I am excited to get back to my group but not the snow. To coach, teach, learn, and grow with an amazing group of young men and women. I love my job and am always blessed to be able to be such a big part of their lives. The honour and trust that comes from being a coach is very special and I thank everyone who has been apart of this journey with me.

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

Goal: To rake the perfect pit!

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

Thank You!

I am going to start this post with a bit of a back-story. There will be quite few history lessons in this post so I apologize in advance. Hopefully they all come together nicely. In my brain right now it is going to be good but sometimes things do get jumbled in there.

Back in 2007 when I moved to Korea I started my original jasonreindl.com site. This site was a way for me to keep family and friends in the loop in terms of what my life overseas in Bucheon, Korea was like. I was never a fan of mass emails as my experience had been when you send out one email you get emails back from everyone saying “cool”. So this way people could read what I was up to but would have to go out of their way to send an email rather than just hitting reply and not putting much substance in their reply. The second benefit and probably the one with greater long terms effects is that it allowed me to journal, reflect, and otherwise give some cognitive thought as to what I was doing in Korea and how I was making that amazing experience the best that it could be. In short if every post was talking about the same experiences in school, the same food, and the same weekend social events then I wouldn’t get as much out of it as I could. I won’t lie and say that I did absolutely everything in Korea because I did go back and love going back and look forward to the next time I head back. But in the end I can say that I have a variety of photos, experiences (sometimes blurry), and made a plethora of friends and memories.

In 2012 when I moved to New Brunswick I think I made one or two posts about my new life on the east coast, being back in the coaching world, and what was going on. But this quickly lost momentum and I just stopped doing it. In 2014 when I brought the latest edition of this site into focus I knew I had to make it more about my life as a coach and the processes/events that encompass it. For all the craziness and chaos that it entails I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at the moment. At the exact same time I got an invite to be a part of a study on coaches, their well-being, emotional state, and how it fluctuates with the realities of the job. One of the components of this project was to do some journaling. I am sure some coaches are thinking to themselves about the roller coaster of emotions that they go through and what a study of this would look like. Well at times it wasn’t pretty but at other times there is nothing better. So the concept was to keep it going through the website/blog but to tie it in with my coaching and some internal analysis/reflection.

One of the things that happened also at some point (not sure on the date but probably in 2012 when I got back into coaching full time) was that I came across Stuart McMillan’s blog www.mcmillanspeed.com. For those in the coaching world you are probably well aware of the site and know how Stu holds no punches. His honesty and openness is second to only maybe Derek Evely (whose interviews on Stu’s site are some of the best). This was one of the reasons why when the World Athletics Center www.worldathleticscenter.com came out with their Apprentice Coach program in 2013 I knew I had to get to it. With Dan Pfaff, Andreas Behm, John Godina, Nick Sheuerman, and Stuart McMillan involved it is an environment that is second to none and have truly established themselves as something special both for athletes and coaches.

In April 2014 I had the privilege of being part of the Apprentice Coach program. While in the moment I can say that my week in Phoenix left me in a daze. Sure lots of direct knowledge gained and professional friendships forged and strengthened in the evenings over frosty beverages – thanks Dana and Tyler. But in addition I can say I was a little bit in awe of the individuals involved. I’ll admit it, I am still and will always be a fan of track now it is just for both athletes and coaches. Maybe it was the simplicity (first thought) at the time but the programs effect on me, my coaching, and the impact I have on my athletes is like a fine wine improving with age. Surely, the inner workings of true high performance athletics must be complicated and far too advanced for a developing coach like myself to understand but the more I reflect, review, and apply what I learned the answer is the opposite. It is the laser precision focus, the years of experience of those involved, and the culture that oozes out of the environment that makes it so simple. Elite performers are special but with coaching being the artistic application of scientific principles I am coming to believe that the endless variety of opportunity and the world of coaching/sport should be an environment where simplicity is king.

One of the direct impacts that came during the last year is that my desire to broaden my depth of knowledge. I have always enjoyed reading and gaining knowledge but it certainly has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. While in Phoenix I could feel the fire being stoked and for those that have seen my photos on twitter/facebook will know that I have been reading a lot and the rules are well there aren’t any. The only rule is that I finish one book before I move onto the next. But no topic is off limits. So far I have read 22 books in 2014 since April and will hopefully be able to finish #23 by December 31st. One of the best things about the 21st century and being able to follow professionals from a variety of fields is the cross-pollination that occurs. While the early days of my coaching career were filled with track specific documents only my tastes are becoming far broader. For example, back to Stu, he recently posted his most recent blog/website post titled “Best Books of 2014”. Honestly, I haven’t read any of the books he listed but I was able, thanks to an Xmas gift card, pick up Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett. This latest edition is on the bottom of the list though as Ready to Run makes 25 books in the queue ahead of it (that I have in the shelves). After that there are 130 books that I have written down in the notes app of my phone titled “Recommended to Read” where there are countless books that have popped up and get written down or a screen shot so that I don’t forget.

Mind of a Chef

Mind of a Chef

Chef David Chang

Chef David Chang

 

 

 

 

 

 

But how does this all connect. So far I have touched on the blog, reflection, Stu, World Athletics Center, coaching, and my quest for knowledge through reading. Where is the connection? Well on Sunday December 28th I had the pleasure of spending the evening with my amazingly supportive girlfriend, Rebecca watching and finishing season one of “The Mind of a Chef” narrated by Anthony Bourdain. When I am not boring her with track stuff or driving myself crazy with track stuff we love watching cooking shows. I don’t cook as much as I would like but there is nothing more calming and exhilarating then watching a master chef in action. In season one the show followed Chef David Chang (owner and Head Chef of the Momofuko restaurant group). In episode twelve, titled “Buddies”, which is the final episode of the season Chef Chang is eating Clam Chowder with three other chefs. This show now available on Netflix is great because of Chang’s honesty, openness, and down right hilarity but something else happened in this episode. It struck a home run with me as a coach – as a developing coach – as a coach who is learning and trying to solidify my beliefs as a coach. So what transpired? Four chefs are in San Francisco eating bread bowls of clam chowder and the following conversation occurs – I have paraphrased a tiny bit and left a part or two about direct cooking but here are the key statements.

David Chang – we were talking about chefs copying. Everyone copies.

Sat Bains – The world is very small now through the Internet.

Daniel Patterson – If you’re gonna take something just say where it came from and be honest.

Claude Bosi – It’s wrong to deny where you got the idea from.

Sat Bains – If you are honest you will always walk away with integrity.

David Chang – Chefs need to know where their techniques are coming from. It is something that I even ask.

Daniel Patterson – You can talk until you are blue in the face about copying but it isn’t about copying.

Sat Bains – When you get to the same point that where we are at now everything has been done.

David Chang – Nothing is new. There are very few people that invent new techniques. It’s what Stanley Kubrick says, “everything has already been done. It’s our job to do it just a little bit better”.

Daniel Patterson – Get in your kitchen. Cook. Talk to your friends. Share what you are doing. That’s it. And have a good time.

The in the closing scenes Bourdain’s voice is overlaid, “cooking at the highest level needs many things. Respect. Dedication to the craft. Creativity. And stamina. But you have also got to be willing to share. To borrow. And be inspired by the works of others.”

The funny thing was how immediate this scene resonated with me. Do we copy in coaching? Absolutely. Does the amount of information available through the Internet make the world a very small place? Definitely. Do people state where they get they get all their ideas from? Not usually. Do coaches like chefs need to know their history and where the techniques originated? Of course foundations need to build and history is a great foundation. Has everything been done in coaching? I don’t believe so but a lot has been done that is for sure. Upon reflection then I believe that my job as a coach is to understand that I most likely won’t create a new technique but as Chang quotes Stanley Kubrick (whose quote originally applied to film making) can I take what has been done, apply it to my situation, to the athletes that I work with, and make it just a little bit better? I believe so. From there what do we do? We coach. We get on the track, in the gym, and on the fields and we coach. We talk to fellow coaches. Share what we are doing and most importantly have a good time. Does coaching at the highest level need many things? Yes. Does it need respect, dedication, creativity, stamina, and willingness to share, borrow, and be inspired by the works of others? Absolutely!

Knowledge and learning is all around us. So as the title of this post states thank you. Thank you to everyone and everything out there. To my family, friends, athletes, coaching colleagues, those on TV, who write blogs, books, TV shows, movies, who have sent or responded to an email, to those who have ever asked a question, or reading this entire post now….I say thank you. You can all take a bow and pat yourself on the back for impacting my education and development. You might laugh and remember that your last experience with me was of me sitting quietly maybe looking a little bored. All of which could be true but in my defense I try to internalize a lot. I sit and reflect. So perhaps when I was quiet and looking off in the distance I was actually internalizing what was said and giving it the thought that it deserved.

Was 2014 perfect? No!

Was it good? Definitely!

Will 2015 be better? Only time will tell. But what I do know is that just as I am not the same person I was at this time in 2013 the same thing is true a year from now in 2015. I will continue to grow, learn, develop, and educate myself. Sometimes that education will come directly from ‘normal’ sources but hopefully it will also come indirectly though sources that are not seen as normal. So until next time I will and encourage you to keep an open mind.

And again…..Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Recharging my Battery

Batteries are something that we all live by these days.  How much percent do I have left on my phone is probably the most common however, recently I have been thinking more about my battery, my personal battery.  Now, this topic has been on my brain for quite a while now but probably the biggest reason was that I got in my first major vacation for the first time in just over two years.  This vacation was needed. I love my work and love my daily life.  I love waking up at 5am, getting the gym ready for my athletes for 6am, and keeping the day going until about 6 or 7pm.  I read, I type, I plan, I work, and it continues and through some positive strategies such as sleep, nutrition, and a few outlets (Netflix) it never seems that bad.  This process drains and recharges the battery.  Usually it stays in equilibrium.  However, every now and then there is a bigger trip, weekend, conference, meet, or something which drains the battery just a little bit more.

Battery

Battery Charging

Now, when my vacation and trip to Korea for one of my best friend’s wedding finally came I was ready for my break. My time away from track. My battery was nearly empty. The grind was becoming harder and harder.  However, the funny thing was this was only temporary.  For the first few days in Korea I didn’t check my phone at all.  I didn’t even think about track and coaching. A slight exaggeration but you get the idea.  The best part was I could feel the battery recharging.  I could feel my brain, my desire, and that little voice inside saying “let’s read an article, study, plan” getting a little louder each day.  Now, don’t get me wrong either I love Korea and 12 days was way too short for what I wanted to do.  Korea is just so much a part of me and who I am today that I just feel comfortable there.  The food, the people, the sights.  But at the same time I was getting more excited at the thought of getting home, getting back to the grind, and coaching.  That is who I am!

Admiral Yi Sun-shin

Admiral Yi Sun-shin

All of it just makes sense to me when I am over there and this is probably one of the reasons why the battery recharged as well as it did.  So a wedding, being a power tourist, and far too many late nights resulted in a physically tiring vacation but a mentally recharging one.

So when I got back to Saint John it was hard. Jet lag and recharging the physical battery took a few days and with a trip to CIS XC Nationals in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a trip to Toronto of the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centres Speed and Power Conference it continues to take some time.  Most recently I was on a panel presenting at the NB Coaches Summit on habits of a successful coach and assisting at ANB’s Sprints and Hurdles Summit.  So  you can forgive me if I am looking forward to a few weeks at home in December with no flights, no hotels, but just time.  But until then there is still a track meet next weekend and a few days in Calgary as part of the Coaching Centres mentorship program where the focus is on the multi-events.   But as physically taxing the last couple of weeks have been and catching up on the to do list has been a grind the mental battery is still feeling great.  I am eager for more and thankfully ‘more’ isn’t going to slow down any time soon…at least not for the next three weeks.  And honestly I don’t want to slow down.

So what can I take from this. Mental well being is key.  Keeping the battery levels in check are key.  Being able to take care of the physical side, the body through sleep and nutrition is key. But one thing that sometimes gets neglected is being able to hit pause.  To plug in your cable and start recharging the battery.  Usually we might call this the check out time.  Check out for a night or for a day. Sometimes through a movie or an all-day Netflix binge.  We all have our own ways to recharge and it is important to respect those individual methods.  Sometimes I put so much into my athletes that I fail to realize that if I am not at my best then what good am I to my athletes.  I educate, discuss, share, lecture, and talk about it from an athletes perspective but very rarely do I and we as coaches remember that all the same principles apply to us.  But while I must say mentally I am in a good place right now and feeling good physically I still need some work.  I can honestly say that I have put on a few more pounds then I am proud of.  So while some will talk about resolutions at this time of the year I will talk about plans.  My plan is to go for a few more walks around campus, to get in a run or two a week. That way, slowly and surely, I will get it all under control and get all sides of the physical battery in synch with the mental one.

Which one do you need to recharge?

Which one do you need to recharge?

Kevin & Jieun

Bride & Groom

Inside the Palace

Inside the Palace

Knowledge and Professional Development

The past several weeks have been extremely busy but honestly when isn’t my life and that is not a complaint.  I love the daily craziness and randomness that each day can bring.  One of the joys is that things are never the same.  My days are never the same.  Sure elements may be similar, exercises and athletes maybe close to the same but changes have happened. I am certainly not the same person, the same coach, the same set of eyes. My viewpoint has changed.  Maybe not radically but change is constant. The same goes with the athletes.  Sure they probably haven’t changed a huge amount but the movement pattern in that one legged squat may have gotten a little smoother and a little more controlled.  Their posture may have improved.  To someone who doesn’t work with individuals in this manner on a daily basis I am certain that they wouldn’t see a difference.  They wouldn’t notice that the right arm in the shoulder press was extending easier than last week or that the athlete did a full 10 reps compared to only 8 the previous week. Or how about the negatives.  That slight limp. The way the athlete is guarding their right side.  That bruise on their knee cap.  Those shoes that are far beyond their life expectancy.  An unfilled water bottle. The pale look of the skin tone and dark bags under the eyes. Everything is an indicator and change is constant for good and for bad.

I have spent a large portion of the past ten years consumed with knowledge, education, and learning.  Trying to change myself for the better as a coaching professional.  Towards the end of my Kinesiology degree I was certain that I wanted to pursue a career in sport specifically in coach. If only I could go back and explain to myself what life would be like.  Would I have given myself an epic high five? Or would I have absorbed the information and  transferred colleges into business?  Who knows but at this point I have been committed to my path.  Even when I was in Korea teaching English I was still focused on gaining knowledge on coaching, pedagogy, athletics, sport, and the development of athletes.  A pause from the day to day track side coaching but a huge experience gain in areas of communication, teaching, body language, leadership, and a lot of life experience that was the most valuable thing I could have ever asked for.

Combine a formal education, a few years learning how to teach, and a whole lot of common path coaching development and you start to see the pictures.  Attending 19 coaching certification/education events, 16 conferences, 5 HP warm weather training camps, more than 20 national championships, a world championship in 2011, and countless other clinics and situations where I was able to learn (which is all the time) and you get a clearer picture. All of these events, experiences, or shall I say opportunities have impacted by view point, my bias, my background.  Now, I know that all of these experiences are merely a drop in the ocean compared to a lot of individuals but it is a start.  It is my start.  I remind myself daily that I am still young.  Still developing.  Still learning the art of coaching – the artistic application of science to improve the performance level of individuals in sport.  Lots of hours and dollars spent to sit in meeting rooms, classrooms, and hotel convention rooms writing notes, listening, internalizing, reflecting, conversing, discussing, arguing, and analysing.  Lots of dollars and hours on books and videos.  Everyone and everything becoming a part of who I am as a coach.  Every opportunity looked as a way to build my tool box.  Every experience making me, hopefully, just a little more knowledgable on the depth of subjects required to be a coach.  Side bar – Honestly, how many topics are there for a coach to be proficient or at least have some knowledge in…100 maybe even a 1000? At some point you would probably just be breaking up areas into more and more specifics but the fact of the matter is that knowledge required to be a coach is not on the small scale.

So here I am asking the question to myself, “what is next?”  What should I do, study, read, listen to to improve my skills.  Lately, I have been reading.  Choke, Essentialism, Developing Sport Expertise, Anatomy for Runners, Caffeine for Sports Performance are the most recent titles that I have been able to read.  Earlier this year titles included Leadership, It’s Your Ship, Start with Why, and well the list could go on for quite a while. It definitely comes in spurts and the subject matter varies also.  Coaching, leadership, nutrition, technical, strength, the titles are all over the place in an attempt to build my knowledge across other domains and so far it is working or at least I am happy with it all.   Journals are still read, podcasts are still listened to, YouTube videos are still watched, and conferences are still going to be attended (next one is the CACC Speed & Power Conference in Toronto November 14-16).

But is this the best strategy? Am I pursuing and developing myself in an effective manner?  Is this the best use of resources (time and money)?  I guess only time will tell and maybe I should go back to the first question/statement on change.  Am I changing? Yes.  Do I think it is in the right direction? Absolutely.  Then that is all that matters.  All knowledge is good knowledge. The question then becomes am I smart enough to use that knowledge in the best way possible? And I certainly hope so.  So maybe it is best not to over think this and continue to take things as they come.  If something sounds like it will of benefit to me as a coach and help the athletes that I have the pleasure of working with then isn’t that all that matters.

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.

Random Thoughts on Coaching Education…

So I find myself again wishing that I was more up to date with postings but I’ll just blame it on a busy coaching schedule.  This season continues to fly by and now we are in the final 3 weeks of the season. The majority of the gang will be finishing up at the Atlantic Championships and then after that the only ones left will be those heading to the National Youth Championships in Langley, BC.

One of the more interesting things to take place this summer was a coaching camp that I hosted in Saint John from July 21-23rd.  Now earlier in the year through ANB I got the green light to start a mentorship program.  The  primary goal was to provide some applied learning opportunities for some local coaches.  Each month I provided them with a shot reading and then asked the coaches to perform a small homework assignment.  The whole goal of the program has been to keep it short, informative, useful, and applicable.  I was able to join each of the three apprentice coaches and take part in one of their practices but then also got to have them in Saint John to join my group for a few days of practices as well as have the normal classroom sessions.  We also got lots of chats in over meals so needless to say I got my fair share of talking in over the short period.

This led into the coaching camp where no topic was off bounds.  There were no secrets, no agendas.  Only education, sharing, and making it known that their are no secrets.  I have been in Saint John for two and a half years now and am very proud of what my group has become but the biggest thing to remember is that they are a group of highly motivated young adults who work extremely hard so that they can achieve their goals.  Through some planning and the right advice at the right time the end results are something that makes me a very proud coach.  The ladies asked questions and I answered honestly.  Sometimes this meant I had answers but other times it resulted in an “it depends” or “I don’t know”.  I am very young.  I know this.  My experiences are not as deep as those who are older than me.  I won’t apologize for that either because I feel like a professional and that I have a specific skill set that is equateable to any professional.  And it is because I am a professional that I know that I am not perfect.  That I don’t have all the answers but I will continue to search for new answers and replace the knowledge that I do have with new answers and even replace incorrect ones.

But I must say that getting the chance to share what I have learned so far in my young career with these three coaches was a great experience.  All three ladies come from unique situations, with unique demands, coach a variety of events and ages, and all of that adds up to an individual situation that no one can replicate.  We all coach and we all have similar situations but nothing is ever truly the same.  We talk about individualization in coaching our athletes but what we need to remember is that our coaching is also highly individualized.  So it is up to the individual to build programs or models or systems or whatever word you want to use to describe how you coach that are suitable and a reflection of your reality.

To explain I have been asked if I run short to long or long to short program.  Well given the Canadian winter and an indoor gym where the circumference is about 155m but do have a 50m spike able strip so I say that I run the UNBSJ program.  Is it ideal? Is it what the text books write about?  Heck no! But do we use it as an excuse for failure.  Not at all.  We lace up our shoes, wake up early in the morning, and get in quality, focused work.  We push our bodies in a systematic fashion and strive to be better than the day before.

This is my take on coaching.  I am lucky to call coaching my profession.  For it to be both my full time job but also my passion.  Sometimes this bond can be difficult and it times it is but it is also something that I do not take for granted.  If anything I respect what I do that much more.  I respect my role and want to make sure that I can impact my athletes and volunteer coaches as much as possible.  I get to travel across the country and even continent for competitions and conferences.  Hopefully soon I get to change it to globally but thats another blog topic.  Through this continental travel and experiences that I gain I am very lucky to hear from experts who have been at this profession longer than I have been alive.  It is then up to me to shed light when given the opportunity for those in my community and I try my best.  This year I was able to spend time with legends named Smith, Seagrave, Pfaff, Behm, McMillan and have made friends and had discussions with like minded coaches who are also trying to get better so they can have a greater impact on their athletes and their communities.  But it is no word of a lie when I say that I learn something from everyone be it an expert coach with 50 years experience and numerous Olympic medals or the volunteer who coaches twice a week.  It is this openness and respect for education that I believe will continue to make me a successful coach.

Does this mean I implement everything I hear, see, or read about? No, that would be ridiculous and there is not enough time to fit it all.  So I think, I reflect, I ponder, I try to figure out the who, what, why, where, when, and how it could work and then maybe just maybe will I try to make it all work.

But for today I will just continue to do what I do.  Back at the track tomorrow and keep on grinding.

Cheers to all in their pursuit of knowledge and their coaching endeavours.

Trying out the bands :)

Trying out the bands 🙂

Saint John fog on the last day.

Saint John fog on the last day.

Coaching: What it actually means?

So having just got back from Guelph I got home and unpacked. Immediately after that the computer got brought out as I needed to confirm workout schedules, plans for clinics, meetings, and meet hosting duties later in the week, then started looking beyond to meets and championships down the road.  I study, I learn, I coach, I adapt, I book, I arrange, I confirm, I organize, and this list goes on and on and it never seems to end.

At one point this weekend I was having a text conversation with my very understanding girlfriend and now is where I have to quote myself, “Thanks hun. Trying to do my best but because of all that work sometimes I feel like I am letting the kids down in the coaching/preparation department.”  Now, please don’t take this as an attempt to whine or justify mediocre results as I am very happy with where everyone it at at the moment.  It is merely a time allocation thing.  Let’s look at this week.

Monday: Office catch up, grant application writing, coaching from 3:00-7:30pm (4.5)

Tuesday: Coaching 9am-11:30am (2.5) then getting on the road (3.5 hour drive) for a clinic from 3:30-5:30pm (2)

Wednesday: Department meeting an hour away from 11:00am-1:00pm and then coaching from 3:00-7:30pm (4.5)

Thursday: Middle school meet hosting from 11:00am-5:00pm and then practice from 5:00-7:30pm (2.5)

Friday: Coaching from 1:00-7:00pm (6)

Saturday: High school provincial meet all day (3 hour drive away).

Sunday: Little bit of rest and relaxation but then back to where we are now…on the couch, planning, organizing, and confirming the next week ahead.

Now, with the usually day starting at 7am or so and immediately reading and then about 30-60mintues later getting on the computer there will be a whole lot of other time spent doing all the other stuff and being a coach and getting to be on the track for about 20 hours a week of coaching and then another 8ish hours coaching/helping at the provincial high school championships meet is nothing to scoff at.  But I wish and feel that I should be doing and spending more time preparing them for the competitive demands of their events.

But that is that.   This weekend I went to the Guelph Speed River Inferno track meet.  It was a great event and I hope to be back in the future.  Only brought one athlete and it didn’t go quite to plan but that is sport.  A successful weekend none the less.  Was also able to get in some good chats and discussions along the way which is always a plus.  I feel like coaches and people who live the sport like me are the only ones who truly understand what this all entails.  Maybe others do and hats off to them for living the dream.  Coaching is a passion!  A dream!  A way of life!  And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

 

Back to Basics & Nike High School Grand Prix

Track and Field is an amazing sport.  I believe it is one of the truest and simplest.  I am definitely biassed as well but I can state with certainty that it is beyond a doubt the best!  There is just something pure about it.  When we think of our youth and what we did as kids surely we can all remember running and more specifically racing – usually to a tree or pole that had been singled out.  The amazing thing is sometimes you just get brought to the basics.  Lately, I spend much of my time thinking about performance related aspects and this doesn’t always mean high performance programming.  Sometimes its about optimizing the simplest and most effective with the younger ones.  So a few weeks ago when I got the chance to be involved with a kids program for Kids Help Phone it was a win.  Seeing these kids run, jump, throw, laugh, and play is what its all about.

Sometimes you fall

Sometimes you fall

But we get back up!

But we get back up!

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend also saw me take part in the 3rd annual Nike High School Grand Prix.  This meet brought together one male and one female team from each province and territory to Toronto (UofT) for this event that consisted of Athletes panel (Damian Warner), Blue Jays game, and a track meet.  The meet itself was pretty cool.  Lots of music during the meet, simple events (100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 100/110H, LJ, HJ, SP), and lots of cameras.  The jumbo-tron was in constant use and the kids were able to see themselves on the big screen.  Funny how even as it was discussed they still got nervous when the camera was in their face but thankfully you learn more from experiencing and I believe they are all a little stronger after having gone through it all.

Nike swag, track meet, blue jays game, and fun.  What more does a coach need.  A great event, great weekend, and good times with some amazing kids.

Words of encouragement at the meet.

Words of encouragement at the meet.

Practice Session Coaching

Practice Session Coaching

I have some photo skills ;)

I have some photo skills 😉

SJHS Grey Hounds Boys Team

SJHS Grey Hounds Boys Team

World Athletics Center

So before I left for Phoenix I set a goal of blogging once while down there and then quickly once I got back.  Needless to say that neither of those two things happened.

But now that things have slowed down here is what I can say.  It was an awesome week.  The Apprentice Coach program at the World Athletics Center is second to none.  It is definitely what you make of it and offers a much more hands on learning opportunity then most.  Coaches Pfaff, McMillan, and Behm are some of the best in the business and being able to see them in action on the track and on the tables was great.  There is just the right blend of track side learning along with the right amount of discussion based learning.  It should be noted though that our discussion based learning was fairly informal around the pool 🙂

One of the best parts though was that a number of Korean national team members were in attendance.  Given my love for the country that I lived in for almost four years it was great to see them in action, chat in Korean, and talk about the things that I miss, such as Korean food!  They had spent some serious time in Phoenix in preparations for their season which has a major focus of the Asian Games to be held in Incheon, Korea in September this year. They were headed back to Korea at the end of our week so I was quite lucky to have my schedule overlap with theirs.  I am quite certain that I will be heading back in November this year for a wedding so maybe I can meet up with some of them for lunch or dinner.

In the end it was an awesome week.  Staying with Dana and Tyler (speed and power coaches with the Canadian women’s Rugby 7’s program) was loads of fun and our discussions were also very insightful. Coming back to SJ was hard mostly because of the 30 degree drop in temperature but being on the track with my group has been good.  The coaching battery has been recharged, new books have been ordered, and a lot of my thoughts and ideas have been confirmed.  Are they all perfect – absolutely not – but coaching and learning are processes that never end.  So I continue to coach, study, learn, refine, adapt, change, and the cycle continues.

Korean National Team athletes and myself

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110m Hurdles 2012 Olympic Champion and World Record Holder 12.80s Aries Merritt and his coach Andreas Behm.

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Group warm up on 1st day

Rodeo with Tyler and Dana

Rodeo with Tyler and Dana