2019 Year in review.

I noticed i’ve let the blog slip a little bit. Now is as good as time as any to kickstart it.

A few things have changed since I last posted. I’ve been fortunate enough to move out to Vancouver and lead the UBC endurance program. This move would not have been possible with out Steve Boyd at Queen’s and Laurier Primeau at UBC who both trusted me- Steve over the years to develop me via monitorship and Laurier to  bring me on in this new full time role! Huge thanks to both of you. It sure has been weird leaving Kingston and my friends, family and training groups. However, I wouldn’t trade it this experience has given me an opportunity to do what I love and help build a program even further than I thought we could at Queen’s. Speaking of Queen’s, Congrats to the Women’s team, finally you can call yourself champions. Now that you have one, watch out because UBC is coming!

I’ve learned a-lot this year and have taken away so many moments and messages that have made me a better coach along the way. Thanks to the athletes past and present who trust me to help them get faster and have a lot of fun along the way. All of these performances below represent some pretty cool moments that athletes I’ve been fortunate enough to work with have accomplished. I Can’t wait to see what the list looks like next year!

10 Alex Campbell NG OFSAA Bronze

I’ve been fortunate enough to help Alex develop over the last 2 years in elementary and work to balance swimming and running while keeping both competitive and fun. Working with Steve Weiler and I this year, in her first high school championship she ran herself into an OFSAA  bronze medal. The poise and experience she showed in her preparation and handling race day nerves was well beyond her years and I can’t wait to watch what she does through the rest of her career! Hopefully following in her sisters’ footsteps and saving her best for grade 12 and beyond!

alex

9 UBC Women finish 4th at U sports.

If anyone knows anything about runner up finishes / curses it’s me during my time at Queen’s and the Mac Men J. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long for us at UBC to crack the medals at Usports as it took both those teams to eventually reach their goals. The women ran extremely well at Usports this year narrowly missing a medal against 3 powerhouse teams Queen’s, Guelph and Laval. Ultimately, we came shy by 24 points to Laval returning their team that claimed the championship last year.

UBC women

8 Naomi Lang Usports ROY and ACXC 2nd place

Naomi came in from Scotland this year and was an instant fit on our team her amazing attitude coupled with her abilities on the course was fun to watch. Catching the rest of Canada off guard was pretty fun as well. Naomi came in and finished 11th at Usports earning herself ROY honours, and finished off her Canadian season at ACXC with a strong battle to the finish against Canadian superstar Taryn Oneil. Naomi won’t be running track for us at UBC this year but she will be around racing individually

Naomi

7 Kara Blair 16:45 Ottawa Twilight

It only took me 2 years to convince her she wasn’t a 600/800m runner. After a winter and spring of slowly building back up and getting healthy Kara debuted her distance chops at Ottawa in a twilight meet just as an opportunity to get a race in. Little did we know she would run her last 3k sub 10 minutes and her last km in sub 3:10 to run 16:45 in what was her official 5k debut. Her hard work continued to pay off as she set audacious goals and accomplished what I always believed she could do (top 10 U sports XC finish) finishing 4th for Queen’s and earning herself a spot on the FISU team. Congrats Kara, Best of Luck at FISU!

6 UBC Women’s Can West Team Title

Watching the UBC women control the race from the front was a special way to spend my first championship with the UBC team. They executed perfectly on the day in brutal conditions and had a blast doing it. I can’t wait to watch this team continue to build over the years. Lots of exciting times ahead at UBC!

Can west

5 Nicola Symonds Can West Win

In her final year on undergrad Nicola took the win in a hotly contested sprint finish at Can West to win her first title in her hometown, with friends and family watching, where she ran her first race. You couldn’t write a story better than what this fish did on the day!

4 Anna Workman 4:23 1500m at 1500m night

I’d be lying if I said, I or anyone else saw this one coming. After battling a rough spring of health issues. We almost called the season after OFSSA but alas we could not miss out on the PB train that is the London 1500m night. In the HP section Anna went to the back and did work the rest of the way with a blazing fast last 600m looking as determined as ever. I will always remember the look of pure elation Anna had on her face when her time came up on the clock 4:23.06. Best of luck at UVA next year!

anna

3 MacKenzie Campbell Qualifying for Pan Am XC

Mackenzie finally had her breakout year that myself and those who have seen her for years knew was coming. After an excellent summer, and an okay start to the fall season Mack dealt with a flu that kept her out of most of her preliminary races. At OFSSA she ran to her potential and finished 6th place and gained confidence heading into Nationals in Abbotsford. A hard fought last 400m saw her pass two athletes – a year her senior to nab the last qualifying spot on the Pan Am team. Good luck to MacKenzie  at Pan am next year in her post-secondary studies.

Mack

2 Kieran Lumb U-sports Victory

Having only known Kieran for a couple months going into the championships it is clear he is an intelligent hard working and driven young man with a bright future ahead in the sport. This win may have shocked some after a disappointing finish at the CanWest championships that saw him finish third. Not losing a stride and sticking to the plan he bounced back and executed perfectly to secure his first U sports victory

Kieran1 Makenna Fitzgerald NACAC and World Junior XC performances

Makenna shot onto the scene in her first year in the sport, qualifying for the NACAC and World Junior xc teams. She finished an amazing 31st at world XC in only her 4th championship XC race of her young career. She is a savvy racer who is mature beyond her years. I Can’t wait to see how Makenna follows this up next year.

makenna

Year end reflections and top 10.

Another year is passed and with the growth and success this year, I’ve decided to work through the 10 best of the group.

10)

FISU head coach

This year I was fortunate enough to be named as the head coach of FISU Cross Country in Switzerland. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing team of men and women who were a great pleasure to coach, I wish them all nothing but the best in their future athletic endeavours.FISU

9)Miles/ Erika under U 18 standards

Miles: ErikaAfter some Illness and bad luck at their OFSAA qualifiers, We decided to take the group up to York (and then Montreal the next night ………..) both ended up making standard but narrowly missing top 2 to secure their first national teams. I was extremely proud of how these two fought back from setbacks to come out and be ranked nationally in their first year in the event.

8)Junior group continuing to grow

This year saw another large increase in junior membership and even expanding further outside of the city to have a Perth training group as well. It is always a pleasure to coach this group, and I would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated hardworking and fun to be around group that the juniors I am fortunate to work with. They have created a culture of excellence and inclusivity that as a coach is a joy to watch and work with. I look forward to watching this group expand and grow over the next couple years as we continue our success. Thanks again to all of the high schools for collaboratively working together to provide amazing opportunities for all

OFSAA crew

7) Anna Workman

Anna workman secured  double OFSAA gold 800,1500m OFSAA and first National team selection

Anna Had a great track and XC season, but back in June she managed to Snag gold at OFSAA in both the 1500m and 800m in a near OFSAA record. Shortly after she was named to her first National team. As well as finishing off the year with a 4th place OFSAA xc race in her first senior championships.

anna ofsaa

6)Drover qualifying and placing 12th at World juniors

Alex had some bad luck in his first year at Mac but came into the summer with one goal… Make world juniors. It took 3 attempts and 1 nasty fall but he secured his spot. He wasted no time once he got there becoming only the 3rd Canadian male to ever make the Steeple final at world juniors and finish 12th.

drover

5) Makenna

Rookie standout Makenna just started running in February of this year and nearly provided and OUA podium sweep for our team placing 4th in her first championship Xc race. She finished her season up with a 13th place at U-sports and 5th at Nationals to booker her ticket to world XC.

Makenna

4)National Junior women’s XC title

With 3 out of the 4 scorers coming from the Queen’s Women’s team and Anna Workman stepping up from the high school group, to complete our top 4, the women captured the National Junior title on Home soil, With Brogan Winning, Makenna Comping 5th ( these two Qualified for World Cross), Laura 18th, and Anna Coming 24th.

Nats Junrior W

3) Usports

U sports women’s 2nd USPORTS women

With a solid season behind us and home course advantage the women’s team ran the best they could on the day and were bested by an incredible run from the Laval team, to just miss our first national title in program history. With 4 rookies scoring for us, and one of our most successful recruiting years ahead we are extremely excited to see this team continue on as one of the top teams in the country.

2) OUA XC

OUA XC represented out best OUA in Program history. The men’s team placed a hard fought second and then Women secured their 2nd straight Banner. The women had 4 All Stars and rookie of the year. While the men had 3 All Stars as well as Rookie of the year.

OUA crew

  1. Brogans Undefeated seasonAfter a rough spring/ summer and lots of reflection Brogan came onto the University scene ready to roll. She not only swept all university and National championship races but she secured a win at the prestigious Paul Short XC race at Lehigh University. Brogan

 

Thank you! A reflection of this years high school XC season

This past weekend, for many of Ontario’s top distance athletes, was the OFSAA XC championships (thanks to Valour for hosting!). Over the years there has been battles about “club coaches” involvement in high school cross country and track and field running! Today on top of outstanding athletic performances, I think the schools in Kingston that I have been fortunate enough to work with this past year have shown the positive benefits of working together, collaboratively, with one goal in mind; student athlete success.

With this in mind, I want to thank Marc Carriere, Bonney MP, Wes Garrod, Kendra Brennan, Neil Hopkins, Laura Mcdowell, and the rest of the Eastern Ontario coaches whom athletes in the group work with through their schools.  Their commitment to helping the athletes achieve their goals has been second to none, and is in large part a reason why the athletes had such a fun, successful and amazing cross country experience this year. Seriously, I feel like the rest of this blog does not do the justice that is deserved for how incredible this experience has been! Things like this seem like they should happen regularly but this group really had something special this year, thanks to these amazing coaches!

This year with the additional teams and individuals the group(s) was able to send 48 athletes to OFSAA.

The results were spectacular, with many in season improvements from pre-OFSAA to OFSAA, first time  OFSAA qualifications, team and individual medals, and a whole boatload of fun was had by all, even in the freezing snow at the end of the day!

This experience from what I hear is quite uncommon in Ontario, I’ve even heard of schools asking athletes to sign letters that they won’t work with clubs. But full credit to the Kingston schools, KCVI in particular who sought me out, and together we were able to form an amazing collaborative approach that built on all coach’s skills ensuring the athletes had successful seasons. In doing so we continued to show that when ego’s are put aside, coaches are willing to work together, and do what’s best for the athlete and too have mutual respect for each other the athletes (who this is all about) greatly benefit! I believe this should be how it goes in many cases. If we can utilize coaches and their knowledge regardless of whether it be school or club, to build training culture, increasing athlete participation. This can then showcase to athletes how positive sport can be for them, and teach them so many life lessons, while actually practicing what we preach, putting student athletes first.

Collaboration and trust are key this joint venture, I’m sure it wasn’t all easy and there were some walls put up at first by these coaches, as happens in any regions, when I started, but by being genuine, caring about the athletes- fast, or slow, within the sport and outside of sport, and just wanting to build the sport in the city, the trust came and the athletes reaped the rewards this year.

If you’re a club or high school coach looking to work with athletes I would recommend the following:

-Work together not against each other
-Athletes are at their best when they are having fun
-Every coach has skills that can benefit athletes
-Communicate!!!!!!!
-Build bridges not walls, reach out, volunteer, be willing to learn and help
Culture often times dictates how a team is run and operates, however at this age, with athletes whom are still learning about themselves, often the culture of a team is reflective of the leadership and takes on traits of their leaders. This year getting to know this group of coaches it’s no wonder I’ve heard numerous comments from other schools, athletes and coaches, about how much fun it looked like the athletes are having, and how everyone was friendly and welcoming even if the athletes weren’t on their teams! The culture and environment these athletes and coaches have put forth quite simply was amazing to watch and these athletes are lucky to have all these coaches working for them and with them to help them succeed, learn, and grow!

In the end student athletes are going to choose with their feet, and want to be surrounded by people who support them and help foster an environment for them to reach their goals, from qualifying to winning OFSAA or just learning to run and enjoy physical fitness, each goal is  important.

This year has been a great example of what can be done to help student athletes. Thanks to the high school coaches who welcomed me in, and I can’t wait to continue to see Kingston area running continue to grow, and all school programs grow their participation, and provide opportunities for athletes to enjoy our sport!

Talent ID and Talent management

These two terms have become almost buzzwords in HP sport, coaching and parental discussions. Even now showing up in sports camps and coaching offerings for children as young as grade 7 “high performance running group for grade 7/8s”. or indirectly in rep tryouts or select teams.

Talent ID isn’t as simple as looking at an athlete and seeing that they have talent, or have run a certain time, thrown a certain distance or jumped a certain length/ height. Its more a question of does he or she have the attributes to be a podium pathway athlete? Do we have the accurate tools to identify them? Ie is our data sound? Once identified what does the athlete do for the next 7-8 years? (using the time frame for our Athletics Next Gen program) With that in mind, Talent ID shifts from just an identification problem to a budget issue. Remember Talent ID is an attempt to have a competitive advantage over your competitors ) ie on the international stage) because sport funding is limited and tied into results on the international stage, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of , if we just select the most obvious talent and guide them along the pathway with resources, we are making the most of our money! While this can work and there are examples of this happening in our sport in Canada, are we really selecting the best athletes? Is our funding being utilized most effectively?

Lets look at the problems of Talent ID and the management of it.
As mentioned resources don’t allow us to select everyone- nor should they, so as mentioned this turns TID into a budgeting choice to drive resources for the likeliest success profiles. If we have 100 espoir distance runners running at or near say FISU standards how do we best allocate these resources?  The questions become then, who do we select? When do we select them? How do we select them?

Who-

Talent selection is challenging- is CSG sports (centimeteres, grams and seconds) sports we have it a bit easier, run a time, throw a distance or jump a distance and we have a quantitative value we can compare to data to see how you are tracking. So in our case we better make sure our data is correct! Think of Talent ID as a business plan you neighbour is pitching you to buy into. Your neighbour comes over and says hey I have this great idea for a business plan and we made this much in sales last week…. Are you going to take him at face value? Or are you going to ask to see the numbers? What did you do last week?  Did you have previous businesses (multi sport athlete) What are your future plans? How would my money be of a value add to your business? (what will this funding accomplish for this athlete to reach the next level)? What will you do in sales next week and why? ( what can you run this season and why do you think that)?

When-

Are we coming in at the right time, what is the time frame in the event, is it a later in life peak event or earlier in life peak event ?

How-

What results are we using to select? Championships? Early season, time trial? Does it matter?

Are our or tools precise or just the best we have currently? Are they constantly evolving? Are they objective or subjective?

The risks of Talent ID.

Outside of plucking kids away from multi-sport development early there are some risks with TID.

What if we identify the wrong people?
What if we don’t find the right people?
How often and at what age do we identify?

The first is easy to pull out because simply when we have selected athletes- did they make the podium? *** athletes don’t worry you’re not a failure if you were selected and never reach a podium, podiums are hard to make even with all the resources in  the world*** what percentage of our TID athletes make the podium or even sr teams? This is okay though, we need a bigger net to cast people and provide resources for the chance to reach the podium… remember is a budget problem.

The second is harder to spot, what if these people aren’t selected to their varsity university team because they never made OFSAA or told they weren’t good enough to ever run seriously? It’s harder to spot because often times they disappear. In our sport this is why we see so many people coming back onto the scene later in life. We are lucky in CSG sports that we have many entry points to become elite, junior, espoir, senior. But how many times have we seen an athlete come out of no where and start running elite times, and make national teams well into their 30’s? Who knows what may have happened had they been “selected” told they were good enough or had resources allocated to them?

This I think is the biggest problem with TID. But remember it’s not because your administrator or HP director or coach doesn’t like you, or doesn’t think you’re good enough TID is a bet, a resource allocation problem, you may be great in your event, but TID is looking at things like medal counts and top 8’s etc, which in turn spins the wheel of funding to NSO’s and funding to athlete support…remember it’s a budgetary issue not personal! Back to the problem…. We are missing people, we are not selecting people. Our system is set up in a fashion that if you don’t make provincial championship in grade 9 (OFSAA ) you are made to thing you’re not good enough, or your coach pays less attention to you compared to a medal winner. (extreme example I know) extrapolate that further to university- what if you don’t make your university team? Is there a group you can join that will keep you running in an attempt to make it next year?  Will you get the proper guidance with a club coach? Or are you just thrown in with high schoolers? How many potential athletes are we losing that could be converting to the next level? But before you say hey Brant- if you can’t make your university squad how will you ever make a national team? I will say good point! But you’re missing the bigger picture more athletes at all levels- means increased chance of athletes converting to the next level. For example a PSO has more money when the events they hold have more numbers which in turn can then help fund more athlete development, coaching development and funding opportunities for athletes- camps, provincial teams. Then hopefully you get spill over to more competing at the national level. But wait Brant, that revenue really is a drop in the bucket, how are a couple hundred more entry fees going to really help athletes funding? Okay fair it won’t directly. But what it does is it creates a bigger participation in the sport, more competitive opportunities, a bigger base of athletes competing, and this will always lead to faster times, and more athletes rising to the top, thus in turn making us more competitive at the top levels, and in turn hopefully spinning the wheel a litter further to get more funding for the NSO support programs!

Much more narrow than this it begs the question what should coaches do with athletes at a young age?

We should keep them in as many sports as possible, keep them involved in each sport as long as possible, keep the environments fun, ensure your athletes have upside- aren’t over raced, low training relative to age- due to multi sport development, focus on all athletes not just the top athletes, understand peak height velocity, when to train what, and why some athletes may be better younger compared to others.

Track coaches here’s a bonus for you, most sports aren’t doing this stuff right!!! Swimming, soccer and other transferable talent sports aren’t doing this stuff correctly all the time, keep the youth you are working with in your group, engaged, involved and enjoying the sport, because if/ when the time comes that they are contemplating leaving their other sport, or perhaps sport in general, you could be the coach that keeps them in sporting activity and who knows, they could be the next great athlete in their event!

Overall remember that Talent ID is a great concept but due to it’s limitations is often applied incorrectly. Actively seek out those “ not selected”, those who were selected earlier but later cut, and work with anyone who wants to continue in the sport. High performance sport isn’t simply about the top athletes it has a whole ecosystem that needs to be nourished for the sport to continue having success past a single Olympic cycle.

West Coast Best Coast?

West Coast, Best Coast?

Slightly overdue update form my adventure to BC!

I went out and spent most of June watching, learning, and seeing how people do things on the other end of the country! Starting with an awesome road trip to Portland with the PK crew and a few others for the Portland track festival. Julie-Anne ran a PB Claire Qualified for FISU and Brogan learned what happens when you go out too hard in a 5k! We also got to stop into Eugene ( a bucket list item of mine) to see the mecca of our sport University of Oregon. We were fortunate enough to get lost on Pre’s trail due to some great orienteering by someone who will not be named, that resulted in a few who were racing the next day to enjoy a nice 30min walk back to the car in rain☹ From there it was time to watch NCAA T&F champs. What an atmosphere to be a part of and take in. While Brogan was busy being confused as her sister by a certain Syracuse runner, the rest of us were busy playing a fun game of pick the runner who is going to win before the first corner! FYI never bet against me- or your guy will fall, like in the men’s 800m!

Fast forward a day and we are off to our next adventure- sneaking on to the Nike campus. For those of you who have never been, check it out it amazing. You never know who you may see on a Sunday ripping around on the cedar trail. You could be fortunate like us to step out of the car and see Cam Levins ripping around, or like Cleo and be painfully close enough to realize it’s Jordan Hassay in front of you.

Fast forward to the end of the Portland meet and I’m off in the car with the BCEP crew to drive back to Van. Thanks again for the drive Brit!

After a nice 2 am arrival I had the pleasure of starting an 8:30 am class at UBC starting the graduate certificate portion of the Masters in High Performance Coaching. I’ve been looking forward to starting this program for quite some time after talking to a few coaches in the program. The week spent on UBC campus was amazing, lots of great learning and connections and of course sushi. I’m still working away on course work and enjoying the process of learning again. For anyone contemplating taking this masters program I highly recommend it! While in Vancouver BCEP was kind enough to have me out to watch a few workouts and chat with Rich, was a great learning experience to chat with Rich and see what this group does.

Once I finished up course work decided to take an extra week to visit some of the high performance groups out west and see if I could learn from them anything to take back to Kingston.

Big shout out to Jarius for putting me up for a few days and helping me explore Victoria- I can now see why everyone moves to Vic and nobody leaves! While in Victoria I got to spend some amazing time at CSI pacific and PISE, many many thanks to Heather, Trent and the whole team out there that let me to sit in and watch, chat and pick their brains on everything high performance sport. Also  thanks to Brent and Hilary while in Victoria, for having me out to a UVIC practice and a chat afterwards.

I learned a lot and reinforced even more from my time out there, I really believe if any coach has the ability to go out and visit other coaches in other high performance groups they should, often times discussing similar or different problems or situations can lead to shared solutions. My whole trip for the masters and visit was self funded but worth every penny to have the time and opportunity to see what all these high performance groups do to help make their athletes better every day!

Thanks to everyone from AC/ CSI/ UBC / UVIC and BCEP who helped make this trip possible and the learning opportunities so rich!

Oh yeah to answer the question of West Coast Best Coast…. I’m still in Ontario☺

P.s. Do pictures even have a place in blogs now that Instagram exists? Is there even a place for blogs now?
For pictures from the trip follow me @brant_run on Instagram

Coach Identification

Coach Identification

In athletics we are analytical and know exactly what we are looking for when identifying out up and coming talent. Fortunately for us in athletics or any CSG ( Centimetre, Seconds, Grams) sport, things are very quantifiable. The same cannot be said for Coach identification. As it stands currently we have very little ways of identifying out top coaches, are they producing athletes who are making teams? Biggest group? CIS champions? Conversion rates of athletes from one age group to a next? The list can go on, but there isn’t necessarily a quantifiable or even qualitative answer to the question. In a sport as decentralized as athletics no matter the resources of a hub or centre or training group, one coach can’t coach everyone… or at least everyone effectively.

More so now than any other time we are identifying out athletes younger and younger to prepare out next generation (next gen) to be podium contenders on the biggest stage in our sport… the Olympics! While the debate on if this will be successful long term can be argued… see the new sport report feature in the Toronto Star.
https://www.thestar.com/sports/amateur/2017/06/22/own-the-podium-program-overemphasizes-high-performance-review.html the fact remains if we understand we as coaches can’t coach everyone then we must spread the coaching knowledge in order to build the developmental pool.

Right now obviously as in most sports we have a large base of entry level and train to train, in athletics I think we do a great job at our conversion to train to compete. However, what I think is lacking is our conversion rate from train to compete, to train to win. One reason I think we have this issue is we don’t have enough knowledgeable coaches working within the ranks at the crucial train to compete- train to win stages. We have a few very amazing coaches who are doing great work and getting athletes on national teams, meeting next gen standards and generally creating a culture of excellence based on sound technical training and tactical abilities for the athletes to follow to reach their full athletic potential. However, unfortunately this is not the norm, we have a few enclaves but largely not enough to support more athletes the way we need to.

So now that we have identified the problem, what do we do about it?
First let me preface this by saying in no way do I think I am on the level of some of our top coaches in Canada at creating Olympians and converting talent. I have however taken every coaching course available in Canada (for athletics) I have taken the highest USATF certification, and the highest IAAF certification, and currently am pursing a Masters in High Performance Coaching through UBC. Through all this certification I really haven’t been challenged technically as a coach! Fortunately, I have been lucky in having Steve Boyd mentor me in Kingston and have built a great network of coaches to bounce ideas off of. I’m currently finishing up a coaching “apprenticeship” tour out west that included visiting Heather’s group, the U Vic. Crew and Richard lee’s group. I can tell you I have learned far more through meeting with these top coaches on this tour and through my network back home, discussing best practices, technical work and how to lead a HP program than any coaching course hands down. To me this is a problem. As I have blogged before the basis of our sport is technical. We have to be sound technically before almost anything we say or do matters. We are regarded in Canada as being a leader on coach education, and I think maybe we have swung the pendulum to far to the side of educating for the sake of educating. We need to develop a more robust system for coaches coming up so they get a chance to look, feel and see what a high performance environment is!

My suggestion for this is mentorships! To AC’s credit recently they have started doing this with invitations to coaches for camps. I think we can do better! We need to identify coaches doing good work at each level junior, espoir and senior, and pair them up at not just camps but on teams. Looking at XC as an example we could be pairing “identified” coaches up with more experienced coaches at our Pan am and or World xc teams, in the pathway to podium these team represent a small but important step, and would be a great way for coaches to get their feet wet seeing high performance and learning from an “expert ” coach as well as seeing what top athletes do. While this seems pretty minor, I believe the experience that this “identified” coach would bring back to their community would be profound. The coach now has a resource with an “expert” coach they have hopefully developed a good relationship with to continue a dialogue. More so, they have learned valuable lessons of what elite athletes do, how they act and how the demands of competition work, so they can help prepare their athletes to one day hopefully be in the same situation! Mentorships allow coaches with ambition to have the credibility and knowledge to go back to their communities and set up a high performance environment. Further we can explore mentorships with top coaches in that age group, the age group above or below  (if applicable) to better understand what is required at each “level” within the podium pathways.

So how does this solve the problem of converting more from train to compete to train to win or the podium pathway? By creating coaches who are more knowledgeable on high performance sport is creates at atmosphere back in their community to help foster athletic success in turn potentially creating a larger pool of train to compete athletes- this provides more competition and continues to make athletes better. We now are spreading knowledge around to other coaches so when they have an athlete whom is capable of making the jumps in the podium pathway the coach is prepared and able to make the right choices to foster that athlete’s development. Once again building our pool of athletes.

While I’m not AC and I’m not privy to their budgetary restrictions I would make this recommendation, lets build robustness in our Next, Next generation of athletes so that they have the coaches to guide them properly and foster success so when they are fortunate enough to be selected for teams or to a training environment that provides them everything they need to be successful, the athletes are prepared, we have more of them, and we build a larger pool of podium potential athletes.

While OTP was criticized for not working with non-medal contenders and “feeder systems” were left starving lets be the change that creates better coaches to create a more robust pathway. I don’t think OTP or the way in mandates or funnels money is going to change that much, our funding is still going to be largely tied into how we perform on the international stage. So in fact if we want more money from OTP for all the services and budget that we need to create high performance and this is based on our major games performance then maybe we need to ensure we have enough athletes to perform at major games. If we don’t work on a robust system of coaching education in an age of “sportprenuers” we will be shooting ourselves in the foot. With sport being less emphasized (in early school) and basics of physical literacy all but removed from our school systems, I’m afraid if we don’t get the coaching pathways right in that we are developing coaches to develop our athletes in a few cycles we may be left we too few athletes, that it turn will decrease our OTP funding and that in turn decreases our ability to support programs of high performance. This is a situation some sports are already seeing when they don’t perform at a major games and OTP funding is cut. Let’s be leaders in athletics create a robust system and develop our coaches, because when we have better prepared coaches we will have MORE and better-prepared athletes. Mentorships is the next logical step, and we need to start identifying coaches early (like we are our athletes) if we hope to compete with other sports for funding in this world in which only medals matter, lets prepare for the short term by creating the best long term vision.

Observations in coaching age class female athletes. May POMs!

A couple weeks ago coaching at an elementary school track practice, I watched as after practice all of the young men played basketball while all the young women sat and were not physically active? I asked them if they wanted to play if I was on their team and just like that 15 young women started playing basketball against the young men! Now weekly after practice the young women play basketball against the young men!
While many may not see this as a coaching problem- it actually is. This is the culture we are working against to keep young women in the sport! We already have established higher dropout amongst women than men in youth sport. We must ensure two things- 1) we do everything we can to inclusively keep as many young women in sport as possible- by encouraging participation and 2) being sound technically and tactically with our coaching of young women. If the X’s and O’s of the sport aren’t done correctly and we aren’t building these young athletes as people and participants of sport correctly then we are failing each of these young athletes. Coaching isn’t about throwing a program at your athletes and seeing who sticks like pasta against the wall, its about working with each athlete as a human to help them become better in all facets of life, and celebrating all victories- small (pb) large (win) on and off the field. In young female athletes that becomes harder as they age with the changes they face with puberty, societal pressures to look, and act a certain way- that often times do not involve sport. We as coaches have to make sure we are changing this. This leads me to some differences and challenges (opportunities) in coaching of young female athletes.

Over the last decade as an athlete and coach, I have observed plenty of young female athletes run post puberty times equal to or better than some collegiate times, as early as grade 9 and 10, but then never go on to run Pb’s again. There is plenty of reasons for this, however I plan to tackle more how to foster long-term success rather than the well-known reasons for early development.

In observing this phenomenon, I have noticed that the young females athletes who tend to peak at a young age typically, over race and train when young. What is important is to race and train enough at a young age (lets define this as grade 7-11) that they have some success, but not too much training that they are winning everything. Winning may be a result of the under training- and when done correctly this can yield amazing short and long term results. (note that this is the exact approach I took with the young female runners in the group who had success this year) You simply want to fuel their long term interest in the sport at this age. You do not want to make winning everything, or race times pre-puberty that will then be hard to exceed or match post puberty. What learning objectives can we take away from races? When you debrief with the athletes do you only talk about the win or the time? Or, lessons learned and how this will help them going forward? With the young athletes I work with we emphasize learning tactics and execution at a young age and taking away learning objectives that will help them as sr athletes over winning. I do think that most early success stories that fade, burn out are partially do the psychological burden of not being as fast or faster then they were when they were younger. If a young female athlete runs great and is better than her cohort in grade 7 or 8 or even 9 for that matter, simply because she has been training more, weather at, before, or during puberty, she leaves less room for improvement post puberty. Compare this to other young women whom do not do focused year round training, do not over train, gradually increase training volume throughout grade 7-10, enjoy the sport and get a little better each year. For example- Athlete A; the faster than her cohort in grade 9 focuses solely on running and is running 3-4 workouts a week and while maybe no exclusively trains for running- over trains during the competitive season- often with too much intesity vs Athlete B; the athlete whom has played other sports and slowly gotten better, slowly and carefully increased her training volume done very little intensity and trained at an age appropriate level. These athletes are eventually going to meet. Who is better prepared in the Sr. grades to continue to grow and excel at the sport? Athlete B of course! Athlete B is currently enjoying success, enjoying getting better and enjoying running. Athlete A is likely getting frustrated that athletes she beat previously are catching up to her, she may not be winning, and she may be having a hard time hitting those Pb’ s she hit when she was younger. This is why training by chronological age vs competitive age is so important. Just because a young athlete is winning things at 12-14 doesn’t mean they should be trained any differently than any other 12-14 year old athlete. This I find is one of the biggest mistakes in age class coaching!

Young athletes need proper guidance in how they approach the sport. For many reasons young women have the ability to peak pre- puberty or even delay the onset of full puberty through training- while this may lead to early success, it is almost always a failure in the long term. When working with jr athletes we should always think about what is best for them in the short term, as this will always set them up for their best in the long term.

If you are the parent of a young female athlete who is driven and enjoys running competitively, you should actively search out a coach who is skilled in young athlete development, ask them what their track record is with young female athletes? Do most of their female distance runners run pb’s yearly? Look at their group; do they have plenty of grade 11, and 12 female distance runners in the group? Or do they only have grade 9 and younger? When was the last time one of their successful female distance runners ran well after high school? Look for a coach who can articulately describe what training and volume can look like through the rest of their high school career, look for someone who properly describes what prep is required for their events ( warm up/ down race execution), where they see the athlete in 3-4 years, a coach who works with the athletes other sports and adapts training around the demands of the other sport, and a coach that deliberately under trains their young female athletes. Look for a coach who can give you a yearly and 4 year plan of your daughters training, how would it differ if they played different sports, vs an athlete whom is playing one? Does your coach hold certifications from Athletics Canada? Do they actively coach along multiple levels of the athlete success pathway? High school? Collegiate? Post collegiate? Knowing where your daughter fits into the spectrum of running from playground to podium is an important part, as without knowing where they have come from and where they are going and where they may end up, how can you properly prepare and build them to reach their goals? Young athletes should not be on the track (distance) 3-5 times per week at this age, and should be taking bi-yearly or even quarterly breaks from deliberate training.

Part of the culture you set as a coach, coaching young women is to inform them of this trend so they know, know why you are coaching the way you are, and why at times in their first couple years, it may be frustrating for them to think they could be doing even better, but explaining to them the reasoning as to why this is, can help set them up for success later on- even if they don’t continue on immediately in the sport, they have a high likelihood of running for fitness, fun, or mental well being or competition, through the rest of their lives should they choose.

As junior coaches we owe it the athletes we are working with who trust us with their running goals, to provide them with the absolute best practice coaching and preparation to help them reach their goals, after all we are simply the architects of the program they follow, if success isn’t sustainable and achievable based on the building blocks we provide, then we as coaches fail, not the athletes. With he deck already stacked against young women continuing in sport we need to be sure we are creating inclusive environments that provide opportunities for success- no matter what that athlete determines as success for them!

For information on how coaches, parents and the community that supports our athletes can help foster a positive culture of sport in young women, here is a suggestion from the literature;

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/11745398.2009.9686816
May performer of the month!
May saw the entire high school crew race championships and run plenty of PB’s. Two surprising, races- for different reasons were selected for this month!

Male POM goes to Miles. In December when we found out Miles had been given the diagnosis of Lyme disease and had extreme swelling in his knees, I never thought this season would happen for him. Miles didn’t do a single workout until the 5 days before KASSAA (8x200m/200m). We built slowly through the meets, to advance him and see how much his body could handle. Two stellar performances stand out that make Miles the POM for May. 1st– KASSAA 1500m where he ran an amazing race with a huge kick to lose to a very talented and great kicker Nick S. His second race was his slight PB in the OFSAA heat- perfectly executed to make the OFSAA final! He went on to race the 1500m final and then run a PB and come 11th in the 3000m final on Day 3! Once again- This season was a season we never thought would happen- This is a true testament to Miles attitude, work ethic and patience to follow the plan and hold back- even when I knew he was itching to do more! Congrats Miles, really looking forward to seeing what else you can do.

Female POM for May goes to Hana Amari. For her amazing 4:54 and 10:33 1500m and 3000m victories at East Regionals! What was suprising about this weekend was she took 12 seconds off her PB from the previous week- which she took 10 seconds off from the week previous to that! Hana ran fearlessly and had a blast doing it. She managed in her weaker event to take down a girl who would later go on to be top 5 at OFSAA a week after this girl ran away from Hana! She then came back and executed her race perfectly to take the victory in the 3000m the next day; all while having the most fun I’ve seen her have all season! Great runs Hana and I am really looking forward to what you can do in the future.

I will see you both in a few weeks to give you your prizes!!

P.S. Huge shout-out’s to the groups graduating athletes;

Bella Adams for Selecting St. Lawrence Kingston for Nursing next year- Looking forward to still having you around and seeing you reach your Nursing goals!

Alex Drover has decided to take his academic and athletic talents to McMaster next year! He will be in great hands with Paula and the Mac crew. Last time Mac got a top jr athlete from Kingston he turned into a two time national team member while at McMaster! Looking forward to seeing what you can accomplish in academics, and athletics. But perhaps what I’m looking forward to the most next year is watching you and your Mac team lose to the Queen’s Men next year 😉 .

Proud of both of you for making amazing choices to better your future- now lets get you ready for post secondary!