Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lee Valley Experience Day 1

Athletics Northern Ireland's Elaine McCaffrey has had the opportunity to work with some of the top coaches in the UK this week!
Today I flew to London to start my week shadowing Dan Pfaff, UK Athletics Director of Lee Valley High Performance Centre and his assistant coach Stuart McMillan.  Dan has a rich coaching pedigree which includes coaching 33 Olympians to seven Olympic medals and 45 athletes to the IAAF World Championships, where they have won 10 medals.
Among the athletes he has coached is former Olympic and World 100m champion and world record holder Donovan Bailey.  As you can imagine I, along with thousands of other budding coaches’ wish I could have one ounce of his experience and so I travelled excitedly to Lee Valley for the first of five days with the team to try and learn a thing or two. 
The first thing I learned on my arrival was that good news has obviously travelled fast (as fast as I did when I got the invite to Lee Valley) and Dan’s group consists of a very large number of talented athletes from all event groups.  The majority are fully funded athletes but unsurprisingly there are a few self funded athletes hoping that Dan’s magic might give them the chance to actualise their true potential.  To name a few of those I had the pleasure of observing and interacting with today included Marlon Devonish, Martyn Bernard and affectionately known as the “Queen” of the group, Goldie Sayers.  Witnessing the goings on, I was like a child in a candy store!
Unfortunately due to snow in Belfast in November my flight arrived slightly later than planned and I missed the first 2 hours of the session but luckily enough there was about another four hours worth to witness.  Being a full time athletes is definitely not all fun and games and the athletes had to maintain focus and technique throughout a long session of track work, multi throws unit and then into the weight room for lifts and specific strengthening work.  However the large group of individuals seemed to keep one and other focused and motivated.
The biggest surprise for me came in the weight room, where I expected these guys to be lifting everything in sight but in contrast the loads were manageable with “Perfect” technique controlling all loading and the team watching every athlete like a hawk.  This seems indicative of all Dan’s Coaching Philosophies and although all coaches look to observe technique it was the attention to detail that was a contrast to the norm and could possibly be a big insight into where many coaches and athletes are going wrong. 
The gist of his thinking from questioning him on his views are that... loading poor technique in the weight room will ultimately lead to issues on the track.  I feel that tomorrow’s session on running technique will uncover more of Dan’s Philosophies and I look forward to learning some new skills from both Dan and Stuart.
More to follow later in week! UKA have a great coaching resource- UCoach- click here to visit.
Elaine McCaffrey
Talent Development Coach

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