Thursday was the group’s recovery day following the heavy lactic session on Wednesday. This consisted of a slightly reduced warm up routine, multiple jumps unit, general strength, multiple throws (Medball), hurdle mobility and finally body building (gym session). Dan feels that this type of recovery acts to reboot the parasympathetic nervous system.
It was a fairly quiet morning for Lee Valley as many had struggled to get there through the snow. The group were adamant that I join in the session as it was an “Easy” day and it was the best way to learn. Secretly I had been dying to get involved although a bit apprehensive of training beside these guys.
Marlon Devonish proceeded to take me through the full warm up grid, giving me great feedback. It was definitely more of a learning curve than just watching the drills from the side. I learned more about the correct body positioning and execution than I ever could from observing. The drills looked easy when you were watching but doing them correctly was a whole other ball game. When it came to the build up runs over 30m the thought of running beside Marlon made me feel sick. However I tried to relax and think about my own acceleration mechanics. Maybe it was the nerves but I went for it and was a stride ahead at 30m. Obviously he was going easy but I think he was slightly shocked. Go me! HeHe
Next up was two Multiple Jumps Circuits, “Everest” and “Kilimanjaro.” As the names suggest they are not exactly easy. The jumps were plyometric and multi-directional as Dan believes in working the body in all planes (sagittal, frontal and transverse). This was followed then by a multiple throws session and lastly into the gym for some ancillary lifts. It was not a shock to me to find some rotational type lifts in the programme, which are quite indicative of Dan’s programme. The variety in the programme helped to keep the mind fresh throughout the session whilst stimulating the body in a holistic manner, reawakening areas that had “Shut down” due to the hard work inflicted on them the previous day thus encouraging active recovery.
Friday came too soon and all of a sudden it was my last day with the team. The morning started with some of the athletes having their skin folds taken. Steve Lewis very kindly let me practice on him. My data was slightly lower than that of Stuart’s initial assessment, however it was consistently lower and so Steve was convinced I was more accurate giving him a better result. Sorry Steve but I think Stuart was right! Once the warm up was complete it was onto Acceleration Development, the session I had been waiting on all week! I decided to do some video analysis, mainly to assist my own learning but the guys were happy with the trackside feedback the recordings could give them. It was during this session that it was drilled home to me that if I have a “Coaching Eye” at all, Dan has “Coaching Binoculars.” Where I observe things almost in one dimension as this is all my “Coaching Eye” can cope with at present and I need time to analyse what I see before I can make a judgement. Dan’s “Coaching Binoculars” observe movement in three dimensions and he can instantly assess what the problem is using his Knowledge of functional anatomy and instantly cue the athletes to correct or intervene with therapy to make the necessary change. Dan has developed these skills over many years coaching and I feel that this is the key to his success. Boy, have I a long way to go to develop my “Coaching Eye.” I think I have cataracts!
The highlight of the week for me (and it was very hard to choose one) had to be during this session when Rhys Williams (400mh) and Gianni Frankis (110mh) actually asked me for feedback on their acceleration mechanics. Using my “Coaching Catarats” I gave it my best shot and they seemed to take it on board. The highpoint in my Coaching Career to date!
My experience at Lee Valley working closely with Dan Pfaff, Stuart McMillan and their group has been the biggest learning curve for me and really has identified how much I have to learn and develop to get to where I want to be with my coaching. Not only that, but it has given me direction as to where I need to go with my learning. Coaching is a vocation, were you must have a balance between the art and the science and sometimes it is hard to know where to start. This past week has made that decision a little bit easier for me and for that I would like to thank Dan and Stuart for inviting me to shadow them and for their time and patience over the week. I would also like to thank Athletics Northern Ireland for their support and encouragement to take advantage of the opportunity. Time to get my head down!