England Athletics Coach & Athlete Development by Dr. ANDI DRAKE

England Athletics Coach & Athlete Development by Dr. ANDI DRAKE
I currently have twin roles at England Athletics: National Coach Mentor - Endurance (North of England); and Head Coach, National Centre for Race Walking. Here I’ll update readers  on how these activities function for the 2013-2017 cycle and how they can get involved. 
Coach development 
Coach development was part of my Head Coach position at the National Centre from 2009-2013; and I’m now formally part of the National Coach Mentoring Team taking on part of Martin Rush’s original role since taking up his position as British Athletics Event Lead – 
Endurance. I continue to work very closely with Martin and work with coaches on the EA National Coach Development Programme across the endurance events (middle distance running through to the 50 km race walk). The EA NCDP is currently full: membership is 
reviewed on a regular basis and for further details of the programme please look at this link:
As well as working across endurance I am responsible for race walk event specific coach development activity, organising workshops and opportunities to bring coaches on the NCDP together from across the country together with colleagues not on the programme, parents, 
officials or aspiring coaches. Our theme for Winter 2013-14 has been physical preparation; the workshop in October 2013 in Coventry focussed on junior athlete performance reviewing the season of four athletes with coaches profiling the individuals they had worked with. The review process asked a range of questions: 
  • Were your performance goals for 2013 achieved? 
  • Were process goals achieved? (Examples: higher training volumes, target times, 
  • relocation, change of technique, better recovery, better injury prevention). If not, what were the reasons? 
  • When was your peak (early season, mid season, end of season, major 
  • championship)? And if not the right time, what was the reason? 
  • How many days did you lose to injury this year (did it increase or decline vs. last year? Please quantify). How and why did injuries happen? What has changed to stop it happening again? 
  • Who are the best in the world at the moment in your event? Who are likely to be your opponents in 2014/2015? What performances are needed to medal in the 2014 World Junior Championships? 
  • The following areas, what is the performance gap to these athletes and performance levels? 
o Physical (Biomotor abilities (speed, power, mobility/suppleness, stamina, co‐ordination/skill), fitness and robustness, body composition, general health) 
o Mental (e.g. ability to focus, coping with pressure, self-belief, mental toughness) 
o Technical 
o Holistic/lifestyle (e.g. discipline, organisation, social skills, financial management, pre and post competition behaviour) 
o Tactical 
  • What specific plans and what sort of training needs to occur to bridge the Performance gap? How will these activities make a difference 
  • From the analysis common themes emerged in working with junior athletes; and we reviewed these at our second workshop at Sheffield in January:  
  • Physical – in parallel with an overall progression of training frequency, volume and pace was the underpinning development of optimal range of movement (flexibility) and (strength &) conditioning. 
  • Mental – arousal levels on race day were identified as a common challenge in junior athletes, e.g. often sub optimal arousal levels (nerves). Realistic goal setting was discussed as an area to develop. 
  • Technical – strongly linked to conditioning was the action of the swing leg, i.e. develop optimal posture to allow leg to swing through from hip extension with a low foot height; and a strong attack towards heel strike to allow the leg (now in stance position) to actively pull through from heel strike rather than the foot slapping the ground and creating a braking force. 
  • Holistic/lifestyle – the area with the most discussion! Athletes successfully managing the transition to senior level competition also have to negotiate academic challenges; changing relationships; physical maturation; growing training loads that also ask them to start to periodise training and take ownership of the process through (e.g.) optimising nutrition to train and compete effectively. 
  • Tactical – developing pace judgment relative to performance capabilities and demands of the event (important in the challenging race walk environment of moving from 3 km at under 15 to 5 km at U17, 10 km U20 and onto Olympic distances); and keeping a training diary in order to understand performance development. 
The next coach development activity is in Leeds at the National Centre from 17th-19th February linked into our athlete training camp. If you’ve not picked up our flyer for this camp and are interested drop me an email at adrake@englandathletics.org 
National Centre 
Our athlete roster for 2013-2014 is Alana Barber (Hyde Park Harriers/NZL), Tom Bosworth (Tonbridge AC), Bethan Davies (Cardiff AC), Ellie Dooley (Leeds City AC), Brenda Gannon (Hyde Park Harriers/IRL), Jamie Higgins (Leeds City AC), Jasmine Nicholls (Leicester WC) 
and Quentin Rew (Leeds Metropolitan University/NZL). There are often 10-12 athletes as we have a regular group of athletes who come in for training and extended stays along with young athletes combining race walking with other events like Pagen Spooner (Wetherby 
Coaches Ian Richards and Sam Dooley provide invaluable support alongside the wider team of sport science and medicine practitioners, in particular the staff at the Coach House Physiotherapy Clinic. 
As we enter our fifth year in April 2014 we are established as the UK’s top domestic team of race walk athletes. 2013 highlights included Jamie placing 7th in the European Junior Athletics Championships 10000 m in 42:25; and Quentin’s 17th  in the World Athletics Championships with a 3:50:27 50 km (the Leeds Metropolitan University 50 km record is now better than the UK record); and Tom Bosworth clocking up his 3rd  World  Championships qualifying time and a leading GB&NI European Cup performance at 20 km. 
In 2014 we are looking for Jamie, Quentin and Tom to further establish themselves and have high expectations for Bethan, Ellie and Jasmine to make big improvements. 
Athletes looking to join the programme should contact me to discuss opportunities with their parents and coach: we are selective and are looking for athletes who will fit into the team and work with us to be the best they can be.