Being a LEAD COACH to a multi-eventer..[Part1]

PracticeCoaching combined events is difficult especially if your athletes are in full time education. To try to fit in all the events into a typical 7 day training cycle is hard and sometimes impossible if you are not super-organized.

When athletes are in the younger age groupings, it is possible when a typical pentathlon consists of a long jump, a high jump, a hurdles race, a shot put and a distance run..

But when they move up the age groups and have to include javelin, more throwing events and pole vault then the difficulties arise…

It is easier to coach female heptathletes than male decathletes. Fewer events, with just the addition of the 200mts and javelin for females.

Two of my training group are competing in the AAA’s U17 heptathlon in August. Both have to include the javelin in their programme..

It is rare for a combined events coach to be able to offer ‘every’ event to a level which enables the athlete to compete successfully. So what do you do?

You invite yourself to other specialist coaches training sessions. I did this last evening when I took 3 athletes to a specialist javelin training session in Swansea.

You need all your multi-eventers to develop a sound technical model in all of the events they compete in. Although they are not event specialists per se, they still have to develop the specific event movement patterns that will enable them to run, jump and throw efficiently.

They found the javelin session very demanding but they all adapted and knuckled down. They were surrounded by more experienced throwers. They were able to observe, and take part with the javelin throwers warming up with medicine balls utilizing a ‘throwing wall’…

They found this demanding and sometimes quite scary, especially when a 4kg med ball was rebounding very quickly from the throwing wall.

Certain athletes learn more efficiently by watching..[I know my training group did].

Through the course of the 2 hour session they were immersed in  ‘javelin speak’..

They were filmed throwing, and then able to see themselves throwing via a laptop screen. They were able to see the simple things they were doing wrongly. They all received feedback and explanation to take away with them.

In the coming weeks we will work together on specific technical issues and then ask to be invited to another training session.

In part 2 I shall deal with training the young combined eventer..

Speak with soon,


Behind the scenes as a coach…

NewsletterIt doesn’t matter how long you’ve coached, there is nothing more exhilarating than seeing your training group perform well.

Yesterday I had 9 athletes involved in the National Age Group Championships in Cardiff. Because the whole U17 programme was contained within one day, it did present logistical problems. Many of my group were contesting several events so I had to be in many places at once…!

The weather was hot and sunny and for the first few hours I acquitted  myself well BUT then problems arose. Disaster in the hurdles – tears, clash of events…athletes rushing from event to event/changes of footwear, self-doubt, fouls at the board, niggling injuries, anxious parents…and so it went on.

Started to feel the heat in more ways than one. But can’t be seen to be panicking!

Every athlete needed different types and forms of feedback. Really tested my 40+ years of coaching especially when I had 5 girls competing at the same time in the same event.

By the end of the day I had run and jumped every repetition with them…I was totally exhausted. Couldn’t even get to the toilet or eat or drink. Couldn’t sleep last night – running every event and athlete through my head..

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m sure I speak for ALL coaches on competition days..

It’s tough being an athlete but even harder being a coach..

Now on to the next competition…


PS: it was worth it because the training group won 5 Gold, 1 Silver and 3 bronze medals plus 6 personal best performances…

The Long Jump Landing Position

Nigel Lewis Dec 2014This short 2 minute video clip clearly illustrates the long jump landing position. Just take a look at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in the Women’s Long Jump at the recent New York Diamond League Meeting.

Observe carefully  the landing positions of each of the jumpers…

Shara Proctor[GB] was 3rd with 6.72m; Tianna Bartoletta [USA] was 2nd with 6.89m and 1st with 6.92m was Christabel Nettey [Can] with 6.92m.

What I noticed was that Nettey was beginning to prepare for her landing just after the apex of her jump [the high point]whilst the other two left it a lot later in preparing to land. Notice that Nettey  raised her thighs and knees that high that they appeared ABOVE the parabola [flight path]. She was then able to decend and hold this position thus ensuring her heels cut the sand and not DROPPING into the sand [I call this a splash landing]…

I’m sure that in due course Nettey will go beyond 7mts because of her earlier preparation for landing….

I encourage ALL my jumpers to prepare for landing slightly earlier rather than decending from the apex and leaving it too late. We use platforms to practice this thus ensuring that they have enough height….

Speak with you all soon,

All the best,


The Landing Position

PracticeThe landing position on entering the sand is still a big concern to me. I’ve been observing hundreds of long jumpers these past few weeks and I’m yet to see a decent landing.

But remember, this landing position is determined by what precedes it…

The approach run/the touchdown and the flight phase…

Too often the younger, less experienced jumper has made simple, basic errors in these phases…

Too long/too short/Too fast/too slow/wrong body angle at touchdown/no dynamic at take-off etc, etc…..

There are a myriad of reasons why the landing position is poor. A decent landing position can add 30cms to a jump….

That’s why ALL aspects of the whole jump have to be worked on.

Read previous blog on landing..

As a coach you need to really understand the mechanics that govern the decent to the sand. Assume the jumper has run in well, taken- off dynamically and held on to the flight phase – so far, so good.

The arms are kept above the head and slightly behind the shoulders. The head is up with eyes focussed on a point ahead.

The jumper now brings the two bent legs from behind the hips very quickly as short, fast levers. The arms ARE NOT required yet until the legs have come from behind to the front. The jumper must attempt to get into a ‘pike shape’…

Landing Position

Only when the legs have come through to the front does the jumper drive the chest to the thighs and the arms to almost touch the toes….

Landing 11

This landing position has to be practiced. I use a very low platform [10cms] to practice landings. We can do upwards of 20 such landings in a technical session…

Landing 3

 All the best,

Speak with you soon,


Training during the competition season

Coaching Junior AthletesTraining during the competition season….6 weeks into our competitive season. Huge clashes with external examinations. Loads of stress within the group BUT we have to continue to train as well as we can. Just have to be a little bit more organized. Can’t believe the levels of time management skills within the group…!!

What are we doing this evening [Thursday June 4th]. Last evening some of the group competed in an Open Sprints Competition. Races seeded on times not age groups. It worked well…

Several personal best performances from those members of the group who chose to compete…

The group are not competing this weekend, so we’ve time to fit in several key technical elements. We trained on Monday, Thursday [tonight] and will train this coming Saturday morning…

Tonight we are doing a Med Ball Circuit for upper body and a plyometric element to help develop eccentric strength in the lower torso PLUS a set of longer runs, probably 4 x 150mts…

On Saturday we can devote more time to the technical aspects. Because some of the group are combined eventers it will allow me valuable time to take a look at several technical issues in 2/3 events..

The hurdlers will do 5 x 8 hurdles with a 5 minute recovery between repetitions..

The long jumpers will work on those all important 6 strides to the board..

The shot putters will work on ‘snapping’ the leg under the hip in the middle of the circle…

The high jumpers will work on ‘smoothing’ out the approach run to the bar along with that lean in….

Just started development work on the javelin.

Two of the group are preparing for their first heptathlon and have to add a 200mts and javelin to their repertoire of technical events…

And so it goes on, and on….

Speak with you soon,


What to eat BEFORE training

Coaching Junior AthletesRecently I’ve been very concerned at the ‘physical state’ some of the group turn up for training in. I’m not satisfied they know what to eat before training.

What exactly do I mean?

We are training hard at the moment. The competitive season is in full swing but we still have to train hard. A lot of the group are also attempting to manage a very difficult revision and examination period as well as train and compete..

Some are eating badly and indeed some are skipping meals. They are training hard but fuel stores have dropped to a minimum by the time we are half-way through the session some of the group are looking very tired and on some occasions have to drop out of the session.

This prompted me to seek expert advice from a lot of reliable sources.

Below are a just a few suggestions on what they could eat BEFORE they attend a training session. I also gave the group [and their parents] some ideas of what to eat and drink post-training..[next blog]


  • 2 hours before..[2 x wholemeal toast or plain bread with honey. I suggest MANUKA honey with BURGEN bread which contains calcium, soya and linseed…
  • Half an hour before….half a banana which contains potassium and is all carbohydrate…


  • Whole Wheat Toast with Sliced Banana and Cinnamon…
  • Greek Yoghurt and Trail Mix…
  • Smoothies…
  • Oatmeal with Fresh Fruit…
  • Apple Wedges with Almond Butter…

Of course, there are hundreds of different foods and combinations to eat before you train. But it is so important that you encourage your athletes to ‘fuel up’ correctly before they train…

I shall continue to monitor my training group throughout the summer months.

Speak with you soon,


Jumps Training: Introduction of some new Skills and Drills

NewsletterThis short video of my training group was taken on a Monday training evening. All the group had competed over the weekend….




We are in our summer competition maintenance training phase so we tend to have the ‘hard’ session early week and the technical session 2 days prior to the next competition.

What you see is a warm up, an introductory speed session followed by a plyometric segement. We are developing a new drill, so what you observe is their first attempt at a series of new movement patterns.

We developed the drill plus it’s refinements as we went along. When you devise new drills you’re never quite sure how they will look when first practiced. We will include elements of this drill throughout the summer competitive season…

I could have edited out some of the ‘mistakes’ but chose not to….!!

Before each ‘shot’ there was an element of teaching before we filmed for real….

NOTE: You will notice that some group members adapted very well, whilst others will take another few sessions before they ‘get it’…..

I like to make them think during a session..

Speak with you soon,



Our New Drill

NewsletterOur New Drill: I’m always looking around for something new that will really complement my training programmes. Variety in your programmes will ensure that training units don’t become ‘stale’….

BUT it has to suit my training needs and the groups needs…

My son-in-law owns several gymnasiums in the Ascot and Windsor area and he subscribes to all the relevant trade magazines. I spotted this one a few days ago which I intend to ‘refine and amend’ so that it it will dovetail into my programme.

It’s a burpee – which we all know is a very explosive body weight circuit exercise. But on completion of the movement, it is coupled with a double footed explosive and reactive vertical impulse over a box or hurdle….

I haven’t tried it yet, so my group will be ‘willing’ guinea pigs next week…..[I can hear them groaning now!]

See the exercise below….

Burpee to Double Footed Bound over Box or Hurdle

Burpee to Double Footed Bound over Box or Hurdle

Technique is so important when performing this drill [as it is for most drills], so there will be a short teaching phase before it’s put into our summer strength programme.

I need them all to perform the burpee correctly. From a stand, crouch down, place the hands on the floor – shoulder width apart, and explosively drive both the legs backwards – and then draw them back quickly and position them between where the hands are postioned and DRIVE explosively up and over the box or platform. I’ll probably use a low hurdle at first then experiment with the height of the hurdle in order to accomodate every group member. Different heights for different athletes…..

I might even ask them to complete the burpee first, land after the vertical impulse – and then drive up quickly over the box or hurdle.

  • I can envisage countless variations of this drill. Remember, as a coach, you are only limited by your own imagination…

I’ll film the initial results next week so you can see it in action..

Speak with you soon,



Training in the Competive Period [2]

Shaping the flight styleThis is a follow up blog on training during the competitive period. We’ve just completed a two week training block. There was a blank competitive weekend so we were able to train hard before the next competition.

The hard session is done early week where we strive to maintain general and specific strength and endurance levels, and the technical session two days before the weekend competition. This technical session also has a specific speed session attached…..[runway/blocks/accelerations to 10/20m etc]……

Last evenings session….

Competition warm up….[followed by]….

5 acceleration runs to 60mts – with good recoveries. Emphasis on ‘how you run’. Lot of individual athlete feedback.

Specific strength section – with plyometric bias…

  • 10 x jump up to plyo platform [we utilized platforms of differing heights [60 – 90cms]. NOTE: After jumping up they then dropped down to the floor from the platform and landed in a squat position and immediately ‘freezing’ the landing and holding that shape for 3 seconds [isometric tension]…
  • 10 x jump up with drop down to IMMEDIATE rebound over a hurdle and still finishing in that isometric squat held position….
  • 10 x Double footed bounding utilizing three plyometric platforms [60/70/90cms]….

NOTE 1: The emphasis was on flat-footed landings, upright upper torso, no excessive angle behind the knees. The emphasis is on speed and quickness. We worked on the premise of ‘load it – use it’….

NOTE 2: I’m not a quantity and volume man. We look to complete about 100 fast, dynamic contacts in the plyometric segment.

  • We then concluded with a set of 3 fast runs over 150mts. Some of the group ran 200mts….

Here is the link to the previous article on training during the competitive season…

Speak with you soon,

All the best,



Over Complicating The Coaching Process..[2]

NewsletterOver complicating the coaching process with ‘modern jargon and technology’ along with unecessary drilled situations might hamper the teaching and learning process in the early stages of skilled learning.

I expanded on this topic in my last blog. Coincidently, I read a few quotes and articles since writing it and I include some of the quotes below….

Never confuse education with having the ability to coach. Takes more than a few degrees to make you a good communicator….

My observations suggest that the new breed of younger coach and those ‘older coaches’ who present themselves at athletic workshops and go back to their coaching groups ‘armed’ with the latest sound bites and drills are hampering the development of their coaching group.

What ever happened to original thought?

The second quote says it all….

NOTE: If you have any thoughts, please email me and I’ll publish them in a forthcoming blog..