Written by JP Laurent - Head Coach WLTF Juniors
Rarely is learning a simple, linear process. It is a personal journey for each individual athlete. Two of the young athletes I coach experienced very different learning Journeys in the last few weeks:
Learning Journey 1: Lola
Lola is 11 years old and joined West London Track & Field in October 2018. Lola is an excellent trainer, always gives her best and runs, throws and jumps well. In the last few months we have been trying to get Lola to keep her head neutral when running at top speed as she was tilting her head upwards. I tried various cues and instruction but nothing seemed to stick with her. Two weeks ago I looked at a video of her sprinting, noticed her torso was leaning too far forward, meaning she had to lift her head up to see where she was running. I took a screen shot of this, sent it to her mum who then showed it to Lola. At the start of the next session I asked Lola if she understood what she needed to do and she simply nodded. She then self-corrected her head position and sprinted the best she has since she’s been with us.
1) I was looking at the wrong thing. I should’ve been looking at the rest of the body, not just the area I wanted to improve.
2) Lola just needed to see what she was doing because she clearly didn’t realise what her body position was like and as soon as she understood that she made the necessary adjustments herself.
Learning Journey 2: Honey
Honey is 9 and has been with WLTF Juniors for a month at our Woking hub. Honey is a confident and competitive young lady and, like Lola, trains very well every week. Honey arrived with some very good movement but in the first 2 sessions I asked her to stay tall and look ahead (not up or down). Honey made the small adjustments with her next few runs without any other intervention from me.
I am almost certain that in the coming months there will be a turnaround in the girls learning journeys and Lola will just need a word and Honey will need a picture or video. That is my challenge as a coach, to not think that learning is either linear or simple and to find out what works best for an individual in a specific situation.
1) Continue to look at each athlete as an individual. We all learn at different speeds, depending on what skill it is we are trying to master.
2) Its not just the athletes who continue to learn. Coaches must be receptive to the notion that their selected method of teaching/coaching might not be what’s best for an athlete. Don’t be afraid to ask or try something new.
JP Laurent is Head Coach of West London Track & Field Juniors. He coaches 75 young athletes every week at Lightwater, Woking and Ravenscote School.
He is a qualified Athletics Coach, Rugby Coach and Cricket Coach. A vastly experienced teacher, he is former Head of PE and Sports Performance Manager at a Sixth Form College in Surrey.
Head Coach WLTF Juniors