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Full-Time Sprints & Hurdles Coaching

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Full-Time Sprints & Hurdles Coaching

WLTF is set to launch it's first full-time Sprints and Hurdles squad.


Following three successful seasons working with over 30 athletes, Lead Sprints Coach - Laura Turner-Alleyne is now directing her focus and expertise to coaching a group of athletes dedicated to training full time.

WLTF Sprinter Clieo Stephenson & Gareth Degg

WLTF Sprinter Clieo Stephenson & Gareth Degg

Turner, an Olympian and GB Team relay coach is set to lead a squad of committed athletes through a comprehensive, individualised, programme designed to maximise performance.

The new squad will train 5 days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday) from 10am – 1pm. Track and gym sessions will be programmed with the individual in mind, and supervised throughout. With speed at the heart of the training programme, Laura and her team will ensure athletes develop technical mastery, as well as the physical prerequisites for success.

Therapy support will be provided by Gareth Degg (lead therapist WLTF) who has already had an amazing impact on the quality of athlete movement and performance in his 3 years in post. Gareth is an Osteopath and Movement specialist, and his philosophies around movement and performance are a common thread in Laura’s training programme.

The WLTF core values will be at the heart of the squad:

Precision – purpose, pride and precision in everything we do.

Dedication – to commit to do everything to the best of our ability.

Respect – for ourselves, for others, for the sport.

Perseverance – taking ownership of challenging situations and working towards solutions.

Excellence – chose to work towards excellence in all areas of life.

For more information on joining this squad and our other squads, coaching fees apply, please contact Laura laura@westlondontrackandfield.com

 

 

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British Championships Preview

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British Championships Preview

This weekend twelve West London Track & Field athletes will head to Birmingham to compete at the British Outdoor Championships. With seven athletes from the sprints and hurdles group and five pole vaulters, this is the most athletes that West London Track & Field has had at a British Championships.


Here are the events that we'll be contesting:

Men's 100m:

Marvin Popoola - Coming back into form after a few years of injury woes, Marvin ran a seasons best of 10.62 at the under 23 National Championships and will be looking to improve this again in Birmingham.

Jahde Williams - Fast improving in his less favoured sprint event. Jahde ran a personal best of 10.73 at the Under 23 National Championships to make the semi-finals.

Women's 100m:

Clieo Stephenson - Fresh from her bronze at the Under 23 National Championships, Clieo is looking to build on a consistent first half of the season in which she has ran 11.7 on two occasions.

Shereen Charles - Experienced sprinter who thrives on the big occasion and will be looking to break the 12 second barrier when it counts.

Men's 200m:

Marvin Popoola - Running two personal bests at the Under 23 National Championships including a time of 21.27, Marvin will be aiming to run faster again in Birmingham.

Jahde Williams - In his more favoured of the two sprints, Jahde ran a personal best of 21.55 from lane 1 at the Under 23 National Championships. Lots more to come.

Men's 110H:

Jack Kirby - A finalist at the Under 23 National Championships and a former GB Under 20 representative, Jack will be aiming to get closer to the 14 second barrier this weekend.

Reece Young - Another finalist from the Under 23 National Championships. Reece ran a PB to make the final in his first race of the season. He'll be hoping to build on this in Birmingham.

Men's 400H:

Max Schopp - Max is in his first season with West London Track & Field and has run consistently close to his PB every race. He'll be looking to break this over the weekend.

Courtney MacGuire - Bronze medallist from the Indoor British Championships

Courtney MacGuire - Bronze medallist from the Indoor British Championships

Men’s Pole Vault:

Max Eaves - Max will be hoping to go one better than his silver medal from the indoor championships. Having already contested numerous British Championships, Max will be looking to step up again in Birmingham.

Women’s Pole Vault:

Henrietta Paxton - Coming off of back to back season’s bests including a commonwealth games qualifier of 4.25m, Hen will be looking for another strong performance over the weekend.

Jessica Robinson - Jess won a silver medal at the Under 20 National Championships and will be aiming to back up this performance with her efforts at her first British Outdoor Championships.

Courtney MacGuire - Courtney will be hoping to add another medal to her collection after winning a bronze medal from the Indoor British Championships.

Sophie Dowson - Sophie won a bronze medal at the Under 20 National Championships with an outdoor seasons best of 3.75m and will be hoping for another season's best at her first British Outdoor Championships.

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Pole Vault: Fundamental KPIs

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Pole Vault: Fundamental KPIs

This week's post comes from Head of Coaching and Performance for Welsh Athletics - Scott Simpson. Scott has coached athletes to Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic finals and is coach to the U.K's number one female pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw, who finished 5th at least years Olympics in Rio. Scott is going to talk about what he believes to be the fundamental key performance indicators (KPIs) in the pole vault.


Pole Vault: Fundamental KPIs

What is the “problem” that athletes must attempt to solve in the pole vault event?  To project their body over the highest bar possible without dislodging it?  How do they seek to solve this problem?

Let’s keep it simple…

How high an athlete can vault (vault height) is the product of two other factors – how high they grip on the pole (grip height) and how high they can project themselves above their top hand grip (push height).  Each athlete must find their own unique balance between these two variables.  There will be those who prefer to exploit their ability to grip high (examples of international vaulters include; Shawn Barber in the men’s event and Jenn Suhr in the women’s event), while others will maximise their ability to project themselves high above their top hand grip (examples of international vaulters include; Sam Kendricks in the men’s event and Yarisley Silva in the women’s event).  It is critical that athletes find the optimal solution for them.  But what determines this solution?  Firstly, we must gain a greater understanding of what underpins each of these two factors.  Again, this is presented as a simplified model in Figure 1, but one that covers the critical aspects that we must consider.

Figure 1:  Hierarchical model of the critical KPIs that underpin pole vault height

Figure 1: Hierarchical model of the critical KPIs that underpin pole vault height

One of the critical determinants of pole vault success, is the ability of a vaulter to rotate the pole to the vertical.  It is this factor that limits the height of the grip an athlete can take on the pole.  If the grip is too high, then the pole will fail to reach the vertical and the vault will “stall” and ultimately be unsuccessful – not to mention endangering the athlete involved.  If the vaulter wishes to increase their grip height, they must improve their ability to rotate the pole to the vertical.  The height an athlete can grip on the pole is determined by;

i.)  The speed they can achieve on the approach run, and critically, the speed (energy) they can take into the take-off – “Speed at take-off”

ii.)  The efficiency with which the athlete transfers that speed (energy) into the pole at take-off – “Take-off efficiency”

The more speed an athlete can generate on the approach run, the higher the energy they have to potentially utilise in the vault.  This energy serves multiple factors, but critically, it gives the potential to increase the rotation of the pole to vertical and increases the shortening of the pole (chord) length (increases bending), which subsequently further increases pole rotation; if combined with increased horizontal speed.  Therefore, two critical training components emerge from this;

1.  Coaches must attempt to develop the speed qualities of the vaulters they work with

2.  Coaches must develop an approach run structure that serves to maximise the velocity of the vaulter at the point of take-off

However, maximising speed alone does not solve the challenge of maximising grip height.  The athlete must possess the ability to convert that speed at take-off.  This conversion takes two forms; firstly the conversion of some horizontal speed to vertical speed (i.e. an ability to “jump”), and secondly, the ability to transfer the speed into the pole.  We regularly see athletes with great speed qualities who are ineffective in utilising it effectively at take-off – this highlights an imbalance in the athlete’s speed and their ability to use it in a jumping event.  The short term solution to this is to reduce the speed that the athlete has access to – i.e. to shorten their approach run length or get them to run slower on the approach run!  However, longer term, it places a requirement on the coach to develop the athlete’s take-off efficiency, which can be achieved by addressing the following (depending on the limitation that the athlete faces);

1.  Improve the athlete’s horizontal position from the back of the box at the point of take-off.  There is an optimum “zone” that the athlete can take-off from in relation to their grip height. This “zone” permits the athlete to be between mid-stance and toe-off during their take-off step ground contact, when the pole strikes the back of the box.  If the pole connects before mid-stance, the athlete is likely too close to the box and their ability to transfer horizontal speed to vertical speed will be compromised.  If the pole connects after toe-off, their ability to transfer speed to the pole, while maintaining horizontal speed, will be compromised.

2.  Develop the athlete’s posture at take-off.  The athlete must strive to maximise their take-off height – this requires great postural awareness and execution, together with the running and pole plant mechanics to optimise their postural position at take-off.

3.  Assist the athlete to understand and maximise their intention at take-off.  This comes from optimising the stride length / frequency ratio over the final steps of the approach run, from setting up the take-off step effectively and (as Mondo Duplantis recently said in an interview), trying to “hit” the pole as hard as possible at take-off.

If coaches can support the development of an athlete’s speed, which they can both achieve and effectively utilise at take-off, the athlete has the best opportunity of maximising their grip height on the pole.

For clarity, we will refer to the phases of the vault after the athlete leaves the ground as the “on pole” phase and the actions that they perform during this time, their “on pole” technique. 

For an athlete to “fly” from the top of the pole and maximise their push height, there are two key variables that must be optimised;

i.)  The stiffness of the pole that the athlete is using – “Pole stiffness”

ii.)  The technique that the athlete employs while swinging on the pole – “On pole technique”

Pole stiffness is a critical variable in supporting an athlete to achieve greater push heights.  The stiffer the pole, the greater the potential for energy storage and subsequently energy return later in the vault.  The greater the energy return in the latter stages of the vault, the greater potential for the athlete to be projected higher above their top hand grip height.  However, an athlete cannot simply use a stiffer pole – sadly, it is not that simple!  It is harder to store the energy in a stiffer pole in the initial “on pole” phase of the vault – which results in less bending and subsequently less rotation of the pole to the vertical (as discussed previously).  The technique that the athlete employs to bend the pole must be considered and optimised without compromising other aspects of the vault (which will be discussed later).  Additionally, there is a greater requirement for the athlete to be able to physically resist the forces that come from the pole back to the athlete when they use a stiffer pole.  From this, coaches need to consider developing the following qualities in their athletes;

1.  Develop an “on pole” technique that promotes pole bending without compromising their ability to swing effectively

2.  Physically prepare athletes for the forces that they will experience when using stiffer poles.  This includes the stabilisation of the shoulders and lumbar spine, and the mobilisation of the thoracic spine and the hips

WLTF athlete Sophie Dowson achieving a great "on pole" position during warm weather training

WLTF athlete Sophie Dowson achieving a great "on pole" position during warm weather training

The last part of the puzzle with regards to maximising the push height is to optimise the “on pole” technique.  Three critical things are happening during the on pole phase – all of which interact and effect one another – but understanding these and appreciating how to manipulate them, is critical to obtaining a greater push height.  They are;

i.)  The pole (chord) is rotating to the vertical (pendulum 1)

ii.)  The athlete is rotating about their hands on the pole (pendulum 2)

iii.)  The pole is compressing (shortening) and then straightening again (lengthening)

We have already discussed the pole rotating to the vertical in a previous section, but it is important to appreciate that the vaulter has a finite amount of time available before the pole reaches its finishing position.  It is the timing of the vaulter’s actions and positioning at key moments that is the essence of success in this area. 

In order for the athlete to rotate effectively around their hands, they must “swing” – a difficult concept to understand, but it must be rhythmical and flowing – an action that is in time with the pole and prevents energy “leakage” while using the speed that is available within the system.  It is useful to observe how gymnasts swing on apparatus (high bar, rings etc.) in terms of the flow / rhythm of movement.  However, swinging on the pole differs in that it is on a piece of equipment that is both moving and compressing / extending – which adds complexity to the understanding required by both the coach and athlete.  It is also important to understand that the human body is a series of joints / hinges and that these joints must flex and extend as part of the swinging action on the pole – essentially “pendulum 2” (listed above) is a body with multiple joints - which can all impact on the way the athlete swings.  The actions at the hips and shoulders are a critical part of this.

Putting the task as simply as possible, the athlete must find a way of relocating as much of their body (mass) as high as possible in relation to their shoulder joint at the moment that the pole changes from compressing to extending.  During the initial part of the swing, the pole is compressing / shortening.  The swinging action (if executed effectively) adds to this compression – which will be at its peak as the athlete passes through the pole chord.  However, as the athlete moves further away from the pole chord, the compressive forces on the pole start to reduce and the pole reaches the point of “maximum pole bend”.  It is at this moment that the pole changes direction and begins to straighten.  In this moment, the athlete must be in position to start working with the recoiling pole and align with it.  This can only be achieved if they have a critical amount of their body mass high in the system at that critical moment.  Their joints and limbs must also be positioned appropriately to work in synchronisation with the pole as it recoils.   Finally, the pole must be suitably rolled forwards to the vertical at this moment in order for the athlete to continue moving throughout the swing – if not, the athlete will have to wait for the pole – often observed by a pause mid swing when the hips stop rising.

So, coaches and athletes can implement the following technical components in order to achieve success with regards to creating a synchronisation between the vaulter and the pole and subsequently maximise the athlete’s push height;

1.  Encourage a shoulder “release” in the first part of the “on pole” phase – this puts the athlete in the best possible position for swinging

2.  Swing early (minimise the amount of time it takes for the take-off foot to change direction after take-off), initiated by a strong take-off leg kick or “tap”

3.  Maintain pressure in the hands during the swing.  The vaulter must hang from their top hand – keeping the pole compressed while they execute their swing

4.  Cover the top of the pole with the legs and raise the hips as high as possible before the pole begins to recoil

If the athlete is able to re-position their body appropriately by the time the pole changes direction – and if the pole has rolled forwards sufficiently – they give themselves the best chance to maximise their push height.

To conclude, it is always worth remembering that there needs to be a balance between grip height and push height – they do have the potential to impact on each other (i.e. a higher grip makes achieving a greater push height more challenging).  Additionally, each athlete will have certain qualities that predispose them to being either a grip dominant, push dominant or balanced type vaulter.  Knowing the athlete and their strengths and weaknesses is the key to optimising this.  As always, we must strive to maximise strengths and minimise limitations in the pursuit of success.


We would like to say a massive thank you to Scott for writing this for us and we're sure it will be very useful to everyone that reads it. We'd like to wish Scott and his team all the best for the upcoming season and the best of luck to Holly Bradshaw in the World Championships in London this year.

 

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10 Ways To Improve Performance

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10 Ways To Improve Performance

Max Eaves training at Solent HPA

Max Eaves training at Solent HPA

This past weekend at the British Universities Championships we sat down with Dan Cruse and Jordan Niblock of Solent University's High Performance Academy (HPA) team and heard their thoughts on the best ways for athletes to improve their performance. The team at HPA have worked with West London Track and Field pole vaulters Max Eaves, Courtney MacGuire, Laura Edwards, Kieran Apps and Dan Hoiles - three of whom opened their outdoor seasons with new personal bests over the weekend.

Here are their top 10 ways that you can improve your performance:

Willingness to Learn - A common trait among all great athletes is an insatiable desire to get better. Each training session and competition is a fantastic opportunity for you to learn and improve – imagine how much better you could be if you embrace this for the rest of your athletic career?

Open To Constructive Criticism - This is very important in our opinion, and something that a lot of athletes can struggle with. Part of the learning process is being able to take on board constructive criticism, and harness that as fuel to improve in future sessions and competitions. Good coaches have your best interests at heart, any criticism is designed to help you get better - not as a deformation of your character!

Get On Top Of Your Nutrition - An easy way to gain an advantage on your competition, given it’s a performance variable often overlooked by a lot of athletes. How can you expect your mind and body to perform at its best, if you’re fuelling them with foods that give you nothing in return?

WLTF athlete Laura Edwards - Student at Solent University

WLTF athlete Laura Edwards - Student at Solent University

Surround Yourself With Like Minded People - “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). Make sure that support network is allowing you to be the best possible athlete and person that you can be.

Don’t Cut Corners In The Warm Up - Sessions and Competitions start with the warm up – this is the perfect time to get your mind and body best prepared to go out and execute. Cutting corners and missing elements of your routine, just lends itself to poor preparation. Focus your mind on what you’re there to do.

Flick The Switch Approach to Training and Competition - This leads on nicely from our last point about not cutting corners. Some days, we don’t want to train. We don’t want to work, and we find distraction wherever possible. Flicking the switch affords us the opportunity to leave our bags at the door when it’s time to train, and make sure that we leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence.

Courtney Macguire working with  HPA manager - James Grant

Courtney Macguire working with

HPA manager - James Grant

Use Your Time Away From Training - Every day is game day by Mark Versteghen summarises this point quite nicely. Time is a precious commodity, and recognising that every hour of the day is an opportunity to improve performance can help you get even more out of your training. Taking the time to consider things such as a bedtime routine, or even preparing food ahead of time can help to form long term habits which will make your time away from the track more productive. Count up how many hours you spend at training against how many you don’t, and then tell us you couldn’t be doing more!

Keep A Training Diary - Keeping a simple log of how long your sessions are and how hard they are on a scale from 1 to 10 is a great way to keep track of how much your training is progressing week to week, as well as showing trends in your wellness over the course of a season.

Ask Questions Of Your Coaches - Not surprisingly, coaches love what they do, almost as much as athletes love winning.  Questioning the process may seem counter intuitive, but asking your coach about the rationale behind what you do in training is a great way to help reinforce your own understanding of how each session contributes to achieving your season goals. It also creates accountability for your coach as well. Some of the best changes we’ve made to an athletes programme have come off the back of their own ideas.

Play The Long Game - Nobody wants to be a glass cannon. Reframing adversity as opportunity is a great idea, rather than sacrificing long term progress for short term gain, which can cost you success in the long run. Not only that, but making sure you are consistently prepared to train and compete by managing your workloads and recovery strategies will mean more chances to succeed every season. So many potentially great athletes have their careers cut short by injuries and setbacks that could have been avoided. Don’t let this be you.


Dan, Jordan thank you for your time and all the best to you and the athletes you work with on your future success. There will be plenty of West London Track and Field athletes hoping to maximise their own performance this weekend as they start their outdoor campaigns at their respective British Leagues and U.K Women's Leagues. Good luck!

 

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