Friday, September 18, 2015

Chad Waggoner of Louisville Trinity High School on Coaching Race Strategy

On a comfortably warm afternoon at E. P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park in Louisville, KY, Chad Waggoner and I sat in the shade near the finish line on the tailgate of Chad's truck, where we had a brief but intense conversation about how he coaches racing strategy with his Trinity guys. I've known Chad since my first year of coaching in 2004--we met at Victor Ashe Park in Knoxville and have run into each other here and there over the years at a variety of places: the McCallie Invitational in Chattanooga; Maymont Park in Richmond,VA;, and, of course, at the Trinity Invitational, which is one of the premier early-season invitationals in the Midwest. Chad has always been generous and thoughtful and even philosophical about the value of high school running and of the importance of the team and filled our ten minutes with an intense discussion of how his guys race so successfully (including AAA State titles)

I'm still processing some parts of our discussion, to be honest with you, because I ought to have the discipline and the consistency to do it, especially when he discusses using workouts to dial in race pace. He also goes into great detail about how he teaches his guys to race smart over the first 400 of a cross country race in order to avoid the big crash that inevitably happens when you get out fast--and we all have those kids who get out too fast and crash. He's teaching his guys to ride a very fine line, and that takes skill, discipline, and persistence. I've always agreed with this strategy but have gotten away from it some and plan to get right back to it--I'm reminded about how much better a race the kids have when they haven't dug themselves a hole during the first mile.

This is a short one but is filled with great stuff from Chad--I'm uncharacteristically quiet. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Daniel Boone's Len Jeffers on the Team Concept in Cross Country

When I talked with Sam Roberts about winning back in July I knew that I wanted to follow up with Daniel Boone's Len Jeffers about Sam's cardinal rule about winning: creating a team culture that values winning. So on September 5, Len and I talked a couple of hours before the inaugural Hoka OneOne Postal Nationals Local 3200 at Daniel Boone. Both of us were a little nervous, I think, for the season to really start and wanted our kids to run well, so we could only manage to sit still for about fifteen minutes. Plus, he was a busy guy: we'd set up the timing system and timing tent and pretty much everybody wanted to stop and talk to Len for a second--Dobyns-Bennett's Bob Bingham and Catholic's Sean O'Neill among a bunch of different athletes, coaches, and parents. That's the kind of guy Len is: a talker who everyone really likes to talk with. I've not met a coach yet who didn't have something great to say about him and his program.

He's also an accomplished coach whose boys' teams have placed 2nd, 2nd, and 1st in AAA in Tennessee over the past three years and who made it to Portland for NXN last year, finishing 14th. Current Georgetown Hoya Adam Barnard ran an epic race to stagger across the line in 5th that day. I was in the car watching that race on my phone, remembering a cold day at former NXN venue Portland Meadows in 2007 and wishing, wishing, wishing for the shot to get back there. And that's one of the things Len and I talk about in this short podcast: as Sam has always said, once you've been to a place like that--the stage at State or NXN or Footlocker--all you can think of is getting back. I have struggled with that overwhelming motivator and burden as a coach, but I have the sense that Len has a much better and more realistic perspective. (Plus, as we saw at 9:49 PM last night, he has a 9:09 guy who could go places again.)

We talked at length about team, about how he went about designing and implementing the strategies that led them to the dream season of 2014, because it just kept coming back to team. And leadership--more than anything else, leadership. How did a couple of all-star seniors grab onto this team mission when they could have gone for themselves? How did he and Ray and the boys manage the hopes of September and the expectations of October and November? What's it like to dream it up, work toward it, and actually achieve it? For many of us that's the reason to keep coaching year after year and to keep working with kids who have these dreams: it's fun to have the chance to dream it up and try to do it. Again and again and again! Thanks for listening.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Coaching Short Sprinters with TWC Sprint Coach Sam Roberts

Sam Roberts has a strong history with short sprinters, especially at 60 meters. Jadon Short ran 6.86 and Matt Moore 6.83 in high school, Matt making the New Balance Indoor Nationals All-American list in 2014. And at TWC, Avery Hubbard was NAIA Indoor National Champion at the 60 this past winter. Coach Roberts has a unique ability to see the little things that make for a successful short sprinter: start and drive mechanics and timing among many little things that create success in such a short event.

In this short interview we discuss the ways in which training for the 60 prepares the athlete for the longer events of the outdoor season, including how to work on explosiveness and drive during the nasty winter months. Coach Roberts goes continually back to Brad DeWeese's admonition to keep sprinters on hills for as long as possible during the winter in order to imprint the best drive mechanics prior to bringing them to the flat track.

We also talk at length about his view of winter strength training. He explains how to use the back squat and trap bar deadlift to improve strength before working on power, as well as his reasons for having sprinters bench press--which comes straight from Loren Seagrave. Finally, he adds a few fun movements to the mix, as well, including the thruster, which surprises me. However, his explanation makes sense to me, and I'll find a way to use that with my sprint group next spring.

I know it's August and that we're focused on cross country, but for us track coaches it's never too early to consider what we're doing and are going to do with our sprinters, and this is a good one. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Coaching High Performing Female High School Runners with Exercise Physiologist Kate Shult

Kate Shult is an exercise physiologist who has her own practice called Training Edge. She's also a yoga instructor who has worked with Oak Ridge High School track and cross country runners since 2004. I first met Kate when her son Brennan ran for us, and she offered to do yoga classes for our cross country team. At the time I had no experience with yoga and no idea how on Earth that could help us. Over the years she's become a fourth coach for us, addressing the critical area of nutrition for performance and helping us to train our girls as well as possible, in addition to doing  a weekly yoga class with our kids.

In this short conversation I ask Kate to begin by explaining what she does with our team, and we segue into a discussion of the ins and outs of helping female athletes to address the many questions and concerns that they and their parents may have about training hard while maintaining good health--especially for the long term. She defines the Female Athlete Triad and explains how she works with our girls and their families. Additionally, she answers the question that many male coaches may ask: how does an adult male coach help female athletes when both the coach and the athlete may have difficultly talking about what they need to talk about?

The answer? Often it's to find someone who is comfortable: a pediatrician, a trainer, a consultant (like Kate). Communication makes issues of eating and body function less daunting than they may seem. As a coach who wants to help all athletes get the best out of themselves, I'm convinced: if we want hardcore athletes we have to help them to take hardcore care of their bodies.

*At the 16:50 mark I had to take a phone call from my son, whose car had just died. That makes for a glitch in the recording. Sorry about that. We got the car towed, and he got a ride home after waiting in the rain for a half hour.*

If you'd like to contact me or Kate, please reach me at my Gmail, and I'll put you in touch with Kate. Or @ORHSXC on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sam Roberts on Winning

In the first installment of this podcast I talk with old friend Sam Roberts, longtime Knoxville-area track and cross country coach who is now sprint coach at Tennessee Wesleyan. As he discusses, beginning in 1988 at Knox West he always sought out winning--at every level he coached. During that time it was in the TSSAA A-AA division, where he won state cross country titles, and later it was in AAA, where he won state track team titles. He coached more than 40 individual champions and a Footlocker Nationals finalist at West, and then he brought that winning temperament to Oak Ridge in 2007, where he helped coach an NXN team and four state champion cross country teams before coaching several sprint greats at Oak Ridge. This past year at TWC he had the indoor national titlist at 60 meters.

We sat down to discuss how he became associated with all this winning. What does the average coach do in order to promote a competitive but healthy atmosphere at the high school level? How does a hard-working coach also become a winning coach? What kinds of things make a "program?" If I'm an ambitious new coach, what can I do to create a winning program?

What did I learn? If you want to win--long-term--this has to be your thing. Not golf, not your own training. This has to be your thing. And you have to set clear expectations for yourself and for the athletes and families of athletes that you coach. Oh--and keep learning. Your stuff may have worked twenty-five years ago, but if you haven't learned and changed your practice during those twenty-five years, you haven't gotten any better.

If you like this podcast or have comments, please do leave them below. Thanks for listening.