I will start with some points I picked up at the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association Conference.
Nutrition Supplements – Louise Burke, a nutritionist at the AIS made a point I found interesting. Instead of taking a black or white view on supplementation they are now taking a pragmatic approach. They classify the supplements and try their best to advise the athletes as to the benefits/risks of the various supplements. She stated that the good use of supplements plays a role in optimal sports performance program. They work to educate the athletes to use the supplements properly. She stressed that the benefits are isolated to individual situations and individual athletes.
Wolfgang Schmidt – Early in his career he looked up to Al Oerter and later to Jay Sylvester. He stated that an athlete is always better off with a coach rather than being self-coached. He said that it was best to invest in human beings not facilities. He stressed his multi faceted development as a youth and the role the older accomplished throwers in his club serving as his role models. He did ten training sessions a week, averaging 90 minutes a session. When asked about the GDR’s systematic doping program I thought he was a bit dismissive, his comment was we were not the only one’s doing it.
Denis Knowles Coach of Dani Samuels – He stated he is the manager of the team His son does Dani’s strength training. They have used a gymnastic coach and other specialists to enhance her athleticism. They use other sports to enhance athleticism, not to be better at other sports. In terms of competition preparation the goal is to learn to hit the automatic qualifier in three attempts, anywhere and at anytime. Dennis stated that they think “readiness” instead of peaking and the effectiveness of the taper is determined by the entire preparation period. They throw in training under all conditions and their training venue does not have favorable wind conditions. In regard to strength training she is not chasing numbers in the weight room, if anything her program is far from traditional.
Debbie Strange Coach of New Zealand Javelin Thrower Stuart Farquhar – I was very impressed with Debbie's approach. She said that it was reconciling what you think the athlete can do with what they think they can do. She said that to medal it would take 1.7% of season best and to make the final would require the thrower to be within 7% of season best. She does not put much stock in a season ranking list going into competition because those results can be deceptive due to throwers seeking optimal conditions. She stated it was important to seek out tough competition and to learn how to win. She said that training is always a constant process of reconciling current ability with the ideal technical model for her athlete. She did not put a major emphasis on weight training, it is important but one of many factors. She stated that too many throwers create more power than they can handle. A point that really resonated me was that it was not the drills, but the execution of the drills that counted.
Throws Coaches Forum - It always comes back to fundamentals. They all stressed how important it was to “Skill it into them.” Debbie Strange said it well: “Athlete first, thrower second.” Denis Knowles on discus basics (I love the simplicity of this): Back of the Circle – Controlled, Center of the Circle – Balanced, and Finish of the throw – Stable.
Tomorrow I will share some other thoughts and lesson from my trip - my Brumbies visit, Melbourne and Sydney Roosters.