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UK Athletics

‘Dream higher,’ says Steve Smith

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Former World Junior champion and Olympic bronze medallist Steve Smith joined the lecturers at the UK Athletics Jumps Conference at Brunel University, West London, on Sunday 8 October to focus more than 80 coaches on preparing athletes for successes up to London 2012 and beyond.


“Encourage your athletes to dream – and to set their sights high,” was the gist of the message from Smith to Level 3 and Level 4 high jump coaches who attended the talk-in along with current international athletes such as Commonwealth Games silver medallist Julie Crane and Julia Bennett.


Smith called on the coaches to urge athletes to pitch themselves against rivals at the top of the world rankings rather than their closest opponents in the UK.


“Steve gave us a fantastic talk,” said Carol Jackson, coach of the UK’s current top Under 20, Robbie Grabarz. “He is a great motivator. He went through the stuff he had done. He was very honest in explaining everything.


“I videoed it and my only regret is that my batteries ran out about 10 minutes before the end, because Steve’s is the kind of message Robbie wants to sit down and listen to on a regular basis.


”I remember when Mark Crowley first jumped well, I hadn’t got a clue and the coach education system wouldn’t have given me a clue if I’d not worked in the system and know who to go to.


“But every coach has to know who to go to. I mean, we still don’t know how Robbie went from 2 metres to 2.22 in seven weeks. Any coach could find her or himself with an athlete like Robbie! That was why I was somewhat shocked there weren’t more coaches at the Conference.”


Smith, who won the 1992 World Junior title with a world junior record of 2.37m and went on to win his Olympic medal at Atlanta in 1996, entitled his electrifying contribution ‘The Winning Edge’.


It came towards the end of a day during which Terry Lomax provided the intro to the UK structure; Fayyaz Ahmed talked about ‘General Conditioning to Plyometrics to Specific Jumping’; Denis Doyle contributed a lecture entitled ‘A matter of degree’ on the technique involved, liberally interspersed with videos of various athletes in action; and the day ended with an open panel discussion involving the UKA Event Management Group.


For pole vault coaches, Peter Sutcliffe provided the introduction to the UK structure and led a session entitled ‘Energy Transfer in Pole Vault’; Dave Young dealt with the ‘Technical model’; Peter Stanley and John Crotty covered plyometrics training; and there was a meeting with the English Regions / Celtic Nations coaches as well as an open panel with the Event Management Group.


For long jump and triple jump coaches, John Crotty and Peter Stanley provided the introduction to the UK structure and led the session on plyometrics training; there were sessions dealing specifically with ‘technique’ and ‘the run-up’; Stanley will detailed ‘Programming and Competition Preparation’; Phil Graham-Smith explained ‘Biomechanical Testing’; and the day ended with an open panel with the Event Management Group.


Stanley, who coached Jonathan Edwards throughout his incomparable triple jump career and now looks after UK long jump record holder Chris Tomlinson, said: “I enjoyed doing the lectures. But the best part from my point of view was the ‘down time’ – when a lot of people who don’t usually have a lot of time to sit down together and relax were able to talk about all the different aspects of their favourite subject, jumping.


“It was a coming together of like minds. As I’m still learning, I found it very useful as well as enjoyable.”


Michelle Dunkley, the former international high jumper who is now the UKA Senior Coordinator – Jumps and Throws, said: “The feedback I have had from the coaches is very good. It’s nice to have lots of different and new people to talk to. I think it was a good decision to concentrate on Level 3 and Level 4 coaches this time around because they are facing common challenges. I think 80 was a nice number, too. Any more than that and they would not have had the same inter-action with the lead speakers.


“And it was good to have Steve back on board, though we appreciate he’s very busy working for Everton Football Club. We asked him to spend an hour with us and he came for the whole day.”