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David Lease Interview Update

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I’ve just got back from a Spar Sprints Workshop in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where we had a great discussion on the biomechanical aspects of Sprinting and the different strategies that can be used to develop an athlete across a year and developmentally over several years. Kevin Tyler (UKA Strategic Head of Coaching and Development) discussed his experiences of developing 400m runners in an environment with several feet of snow on the ground for 6 months of the year. Given the constraints of his environment his athletes would only ever run short distances (rarely further than 80m) for the first 6 months of the year (from Oct to April), yet were able to compete at the highest levels indoors over 400m and then continue to run under 45s outdoors (Tyler Christopher eventually ran 44.44s and Shane Niemi 44.86s).

Kevin’s key take home point is that acceleration and high speed running mechanics are very complex skills that take a long time to develop and so strategies that help to expose athletes to a large number of opportunities to develop these skills in an unfatigued state is the key to long term, injury free progression. While it is important to build endurance, for sprinters it is the ability to maintain excellent high speed running mechanics that dictates the kind of endurance (speed or specific endurance) required for high level performance in the sprints. For those coaches who would like to hear more about the things discussed in the Spar Sprints Scotland and Northern Ireland workshops Kevin and Myself will be presenting on similar topics at the upcoming England Athletics National Conferences over the next two weekends.

While some of these ideas may sound controversial (performing technical, high velocity speed work all year around, using short distances at the start of the year rather than longer slower runs etc) and a lot of sprint coaches across the UK will be unfamiliar with them, they have been employed successfully by some British Coaches in the past. For example, John Anderson (coach to David Moorecroft among others) has similar ideas about physical preparation for sprinters as does David Lease, the last person to coach a British male (Jason Gardner) to a sub 10 second performance in the 100m.

Earlier this year UKA Development Coach Michael Afilaka went to visit David Lease as part of his continuing professional development and recorded a great interview which we have uploaded this week. The interview fits nicely with my return from Scotland, where I had the pleasure of discussing the training of Alan Wells and the crop of talented Scottish sprinters from that era, because David kicks off his interview by referring to the Scottish sprinting dominance in the early 1980s. Specifically, he talks about how he was puzzled by the relevance of strength endurance circuits to performance in the sprints and felt it was simply a result of environment (e.g. it is cold in Scotland during the winter and so this kind of conditioning was performed because of the cold not necessarily because it was the optimal kind of training for sprinter). This is an interesting topic of debate because while general strength does not directly correlate with improved sprint performance (as you can tell from it’s place in the Exercise Classification Hierarchy for Sprints), many coaches including Lee Valley Centre Director Dan Pfaff feel they are important for developing and maintaining general work capacity – as he discusses in his interview here on uCoach. Hopefully, we will present both sides of the argument here online in the future.

Throughout the hour long interview David also touches on the influence of Günter Tidow on his philosophy surrounding the development of strength for Elite athletes as well as his belief that Jason could have run faster if he had been able to implement a training programme with a single peak rather than two. This last point is interesting because other coaches suggest quite the opposite – that multiple peaks separated by periods of development enhance the ability to achieve higher performances. However, such coaches are often using what is known as a “complex” planning strategy where all forms of work (Speed, General Strength, Work Capacity etc) are being performed all year around. Again another topic for debate we will no doubt get into over the coming months.

As well as coaching Jason, David was also a Pole Vault coach and so I thought it would be appropriate to continue our “How to coach” series, by uploading some videos of England NCM for Pole Vault Alan Richardson and Loughborough High Performance Centre Director Derek Evely (Hammer) coaching using an involving style. Furthermore, I’ve also uploaded the question and answer session from the England Athletics “From 10K to Marathon”, which I promised in my last update.

Next time we will have a very special interview for Hurdles coaches and some content from the England Athletics Coaching Conferences...

Hope you enjoy the interview and I look forward to reading yoru comments.

Best,

Tom

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