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UKA Coach Building A Better Coaching Environment

Focus on Futures: Andrew Pozzi

As a young athlete, Andy Pozzi (Stratford-Upon-Avon), the UK under-20 60m hurdles record holder, benefited from training with his more senior counterparts in the under-20 age group; now, as an under-20 himself, he’s training with a group of senior athletes who are motivating him to improve even further.

“I guess I was quite lucky,” says Pozzi, a UKA Futures Programme athlete. “I was fairly good as a kid so I trained with the seniors from a young age. As a 13/14 year old I was training with the under-20s and it really drove me on. In the same way, linking up with the guys in Bath has enabled me to train with Lawrence (Clarke) and the others down there; it’s a tight group and they’re really raising the standards.”

The group he refers to is led by UKA National Event Coach for Hurdles, Malcolm Arnold and includes European Juniors 110mH champion Clarke, World Championships finalist and former European Under-23 400mH champion Dai Greene, European Championships 400mH bronze medallist Rhys Williams and Commonwealth Games silver medallist over 110mH Chris Baillie, in addition to flat sprints specialist Craig Pickering.

Pozzi, currently at Sixth Form College in Alcester, can’t train with Arnold’s Bath-based group full time but is benefiting from the involvement both he and his coach Paul Bearman have had over the past year. He’s now considering Higher Education options with a view to a move south. “At the moment I’ve had all my University offers back and I’m considering Loughborough and Bristol to study Business,” he says. “While Loughborough is strong on facilities and medical support, Malcolm (Arnold) and James Hiller (UKA Apprentice Coach – Hurdles) are based in Bath which would enable me to study in Bristol.”

2010 has already promised great things for the 17-year-old who has trained out of Stratford with his long-term coach Bearman since the age of nine.

He opened his season with an indoor personal best of 7.88s at the Midland Counties Open, but went on to smash that mark with a 7.67s clocking and victory in the Aviva England Under-20 Championships, a time that took him to the top of the UK under-20 60mH All-Time list ahead of former record holder and European Under-23 110mH silver medallist Gianni Frankis (Newham & Essex Beagles).

“I came off six weeks out injured with my foot and I’d only done one month’s training,” explains Pozzi who has spent a significant period of that time focusing on conditioning, core work and flexibility. “Malcolm (Arnold), Paul (Bearman) and I had agreed I probably wouldn’t run, but when we were joking about it in Bath I saw what shape Lawrence (Clarke) and Matt Hudson were in after doing a full indoor season ,so it gave me an idea of what stage I was at and I decided to go for it.”

The decision paid off to a point, but his foot injury – since confirmed as a stress fracture – returned. He’s now back on the sidelines and won’t return to full training until late April, but he remains positive about achieving his 2010 targets: “I’m scheduled for re-hab work for two-four weeks then I’m into hard training,” he says. “My main goal has always been the World Juniors Trials and onto the World Juniors, so obviously my first target is to achieve the qualifying standard; if I can do that before the Trials even better, as the pressure will be off a bit.”

As a rule, such an ambitious challenge might seem unrealistic, but it seems that Pozzi has a made quite a habit of recording impressive season openers ahead of successful summers.Mirroring his explosion back onto the circuit in 2010, Pozzi lined up in the England Under-17 Championships (indoor) in early 2008 – the venue of his most recent age group record - and went on to clock the third fastest time ever (UK under-17) of 7.94s.

“2008 was my breakthrough year, but unfortunately towards the end of the summer I got injured,” he explains. “I’d made the final of the England Under-20 Championships hurdles as an under-17 and I was selected for the Commonwealth Youth Games off the back of that. That became part of my plan going forward and was my dream goal for the year; I was devastated to miss out. It was the first major competition I’d been selected for, but at the same time it was the first major injury I’d suffered.”

He missed most of that summer and returned to training in early October but it was too late for Pune and his England debut. It also compromised his plans for a long indoor season, but his loss was Lawrence Clarke’s gain, the talented hurdler - who was two years Pozzi’s senior - getting called up to the team for his own breakthrough, a selection that kick started his career and his partnership with coach Malcolm Arnold.

The following summer, he was selected to represent Great Britain & Northern Ireland in the IAAF World Youth Championships, going out in the semi finals after finishing fourth in 13.82s. “If I’d made it to the final and run my time from the heats I’d have finished fourth,” he says, and you know he’s analysed his own performance and that of his competitors in detail. “I don’t really know what happened. It was my first major competition and it was a new experience, but maybe I had too long to think about it. It was a big learning curve and I learned a lot about myself and how to deal with it mentally, especially on that occasion when Paul (his coach, Paul Bearman) wasn’t around.”

Bearman has been a constant throughout Pozzi’s development from a talented multi eventer – he’s a former England Combined Events Championships runner-up - into an international class hurdler. “I think it’s an advantage of being at a smaller club,” he says of his combined events background, which also, outside of athletics, included county representative honours in rugby and football as a 14/15 year old. “You just join in with everything. My strongest event was actually the long jump but I stumbled upon hurdling. I’d never really trained for it but I started to run quickly – it was mainly based on good conditioning and speed, not technical training at that stage, and Paul has been my only coach through it all.”

Pozzi and Bearman have both benefited from the UKA Futures Programme. Primarily, the medical support and speed at which problems have been addressed has been key, but as a successful coach- athlete pairing, the access to facilities in Birmingham and Loughborough, in addition to the learning opportunities alongside National Event Coach Malcolm Arnold, have enabled the duo to progress together having met at Stratford-Upon-Avon nine years ago.

And his proudest moment to date? “So far it’s probably the under-20 record which was a bit unexpected and also qualifying for the Commonwealth Youth Games when I was 15; that was such a proud moment, not just for me, but also for my coach Paul because I was the first athlete he’d coached to that level.”

Now Pozzi, who has a current outdoor best of 13.83s (under-20) from 2009, wants to run 13.2s this summer. He has the remainder of this year and 2011 as an under-20, and in his final year as a junior, hopes to go on to reduce his own UK under-20 indoor best. Above all else, however, he wants to make the transition from the junior ranks to as successful senior athlete.

“I’m already training over the senior height hurdles, that was something that Malcolm and Paul had

worked out with me,” he says. “We’re also planning to run more senior races as an under-20. It’s very technical and that’s why I’m trying to get used to it now. It’s quite different, the flexibility, the stride pattern; your flight is longer over the high hurdles.”

“Progressing to a senior is a key goal for me, not just succeeding as a junior,” he concludes. “It‘s great to win and be successful as a junior for me but the real target is, and always has been, to grow in to an even better senior athlete.”

The UKA Futures Programme underpins the World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) and was borne out of the restructure of UKA’s WCPP and the drive towards more targeted support for athletes and their coaches.

The Programme targets young athletes with the potential to deliver global medals for Britain in the future, typically in the 17 to 20 age range but with flexibility towards athletes who have come late to the sport, are in late developing events of are deemed an exceptional case for support.

Athletes and their coaches will be supported in their individual development plans allowing for more flexibility and individual discretion around distribution of resources. 42 coach-athlete pairs have been included in the 2010 Futures Programme.

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