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UKA Coach Building A Better Coaching Environment

Year of the Coach: Glenys Morton

“I’m a strict parent and what I say, goes,” laughs Leicester-based coach Glenys Morton. “I try to take the same approach into training; I don’t go out to pick fights, I just tell them what to do and trust them to get on with it.”

Morton says it as it is, and her athletes - including IAAF World Junior Championships triple jump silver medallist Laura Samuel and her daughter Eden Francis, the UK junior record holder and European under-23 discus champion – respect her for it.

In Samuel and Francis she has two world class age-group athletes in two hugely diverse events, but her squad includes girls and boys from under-11 through to senior on both track and field. So how does she deliver relevant and knowledgeable training sessions across her entire group? “Our group is like a large family. They all help one another, and they all learn from and inspire one and other,” she says. “Success is shared and helps keep the athletes in the sport. Their achievements also make me want to continue to work hard to ensure that the dynamics of the group don’t change.”

“My approach with Laura, Eden and the girls is exactly the same as with the boys; I’m there to do a job,” she continues. “I suppose in terms of the technical aspects of each event it’s been a bit different with the throws because I was a jumper myself, but first and foremost, all of the people I coach are athletes, and up to a certain point some of the same principles apply.”

“I want my junior athletes to enjoy themselves. Youngsters should be focused on having a good time while competing, but not competing under pressure. They’re all athletes and I don’t want them to be event specific when they’re too young.”

That said, Morton admits that her daughter looked like a thrower from the age of two. “She was quick but not quick enough, and she had long arms,” she says. “She actually started out enjoying the jumps but like all my athletes, she did everything as a junior.”

“I’ve essentially had to learn her event(s); I had the basics, but with Eden’s increasing standards I’ve had to learn from other people to keep up with her progression, apply some specifics and further my knowledge.”

Morton’s commitment to the sport is clearly evident in both communication and delivery.

She admits that while it’s not always that important for a coach to travel to an event, the World Juniors was Samuel’s biggest competition and there was never any question that she wouldn’t go. “I think it helped her that I was there because it maintained some level of continuity,” she explains. “It was one less thing for Laura to worry about in an unfamiliar environment.”

“I don’t believe in travelling to make up the numbers,” she continues, matter-of-factly. “I told her (Laura) to leave space in her bag for a medal; she wasn’t just going to Canada for the experience.”

“That had always been her target for the year, but we knew that if she made the qualifying for World Juniors it was also the Commonwealth Games standard. Delhi was never our priority – that was always the Worlds – but it’s what we do this for. She’s ranked just outside of the Commonwealth podium positions at present but the other five are there to be beaten.”

With the triple jump, Morton has been fortunate to have access to some of the best coaching expertise available in the UK through her position as an England Athletics Coach Mentee. Working alongside National Coach Mentor Peter Stanley, former coach to triple jump World Record holder Jonathan Edwards, she’s had the opportunity to learn from, and share information with, other key individuals.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the coach mentoring scheme,” she says, admitting that other event groups in the UK, throws in particular, could benefit from a more open approach. “Laura’s (Samuel) success this summer has definitely been a result of us working together. I’ve learned so much from Peter I really feel like it’s a joint effort.”

In contrast, her experience in the throws has been less satisfying, but it’s an area she’s determined to work on with the motivation of a home Olympic Games in 2012. She should also benefit from the increased coach development opportunities on offer since the appointment of former Olympian Shaun Pickering as UKA’s National Event Lead for Heavy Throws in May, who brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the position.

From a personal perspective, as well as a coaching one, it’s a cause close to her heart. “The standard of throws in this country isn’t great at present,” she says. “Eden’s shot putt best – a mark which ranked her second in the UK senior list in 2009 – would have been good enough for only bronze in this year’s IAAF World Junior Championships.”

“So while her best is good, it’s not great,” she continues, “and it’s a theme which is consistent across the country. There’s a need to have more sharing in the throws events. When Eden started out in the throws five years ago I tried to gather as much information as I could. Now I think we’d benefit from getting people together in an attempt to move the event forward. I’ve not seen many changes since then, it’s the same old story, and now I need to get out there and do something for myself because London 2012 is our priority.”

Morton and her husband had asked their daughter whether she wanted to go to university or to focus on the Olympic Games and she opted for the latter. It was a timely consideration, because it had only recently been announced the London would host the Games in 2012. “We made the decision that we’d support her through to London if that’s what she chose, so that’s what we’re doing,” she says. “It’s my priority now to help her do that, so I’m going to have to get out there and do some more research into what other countries are doing with their athletes.”

A case in point is that of 2007 European Junior Championships discus silver medallist Sandra Perkovic (Croatia) who progressed from a 55.42m PB two years ago to a lifetime best of 66.85m in 2010, a mark which places her second in the world this year at senior level. “I’d like to know how that happened,” says Morton. “On the whole the European throwers have been the best, so I want to learn from them.”

As a self-employed fashion designer she enjoys an apparently contrasting role in her business life to that of her trackside position, but she applies the same level of focus and attention to detail.

Fashion designing is not a million miles away from her coaching role; she takes an individual and works with them to make them better, be it on the triple jump runway or the fashion runway. Ultimately, on both sides, she wants to create an environment, or a knowledge base, through which individuals can deliver to the best of their ability.

“Looking back to when I competed I see athletes that didn’t jump as far as me but earned England or GB vests,” she concludes. “I suppose there was nobody guiding me. I didn’t really know the extent of the international competition opportunities out there and I needed to be pointed in the right direction. I hold no resentment, but I want to ensure that my own athletes have the backing and support they need to progress; I don’t want them to miss out, and I’m confident that they won’t.”

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