It’s been another successful outdoor season for Welsh throwers Adele Nicoll and Jac Palmer – Adele was crowned BUCS and Welsh Senior Shot Put Champion whilst Jac was crowned UK U23 Hammer Throw Champion. Whilst both have enjoyed success in their own athletics competitions this season, they’ve also contributed towards the development of many young throwers at the Cardiff Archers Athletics Club.
Both Adele and Jac are part of the coaching staff at the club and have reaped the rewards from working with some of the club’s young throwers, most notably Jake Knight, who recently threw a 3m personal best of 38.28m to finish 5th at the England u15 Discus Championships a fortnight ago. We recently caught up with Adele and Jac to discuss the ways in which they balance their own competitive careers and their coaching commitments.
WA: First off, can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in coaching with the Cardiff Archers?
AN: "I was starting my second year in university and I've always enjoyed working with children and had seen other students/athletes working with the Archers; so, I asked if I could get involved. As it turned out they needed a new throws coach, so I did my qualification, had my DBS through and got started pretty quickly."
JP: "Upon starting my Masters last September I applied for the role of graduate throws coach for the Archers academy and Cardiff Metropolitan University. I was excited at the proposition of coaching developing junior athletes and saw this as a great opportunity to implement the skills I’d learned through my degree."
WA: What do you enjoy most about coaching young and enthusiastic athletes like Jake?
AN: "When I've had a long day in work and I'm super tired he always manages to make me laugh. It's rare to find kids these days with the same passion for throws that Jake has. He is always keen to learn and asks questions which I love because the athlete needs to understand why we are making them do certain things. Enthusiasm goes a long way because the more interest the athletes show the more, we as coaches, are willing to help them."
JP: "I’ve really enjoyed what a humbling experience coaching a young athlete can be. A thirteen or fourteen-year old athlete doesn’t care about your qualifications or accomplishments in your own athletics career. A young athlete simply cares about what you’re doing to make them a better athlete. When you’re given the opportunity to work with an athlete with an enthusiasm for sport and learning new skills it requires one to remain a few steps ahead."
WA: What are the most rewarding aspects of coaching young and developing athletes?
AN: "It has to be when they get a personal best and they are so happy with their performance; knowing you contributed to that is a great feeling. Helping younger athletes develop their skills and watching them grow is so rewarding."
JP: "For me the best feeling as a coach is when an athlete comes back from a competition and makes a statement something like the following: ‘my first throw wasn’t quite right because ‘X’, in my next throw I did ‘Y’ and this lead to the desired outcome.’ To watch an athlete struggle to spin a discus properly to discussing the influence of revolutions and wind direction in the space of a few months is incredibly rewarding."
WA: Are there any major differences between your philosophy / approach as an athlete compared with as a coach?
AN: "I try to practice what I preach. I think it helps that I am an athlete because I can relate to the children I coach so much better. I know when they'll find certain things difficult, I'll know when they will need to rest, and I appreciate the hard work that they put in. I want them to enjoy it, that is the main thing. The fact I am an athlete also helps the young athletes that I coach to believe in what I tell them, because they know I do it myself and I've had some success in the sport, so they think well she must know what she's on about!"
JP: "I’d say that my emerging coaching philosophy has influenced my approach to my own athletics. I actively encourage my athletes to take ownership and enjoy training and competing. After taking my own advice somewhat I have not only enjoyed competing to a greater extent but in fact competed to a much higher standard. During coaching sessions, I consider myself to be laid back and actively engage in social interaction with my athletes and other coaches. As an athlete I employ a more intense and focussed nature, I believe training should be fun, but the primary aim of training is to improve performance."
WA: What advice would you give to any current athletes who may be considering getting into coaching?
AN: "Coaching will make you think about your event in closer detail and allow you to analyse different ways to perform the same task. Each athlete is individual so creating variation in training is a great skill to develop. You will find yourself appreciating the effort that your own coach puts into your programmes and sessions a lot more too. Coaching will help you to understand the sport in more depth and create lots of opportunities, so challenge yourselves and do it!"
JP: "You can learn something from everyone - I have seen that the best coaches and athletes draw information from a wide range of sources. Books, journals and online resources are great but speaking and interacting develops your own coaching network. Speed development is crucial for throws athletes, logically I approached sprints coaches Dave Norton and Lewis Clarke for their assistance. Not only did this open up an incredibly useful conversation around speed, I have drawn a significant amount of information around social interaction and coaching the individual."
If you’re interested in getting involved with coaching at your local athletics club, click here to find out more.
If you’d like to share the stories of more young coaches involved in athletics in Wales, get in touch with us – we’d love to hear their stories!