Coach's Corner Blog
Every month Coach Toni Minichiello will share his thoughts and insights into Jessica's progress and the challenges in coaching an Olympic athlete.
We have been spoilt for choice with the amount of sporting events taking place this summer. Yet after the disappointment of the World Cup, Andy Murray losing his Wimbledon crown and Chris Froome crashing out of the Tour de France, it really has been a summer to forget for British sport.
So with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow fast approaching, is the state of British athletics any healthier? Who are our future stars, are the facilities up to scratch and are there enough opportunities for children to get involved in the sport?
Four months ago Jess told the world she was expecting a baby and therefore taking a break from all competitive athletic events. Since then she has been working closely with her coaching team to make sure she is fit and ready for the 2015 Beijing World Championships where she plans to make her comeback. However pregnancy is a life changing event and can put the body under a large amount of strain, so Jess had to carefully consider her options before deciding to carry on with athletics.
Every year sportswear brands invest millions in research so they can design the perfect piece of kit to help athletes compete at their very best. Recently Jess has been testing out the new Climachill range from adidas, an evolution in sports cooling technology. Climachill takes cooling to the next level with advances in fabric composition and fit to help athletes stay cooler, dry and feel more comfortable. This range combines aluminium cooling spheres on the back neck line, with SubZero yarn made from titanium to create a mesh like fabric. Together they help regulate your body temperature and enhance your training, leaving you to focus on improving your performance and techniques and thus shave vital seconds off your time. But Jess wore a completely different type of kit when she first stepped out onto the race track.
Who can forget the interview Jess gave after she won the gold medal in London; fighting back the tears as the full scale of her achievement began to dawn on her? Yet despite this surge of emotion she was quick to recognise those people who made it all possible – her family, friends and coaching staff.
No athlete can do it all on their own. A great coach is there at every training session and competition, sharing in the highs and softening the lows. But how does anyone become a coach? “By accident,” jokes Toni.
“No, I actually started out coaching basketball. Then the person who was training the sports team left and I was asked to step in and it went on from there really. This must have been around 20 years ago.”
It can be truly satisfying working closely with an athlete and watching them progress, but first it requires a lot of hard work to become a certified coach.
It has been a magical start to 2014 for Jess. On 10 January she and her husband, Andy, announced they were expecting their first baby and Toni says she couldn’t be happier.
“Jess is feeling great. She is obviously very excited, as I think a lot of people would be. She is still training well and will probably be training in some form or other right up until the birth. We are having a meeting soon to discuss the options.”
Elsewhere in Britain; however, the icy winds and heavy rain has meant it has been a slow start to the year for many other athletes. But, if you want to build up momentum, you can’t let the bad weather disrupt your training sessions.
It is the day of the big race. All those years of hard training, the strict diet, the aching legs, it all boils down to this moment and nothing is guaranteed. If you don’t prepare your muscles for that burst out the blocks, all those training sessions would have been for nothing.
A race can be won or lost before the sound of the starting gun. If you turn up and just expect to perform well your dreams of glory can quickly unravel.
It is the last chance for Don Valley Stadium. The arena, which has been at the heart of Sheffield’s athletic scene, is on the brink of destruction. Campaigners of the Save Our Stadium group (SOS) has made one final attempt to prevent its demolition by collecting over 5000 signatures to present to the council before the debate on 5 November.
Toni started coaching Jess at the stadium when she was 13. He believes it played a huge role in her development and is essential for producing the next generation of local talent.
“It was crucial for Jess’ progress; even to be able to use the indoor facilities when the weather was bad,” says Toni. “Training can be a real struggle when it’s raining heavy, but at Don Valley we could go indoors and do some technical work and then take it back onto the track.”
The unprecedented level of success of Team GB at London 2012 inspired many to take to the track and dream of Olympic glory themselves. But even our greatest sporting heroes had to start somewhere.