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.
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.
“He’s a born athlete,” is a phrase popular amongst commentators and spectators alike, but what does it actually mean? It is true some people develop a natural physic better equipped for certain events, but if you don’t dedicate yourself to your training you will only ever go so far.
Jess started working with Toni when she was just 13 years old. She may have shown a lot of promise in those early days, but it has taken a huge amount of effort, determination and training for her to fulfil her true potential.
“Jess trains six days a week and only has one day off,” says Toni. “Normally each day consists of two training sessions. She will be in the gym and on the weights three times a week and will be on the track again for another three days. She also does conditional training once a week. This usually consists of circuit training and is designed to target and condition the whole body, so the ankles, calves, biceps, etc. It’s not specific to an event, but aimed at keeping the body in good condition.”
Last month it was announced Jessica Ennis will be an official ambassador for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Around one million tickets will be available for the first major event in Britain since the London Olympic Games and all eyes will be on our home grown athletes. The thousands of queuing fans will be expecting Team GB to dominate once again, but will the athletes be able cope with the pressure?
“First you need to understand where the pressure is coming from,” explains Toni. “Is it internal, as in are you putting pressure on yourself, or external, as in is it something the coach is doing or is it the crowd or the media? Then for a coping mechanism you need to think about whether that pressure is justified.”
Once you have taken your place at the starting line it is vital you stay focused, but when you are surrounded by thousands of fans, banners and T.V. cameras it can be hard to block out the distractions.
One year ago this weekend Jess stood at the top of the podium on Super Saturday as Olympic champion. Now she’s battling with a recurring Achilles injury which forced her to miss the start of the season. However she was determined to take part in the Anniversary Games last week to celebrate the legacy of London 2012 and honour all the athletes who gave everything they had to compete.