UKA Olympic Coach, Coaching Combined events Hept and Decathlon notably Jessica Ennis
The National Indoor Championships are just about to start and the first major target set for Jessica is just a short 4 weeks away, the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
It seems to be a global championships that’s largely been ignored by most of the media, and this isn’t solely restricted to the sport of athletics, it seems to be the case with all sports. The questions have all been about London, and the Indoor season being a preparation for London.
The Indoor season and indoor performances in reality have little bearing on the summer championships in any year, and in 2012 it will be no different. A win or a loss in Istanbul will not guarantee you the same result in the Olympics less than 5 months later. In fact a win indoors doesn’t even guarantee you selection for the Olympics.
So why do it?
Christmas time and the New Year holiday period are for most people a bit of a break from work. A time when people tend to eat and drink more than they should. But have a small consideration for the athlete who can’t help but be distracted by all the food and fun goings on.
There is a common idea that only the truly dedicated athlete will train on Christmas day, the truth is, that if you plan properly you can have Christmas day as a rest day. However, wherever possible I try to keep the training routine as normal as possible, not wanting to miss a technical or physical session.
For myself as a coach it’s more a period of inconvenience and a break in the training routine with facilities closing as they do on Bank Holidays.
Winter preparations have begun and the first six weeks of training have come and gone. The clocks have gone back and as nights draw in you feel the harsh reality of the winter training slog.
We see reminders on websites of the BOA and UK Sport, even in local newspapers there are countdowns to the start of the Olympics, as a coach I have my own.
In total there are 44 training weeks for Jessica to the Olympics. A total of 246 training days, taking into account all the planned rest days. That clock has now ticked down to 38 weeks, equaling 210 training days left.
It is with experience that I understand, that I really do understand, I have to wait for the dust to completely settle before I can ever be affective in reflection.
It would be so easy to review the World Championships and miss out the rest of the season.
Even on the flight home I was writing notes about technical changes, drills to add and enhance training plans for next winter. The inquest had begun.
Looking back on the whole season, there were personal bests in 100mH of 12.79 seconds, the second fastest time by a British woman. There was a 200m personal best of 23.11 secs, a time only 24 British women have bettered. A Shot Putt PB of
Jessica has opened her season in spectacular fashion, truthfully much better than I expected. In Italy a personal best in the heptathlon of 6388 points which also broke Denise Lewis’s British best for an under 23. An equal British Record in the High Jump of 1.95m, both being the highlights for most people.
For me the highlights were the personal bests in the 100m Hurdles (13.12 secs) and Long Jump (6.40m) and the confident performance in the 800m.
The long jump is the key to Jessica’s long term success in heptathlon. With her speed and jumping ability in the high Jump, she has under achieved in this event.
This is by no means a finished article and a consistent performance in the 6.50m region is required to really challenge for medals in Heptathlon.
After every competition there is time to reflect and assess what happened. Last week Jessica performed at the European Cup Combined Events in Poland. We travelled out there and as a team won the women's competition.
The fact that this was a team competition means we assess Jessica's performance differently. The nature of the competition means you have to set up different due to the team element. However, we both learn't a lot, we learn't more about the individual events and what specifically she needs to work on. And I think we were both happy with the new personal best of 6399... though one more point would have been nice.
Only days to go now!
With only days to go before the start of the heptathlon at the world championships, Jessica is entering the final preperation stage.
This preperation includes the World Championships trials where she competed and won the 100m hurdles and high jump. Then it was off to the Celtic Cup three days later to compete in the 200m and long jump. Both were great preparation for Jessica as we nearer the big one this month.
At this stage all previous competitions and performances count for nothing and the spotlight of the media focuses more on Jessica than ever before.
Looking back, if someone had said to me, that Jessica would finish 6th in the European Indoor Championships for pentathlon, win the IAAF Grand Prix Meeting in Desenzano and the European Cup (leading the team to win Super League for the first time), equal a British Record in the High Jump; set a British Under 23 Heptathlon record (not once but 3 times). Set personal bests in every Heptathlon discipline, and end the season finishing 4th in the World Championships, I would have been crazy not to be happy with all that.
With additional performances of 12.97 secs in the hurdles to be only the 10th British Woman under 13 seconds, and a 200m time of 23.15 secs 23rd fastest by a Briton. I can't help feeling a little bit “crazy” as Jessica missed out on a medal with a poor shot performance and not hitting the board on the long jump. She knows that, and will work on it this winter as she prepares for the Olympics.
Setting a new winter training programme has its own challenges for both coach and athlete, the truth is “what got Jessica here won’t get her there”.
A different athlete has started winter training taking the first 4 weeks worth of steps to the Beijing Olympics. This time the athlete is full-time and for the first-time in her athletic career is unhindered by university or school study.
The luxury of being a “professional athlete” has brought about a training regime that sees Jessica training twice a day, completing a 30 hour weekly training schedule. However she still gets 1 day off a week.
It has been a very hectic and difficult few days since Gotzis having been planning and counting down the days to the Olympics it will now come to nought.
It is of course Jessica who has to come to terms with this reality but the relationship between coach and athlete is that of a partnership and although I don’t feel her physical pain the emotional pain and frustration is a shared one.
What positives can be drawn from all of this? Jessica posted 2 very good personal bests from the short season she had in her weakest events shot putt and Javelin. The most important improvement from a coach’s perspective is that Jessica now understands the movement patterns and concepts of how to throw much better than before. Without this it is very difficult to make changes and progress.