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.
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.
On Tuesday 11 June, Jessica Ennis-Hill announced she was pulling out of the Oslo Diamond League meet through injury, further delaying her season debut. Her recurring Achilles problem also forced her to withdraw from the UK Women’s League match in Edinburgh earlier this year. So we thought we’d ask her coach Toni how she was getting on.
“Her injury is progressing well but like all these things it isn’t as fast as we would like because we’re inpatient people,” admits Toni. “But it’s improving day by day and she is hoping to return for the Combined Events Challenge in Tallinn, Estonia, on 29 and 30 June.”
Track and field covers a wide variety of events, from triple jump to shot-put, and each one demands a different set of physical and mental attributes from an athlete. The 100m relies on speed and stamina, hurdles require agility and javelin combines strength with balance and technique.
This diversity means there is an event to suit almost everyone, but how can you find the right one for you?
It might be the winner who takes all the applause once they cross the finish line, but behind every successful athlete there is a top class coach offering support, inspiration and guidance. It is their job to motivate an athlete and keep them striving for excellence.
But what does the role of a coach actually entail and how do they help athletes compete at the highest level?