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.
“If you want to take it seriously you will need to take your qualifications,” says Toni. “This is something you are best going onto the UK Athletics website for and looking at the courses they have on there.”
Many coaches dream of discovering someone with unbelievable natural talent; however, determination, passion and a high work rate are the key characteristics needed to become a successful athlete.
“To be honest I didn’t really see the extent of Jess’ talent at first,” admits Toni. “She was quicker than the rest of her peer group, so she had a level of ability, but it was all about training and moving on from there. She turned up regularly and worked hard which was the main thing.”
A coach has a huge amount of responsibility towards an athlete. It is no good just turning up every morning and running through the same old drills. For an athlete to raise their performance you have to keep up to date with the latest training techniques.
“You should be reading loads, going on courses and partaking in workshops,” says Toni. “I was very busy going on all sorts of courses which covered many different types of sports, not just athletics. I also sought out other coaches to get their advice. I always recommend two books to people; Periodization Theory and Methodology of Training by Tudor Bompa and Sports Training Principles by Dr Frank Dick. They cover all sports and are a great place to start.”
One of the hardest parts to coaching is instilling belief in an athlete, picking them up when they are down and keep them striving for more.
“So long as the training is progressive then an athlete will generally keep motivated because they are improving. You need to keep the training interesting and fresh. Psychologically speaking, I have been very fortunate to work closely with some great sports physiologists while taking part in the UK Sport Elite coaching programme.”
Toni’s top tip – Diet
To reach your targets as an athlete you need to be disciplined both on and off the track. This means sacrificing the junk food to stay ahead of the field.
“The most important thing is to have a varied and balanced diet,” explains Toni. “So we are talking about your five portions of fruit and veg a day and eating enough protein. You should also be drinking at least five glasses of water a day to keep hydrated.
“It’s important to have a plan for your pre and post-race meals. Ideally eat some carbohydrates three to four hours before a race. Then after the race protein is essential to aid in recovery. One thing I would suggest is eating two portions of red meat a week for iron. I see a lot of athletes who are slightly iron deficient because they don’t eat enough red meat and so they become tired and lethargic. If you are a vegetarian make sure you eat enough green leafy vegetables as they are high in iron.”
Follow Toni on twitter @Coach_Toni