National BMX Coach Workshop

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail inviting me to the National BMX Coaches Workshop in Manchester. It looked like a really good couple of days but it was in the middle of a really busy period of travelling for work (Something like 9 countries in 3 weeks) so I was mulling it over when I was asked by British Cycling Coaching and Education to put together and deliver a presentation for the same workshop-funny how things work out sometimes eh! I said yes and set about preparing the presentation on Effective Coaching………..I had 1 hour to present……….I could spend a week talking about effective coaching and still not cover everything………I was going to have to be selective!

Some words associated with effective coaching. There are hundreds more that could be included......

Some words associated with effective coaching. There are hundreds more that could be included……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to focus on 3 key steps that I think make the difference between Coaching and facilitating a session. They are: Observation. Analysis. Feedback.

One of the things that I like to tell coaches is that riders will get better by just riding their bikes but our job as coaches is to increase the rate at which they get better! The only way that we can do that is by effectively observing what the rider is doing, analysing it against the “ideal model” and then giving appropriate feedback that the rider can use to make their performance better. Importantly, the three steps have to happen in that order otherwise the process can’t be effective or you are wasting your time (or possibly both).

I was expecting a group of around 8 coaches to present to and to be presenting in the middle of the programme but ended up looking out at 24 of the best BMX coaches in the country as the first presentation of the day! However, within a few minutes of starting it was obvious that they had all come with open minds, ready to learn and as a result they all engaged in the activities really enthusiastically-I’m pretty sure that this is one of the reasons that they are some of the best coaches in the country!

Onto the BMX content:

After my presentation, we were taken straight out to the track where we were privileged to be able to watch as 2 Olympic athletes (2013 World Champion Liam Phillips and Kyle Evans) demonstrated a variety of techniques for us as Grant White talked through what they were aiming for and why they were aiming for it. He also answered the groups questions at each stage of the session.

After a series of "Dead-man's Starts" the pair moved onto a "flat gate. Step by step progression, getting the technique right at each stage.

After a series of “Dead-man’s Starts” the pair moved onto a “flat gate. Step by step progression, getting the technique right at each stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were some very clear messages from Grant throughout the weekend that he clearly strongly believes in:

1. Basics. Everybody needs to work on the basics all the time. As an example the start of every session the Podium athletes (the very best in the UK) do a warm up including rolling flat starts then “dead-man’s starts” then on the “flat” gate before they get near the track. Importantly the technique has to be right at every stage of the process before they are ready to move on-this is seriously focussed practice at each stage.

2.  Ride the track. The fitness that the riders need to get through a competition with various Motos and final stages nearly all comes from riding the track. One of the coaches asked about road rides and the answer was very clearly “No, we work hard on the track!”

3. Look for drive from the track. There is a difference (and we were very clearly shown the difference) between manualling or jumping between point A and B and doing it in a way that creates speed! This was a great message for me, not only for BMX coaches but for riders and coaches in any discipline. How often do you hear “But I can do that already” ? My reply is always “But can you do it better?” and it was good to hear that echoed by Grant.

For the rest of the weekend, we were treated to insights from Grant as to how he works with the riders in the Podium programme, demonstrations of flat skills and pump track practices from some of the Olympic Development Athletes (all overseen by Olympic Pathway Coach Mark Seaman) and a Question and Answer session with Kyle Evans.

Flat skills practice. Cornering, manuals, powered wheelies and bunny hops can all be (and were) practised away from the track.

Flat skills practice. Cornering, manuals, powered wheelies and bunny hops can all be (and were) practised away from the track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it wasn’t overtly described, it was clear from listening to Grant and the athletes that Grant understands them and uses that understanding to work with them in the best possible way for each individual-there is no generic programme here!

As for the skills, the importance of them was very clearly stated by Mark (and backed up by Grant) and demonstrated by the very skilful riders demonstrating them who are also some of the best racers in the country.

Mark Seaman Coaching 2 of the Olympic Development Athletes on the start gate. Coaches on the Workshop watching intently.

Mark Seaman Coaching 2 of the Olympic Development Athletes on the start gate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks:

It was great to be involved with the first workshop of this kind so thanks to everyone involved in organising it for inviting me along. More importantly, thanks to Grant White and Mark Seaman who really drove the project forward and gave up a valuable weekend to help the club coaches from around the country become better and develop better racers. It was a fantastic opportunity and a great learning experience for everyone involved and it was great to see the genuine passion that Grant has for developing other coaches. I have no doubt that this initiative will drive the standard of UK BMX upwards over the next few years and hopefully we will see more and more British riders contending for World Titles in the future.

Habit not act

This is one of the posters hanging in the Gym under the velodrome. A good habit to have and one that seems to be catching in the Great Britain cycling team!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also hanging on the wall in the Gym. Perfect preparation prevents poor performance.

Also hanging on the wall in the Gym. Perfect preparation prevents poor performance.