Today is a snow day here in Ottawa. Snow day’s here in Ottawa means that the school buses do not run, but the staff are still required to go into work. Schools are always open. For most secondary schools, most of the students still arrive at school because they either drive, walk or take public transit. Because I teach a specialized program, my students take the school bus or van to school and therefore are at home today. So, I have the whole day to catch up on some work that I really need to get done.
This weekend I took a coaching course with the club that I currently coach with. They offer the course 2x a year and this was the first time I was able to take it. I was also kind of told that I needed to take it too ;-). Anyways, the Athletics Canada National Coaching Certification Program has different levels of certification available to new and experienced coaches. It used to be labelled as Level 1,2,3, etc. but has changed to sport coach, club coach and then competition development (old levels 1,2 and 3). There are also two phases: trained and certified. Trained means you have taken the course while certified means you have taken the course, but also have been evaluated by an evaluator (showing your seasonal plans and being evaluated at a practice). The course I took was club coach for sprints/hurdles. So now I am a ‘trained’ coach in sprints/hurdles. I will probably do my evaluation in the spring/summer – we were told there was no big rush. I think I still need some more experience before taking the next step. I also would like to take the same course, but to be trained in endurance/middle distance running as well.
The course ran from Friday evening straight to Sunday afternoon. There were 28 people registered, with one coming from as far away as New Brunswick! There were several people that I knew there, including a number of coaches from the club. The instructor was the assistant director of the club, who is also the coach I’ve been working with since September. On Friday we talked and discussed, and also had a guest presentation from Peter Erikkson, who is the head coach of Athletics Canada. He gave a great talk – and is a really funny guy!
Then we had Saturday. The focus of the program is hands-on. Rather than just reading about different drills and workouts, we were expected to participate fully in a (kind of modified) practice. So bright and early Saturday morning I ran two laps with a lap of 50/50 (accels and then a light jog), followed by arm, leg and dynamic drills – exactly the same 30 minute warm-up I give my track kiddies at practice. Let’s just say it is really hard to correct yourself when you cannot see what you are doing – it definitely puts things to perspective on the way you should be attempting to correct positioning/foot placement with the athletes. We then went through a few sprint drills – including relay hand-offs and starts. So – apparently I need some work with my relay handoffs. My hand was just not getting the right positioning. Total fail!
After lunch it was all about the hurdles. Our hurdles instructor was from Pickering and was the high school coach for Canadian hurdlers Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. The next 2.5 hrs was probably the most fun, yet painful time I had in a workout in a very long time. I have barely gone near the hurdles in 11 years – except to demonstrate a couple of drills a handful of times. But on Saturday I went over and under(!!) the hurdles many, many times. We did several drills to start – basically working on going over and under the hurdles, and over the side. To make us more aware of our footing, we were not allowed to use our hands, they had to be on the back of our waists for every drill OR we had to carry a 5lb med-ball over our heads.
Once the basic drills were complete, we took out the baby hurdles and just practiced the ‘A March’ over the hurdles, going over the sides on both legs. This we did over and over again. We got better and better at it each time, especially our non-dominant legs. Then we moved to going down the middle of the hurdles. We still were not allowed to use our arms!
Then came the fun part. Coach spread out the baby hurdles and then told us it was time to run over the hurdles. I *may* have said a few f-bombs at this point. He wanted us to only take 3 steps in between the hurdles (this is standard for the hurdles – but sometimes we practice 5 and 4 steps first) and to go as fast as we could. We started with 4 hurdles spread out about 25m or so down the track. He also made us think about our very first step and to make sure it was far enough from our starting point. The first time I ran, it was very weird. I had run many 100m and 400m hurdle races in my time, but as I mentioned, it has been 11 years. I did not fall – but I felt very uneasy in the legs at several points. After a couple of run throughs, he added more hurdles. Because of my lack of sprints training, I struggled once we were doing about 40-50m of running. I felt my legs turn into lead and struggled with the 3 steps – I seemed to always hit the 6 hurdle with 4 steps and going over with my other leg. I’ve always been able to switch lead legs (you really need to for the 400m hurdles because of fatigue screwing up your steps) – but it definitely makes you go over in a funny way. Eventually we had to stop and join the other groups. I had a blast though and it was the fastest 2.5 hrs ever!
Because I love to share – here is a video of me going over the hurdles. Remember – it has been awhile! At the last couple of hurdles, you can see me get a bit tired, and do the switching lead legs thing. But – I was surprised it wasn’t too terrible! I think I will “stay retired” though, and stick to 5K’s 🙂
On Sunday we had some more talking and a weight room demo. The time definitely flew by! I had lunch with a bunch of the other coaches which was nice! Although I already knew a bunch of people, it was nice to meet some new coaching friends, especially ones from out of town! It will be nice to see them at next year’s track competitions!
I learned a great deal over the weekend – but I still have so much to learn. We were given two manuals to read and I’ve barely cracked into them. Over the next couple of months, it is time to get more comfortable with coaching competitive track and by the spring be ready to create a killer high school season plan!
The cost of the course was just over $200 – but I was given a grant from the province, so my cost is only the cost of the materials (about $60). Even if I did not receive a grant, it would have been well worth the money. The track club provides training for Sport Coach, Club Coach and Run/Jump/Throw instructors several times a year. If interested in taking a course – please visit their website.
Have you ever taken a coaching course before?
Do you have any certifications of any kind?