East Midlands Elite Squad Day

Two-time Olympian Nick McCormick and World Junior Amy Griffiths pose with some of the group

Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network collaborate with member club coaches to host the first in a series of workshops aimed at raising standards of the younger age groups as well as providing an opportunity for practical coach education.

Drilling in the sunshine

John Skevington coach and coordinator of the Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network teamed up with Rob Griffiths, lead coach at Network member club Saffron AC, to invite the best East Midlands under 13 and under 15 middle-distance runners (selected by strict time criteria at 800/1500) to experience a squad day where they could mix with their fellow “elite” from across the region.

The day opened with the distribution of the specially printed “East Midlands Elite” T-shirts which had been provided by the event sponsor New Balance and was followed with a track session where the 58 young athletes were split into ability groups. Then a timely talk by physiotherapist Brian borrows which was followed by a most interesting Q&A slot with two-time Olympian Nick McCormick and European and world junior athlete Amy Griffiths.

Strengthening those all-important feet and ankles

A brief talk by Penny Briscoe ,Team GB Chef de Mission for Paralympic sport, opened the post-lunch programme and the  afternoon session was kicked off with an insight into the importance of good biomechanics and core stability, from former international athlete Tim King, before moving on to a practical drills session which was led by coaches and club athletes with critique input from the observing coaches. The day was wrapped up with a really interesting talk by New Balance about their shoe range and was concluded with a “heads and tails” game where one very lucky young athlete won a pair of New Balance running shoes!

Nick McCormick gives an insight into the modern running shoe

Coach education – a key focus

An important part of the day was the coach education element and 12 coaches from across the region accepted the invitation to, not only observe the day’s proceedings, but also to take part and hone their coaching skills during the afternoon drill sessions. Feedback from everyone attending was that they found the day of great interest and felt they had been exposed to new ideas and initiatives which they would be incorporating into coaching regimes back at their clubs.

John Skevington commented “Rob and I had been discussing pulling an event such as this together for some time as the general feeling among coaches and athletes alike was that there would be a real benefit to everyone involved”. He went on to add “the feedback that we have had from the day was that the young athletes have gone away enthused and inspired, having been able to work with some of the Premier exponents of the sport, and were also thrilled to meet athletes who were able to give an insight into what it’s like to be a full-time athlete working at the highest level”

Young athletes learn about core strength

Suggesting that these days would become a regular part of the East Midlands programme of athlete and coach development, coach Rob Griffiths (also father of junior international Amy Griffiths) added “the day has been a real success and a special thanks must go to New Balance who have been such great support with the supply of T-shirts, goody bags and branding which all contributed to the professional atmosphere which we hoped to promote. The success of the day will inevitably be a springboard for at least a follow up session and we would love to be able to work with other partners to help progress the great start that we have made”

John Skevington concluded “we were both thrilled by the, generally, open attitude of clubs across the region who were happy to promote the day to their athletes and to send their coaches along as part of their education as well. The network is committed wholly to coach education but also firmly believe that to make coach education work properly, athletes need to be educated and enthused along the way so that we can reduce the dropout of our best young athletes”