Neil Featherby: Why the best coaches get the best out of runners

Scenes from the Norfolk Sports Awards 2016 held at Open in Norwich - High Performance Coach of the Y

CoNAC coach Mike Utting. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Having spoken to two City of Norwich AC coaches this week, I was interested in their views of coaching right across the board, be it for the development of young athletes through to those at basic club level up to international standard. 

Granville Courtnell, who works alongside Peter Gore, has always done things with precision. He used to work for us at Sportlink years ago and has a huge background in event organisation, but more of this another week. 

When it comes to coaching, he really is keen to ensure that any young athlete who comes under his and Peter’s wings are guided very carefully and do not do too much too soon for the fear of overuse injuries and just as importantly, physical and mental burn out. 

“Every athlete is different,” he said. “It is so important for them to realise and focus on what they need to do individually as opposed to them worrying about what others might be doing.” 

Mike Utting, who is undoubtedly one of Norfolk’s most knowledgeable and leading coaches, also said: “It’s the three C’s which have seen me through 30 years of coaching. Communication, Commitment and Care. They need to know you care about them and not just as an athlete.” 

Since re-opening at Sportlink in April, we have seen more people than ever, particularly new runners who have done too much too soon and have ended up hurting themselves. 

“Do you think it is because I have the wrong shoes or they are past their sell by date?” we regularly hear and yes, of course, at times it may well be the case.  

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More often than not though it is because they have got ahead of themselves and then tried to keep the momentum going whilst still trying to run through niggles which can then lead to longer term injuries. 

Whilst there is so much advice out there these days my honest opinion is for anyone who is still relatively new to running and somewhat unsure where they can get the best advice and guidance for themselves or indeed one of their children, then they should look no further than their local athletics or running club. 

Needless to say, clubs/groups may not be for everyone, which I would then suggest a good qualified personal trainer who will also provide plenty of structured advice. 

It should also be remembered that if you are taken on, then it has to be a two-way commitment. Coaches really do give up so much of their own time for others, be it for just the planning of a weekly group session through to those who require long term support. 

In the words of the late, but most certainly great, coach Harry Wilson after being regularly approached by people asking him if he could spare a few moments to write out a training programme: “Some people think coaches can just write training schedules out in the same way that a doctor writes out a prescription for an ailing person. If only it was that easy!”

I was fortunate enough to meet some brilliant coaches during my competitive days hence why I still love chatting to the likes of Granville and Mike. They are of course just two of the many dedicated and highly committed coaches which we have within our clubs.