Simon Duberley is a Level 1 Sprints coach selected for the National Development Programme for Coaching Excellence who has worked with the likes of former Commonwealth Youth Games finalist Deji Tobais (100m, 200m) and British Olympian Nigel Levine (400m). Simon‘s attention to the biomechanics of sprinting comes through at the forefront of his coaching, and he, along with Deji, gave a talk as part of Cambridge University Athletics Club‘s new lecture series and agreed to answer some of the Blue Bird’s burning questions.
Could you talk us through how you came to coaching? How were you involved in Athletics (or other sport) beforehand?
I first thought of coaching whilst I was still a competing athlete. I was not as talented as others were, but I had a thirst for the knowledge of how I could become quicker. Once I realised that a systematic approach could be applied to the mechanics of movement and the exploitation of the correct energy systems could see real results, it was only a matter of time before I wanted to apply it to others.
What do you consider your greatest achievement as a coach?
Coaches always think of their highest profile achievements when answering this question and it is tempting to say the European U23 gold medal that Nigel Levine secured in 2011 is my biggest achievement. However, there has been quite a number of my lower ranked athletes that have seen huge improvements during my 20 years of coaching and their performances on many occasions give me a bigger sense of achievement.
Could you give us a flavour of other results you have had from your athletes?
Andrew Mathews AAA U20 60M Gold 2002
Rion Pierre AAA U20 200M Gold 2006
Nick Leavey Commonwealth games 400M relay Bronze 2010
England senior championships 400M Gold
What are your athletes targeting for the coming years and seasons?
My targets for the coming years/seasons as they have always been, are to help athletes regardless of their abilities, see real change in the way they run leading on to significant performance improvements
Do you have any medium or long-term coaching goals?
I have no long-term coaching goals as such. However, I do set goals 1 year ahead. I believe in setting realistic and attainable change in anything I do, be it at work or within my role as a coach.
What marks your coaching style apart from the other coaches out there?
I feel I use a unique strength and conditioning program that integrates with my drill system to help athletes improve their running form. I also train athletes much closer to their race pace throughout the winter and database all of their run times so that I can keep track of progression in a more systematic fashion than common coaching philosophy.
Could you talk us through a usual week’s training for Deji?
Deji’s typical training week is as follows:
Monday – Low volume of just two types of Olympic lift movements
Tuesday – Lactate threshold track session
Wednesday – Upper body and core S&C
Thursday – Speed endurance track session
Friday – Complete rest
Saturday – Agility, Plyo and hip/core strength improvement
Sunday – Hill session working the attributes of acceleration mechanics
What do you think is the most important part of the coach-athlete relationship?
Trust and Integrity. I have in the past, coached athletes without these attributes and suffered because of it.
What do you look for in athletes when assessing their potential?
If it’s potential to run world-class times in the future it would have to be the times the athlete currently runs and whether the scope for improvement is there because their current training regime contains flaws that can be eradicated. If an athlete is running good times and is a mechanical mess this can also be an area where great improvements can be made but above all the athlete must have a will to learn and persevere until all the above is realised.
How has your view on coaching changed since you began?
From a technical viewpoint, my background is from Olympic lifts and my early years as a coach reflected this. My current philosophy is a more functional strength based view now. I have also through the years formed a much better understanding of how to improve an athletes energy system profile through delivering structured track sessions that directly affect the correct energy systems.
As technical as I may sound, having a good-natured environment where enjoyment of training as well as a good scientific understanding of athlete needs is something that I have also been better at cultivating in recent years.
Deji successfully transitioned from a talented junior to a successful senior athlete – what do you think is behind this, when so many others drop out of the sport?
There are many reasons that this could happen but it is my view that in many cases the coach could feel that they are doing well when the athlete is growing and year to year systematic improvement is all too easy. During this stage, it is easy for the coach to become complacent that their coaching methods are up to speed. Unfortunately, if they do not develop their trade in this period, only disappointment will pursue once that athlete matures and progression ceases. This could be a major cause for the dropout of talent in our sport during a critical transition for many of our developing athletes.
Is there a specific book, movie, person, or coaching idea that you’d say has had a big impact on your coaching philosophy? What was it, and why did it have such an impact? What was the impact?
I would say that the biggest influence on my coaching is the company that I work for. Working within the research and development departments for a world leader in a highly engineered aerospace product that is a result of exhaustive and ongoing testing has been a massive influence in how I train my athletes. Systematic evaluation of training and competitive performance against a well-researched technical model bears a lot of influence from my day job.
The benefit to CUAC athletes from Duberley’s insight into the development of athletes and what it takes to achieve the marginal gains required for success is undoubtable. Watch this space for more CUAC lecture series talks over the coming year.