PJ started as a sports journalist for the IAAF and began coaching in 2004 in the same year, coaching sprinters from Nigeria, Greece and France, Switzerland and Senegal. He has most recently been coaching in throwing at World championship and medal level since 2015 when he came back to France.
Where did that love of sports history come from?
”I like the search of origins. From a coaching perspective I had some ideas but I was not sure how to implement them, I was searching for what had been done before so not to replicate the mistakes and to go faster. I wanted to know how the technical and resistance training had evolved over the decades, including the rules and regulations.”
How did you first get into coaching?
”I was asked to help a young sprinter find a coach. I asked around and actually no one was willing to help him, so some people told me: ‘coach him, go ahead and start!
Working with a young Nigerian sprinter he had never had a coach, and I had never had an athlete, so it worked very well. He had no bad habits and we were discovering everything and eager to learn together. He was very motivated as every race he had was a way of living for him.
I was travelling with him and sleeping on the floor, but what I learned is that really you meet some athletes who have extra motivation and they are killers on the track and that’s the kind of people you are going to meet, and you have to prepare athletes for that!
Fortunately a huge part of sports history is the history of training methods so I kind of learned by accident the methodology of training so I integrated it. The most difficult thing was to gauge the volume of training and basically what I did was cut everything in half from what I was reading in the books. I kind of felt what he needed and the connection with the athlete. I needed to trust the athlete and observing him, listening to what he had to say because he had a lot of experience. Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.”
Do you think with your lack of experience you were more willing to listen to your athletes rather than thinking that you know best?
”Not really because we all start from scratch. The funny thing with my coaching debut was that I was still not fluent in English at all, so I had nothing much to say to them in English. I was just listening to them, and I think that was better because I think that as a young coach I thought I knew a lot. I think that if I had started with a French athlete I would have told them everything I knew, which I think is the wrong approach.
If I had something to say I was managing to tell them [in English] but the important thing I was saying was the only thing I was saying.
Because I was a young coach, others were not afraid to tell me their secrets. I remember going to every athlete/coach who made the final and asked, ‘are you doing weights, and if yes, what weights are you doing?’ I found that everyone who made the final were doing weights. I then went back to my athlete who was the first out of the semi-final: ‘look you are the only one who is not doing weights, and you are the only one who has not made the final, so maybe we need to do something different next year.”
If you look at the results you get from this [specific] approach, you improve very fast in what you are doing because you are mostly doing the same thing but you reach a plateau very soon and you get tired, and you don’t improve anymore and you may even regress.
What about the introduction/use of strength training- what impact has weight training had on the sport? And did it go too far and perhaps become too important and now it has regressed?
However what was interesting, and a point that was lost in this research over the years, was that yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.
Why has there been so much more focus on Maximum Power?
What do you think about some of Frans Bosch’s ideas?
Top 5 Take Away Points:
- Importance of variability- you can improve for longer without crushing your nervous system
- Listen to your athletes- Athletes use their body once or twice a day as their main work tool, so they know more more and as coaches we have to listen more to them.
- Earn the right! Many athletes are great compensators and have developed crazy skills that hide great weaknesses. And those are the weaknesses you need to address, and sometimes those fancy and complicated exercises are not pointing the finger at the weak part of the chain
- Importance of relaxation- yes you need to do weights but it should not be at the expense of amplitude and relaxation of movement.
- Paradox of intensity- alternate days of high intensity with low intensity.
Want more info on the stuff we have spoken about? Be sure to visit:
You may also like from PPP:
Episode 217, 51 Derek Evely
Episode 207, 3 Mike Young
Episode 192 Sprint Masterclass
Episode 87 Dan Pfaff
Episode 55 Jonas Dodoo
Episode 15 Carl Valle
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