Building the foundations

By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter

Last Updated: 23/01/2014, 08:44 GMT

Tony Lester: head of Sky Sports Scholarships
Tony Lester: Head of Sky Academy Sports Scholarships
Running, athletics at the weekend was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it and I could have been a lot better but unfortunately the opportunities weren't there for me to be better because I had to balance that with a very promising army career. I was a very young sergeant and was going to become a sergeant-major so ultimately I had to make very quick decisions of, 'Do I want to chase a sporting dream, one that I already know the outcome is probably going to be disappointment, or pursue a military dream where I know I can go all the way?' So halfway through my army career I realised I enjoy athletics, I always love it as a kid so why not do something where I can add value and do a bit of coaching. I started coaching while I was in the army and towards the end of my army career I coached some more and I had some success. So once you'd left the army whereabouts were you coaching? And at what sort of level? When I left the army I just started coaching a few local athletes at my local track in Aldershot. Some of the athletes there were OK, they weren't anything special but it helped me to form an idea of where I could take the coaching. I was still running myself so I coached and I ran so I became almost self-coached. I mean along the way I had two very good coaches. When I was in the army in Germany my German coach was a brilliant coach, and he also coached Kriss Akabusi, so we had the same coach in Gutersloh. Then when I came back to the UK I had another good coach called Mike Smith who coached Roger Black, Todd Bennett, Akabusi, so I learned a lot from those two guys. Then based on that I realised that as a coach, I could do what they do and that some of the mistakes I made, people I coached wouldn't make the same mistakes. From there you've gone on to coach some huge names in British athletics - the likes of Roger Black, Mark Richardson, Marlon Devonish and Nicola Sanders. What sets them apart from the athletes the level below? Mind-set, it's as simple as that. These guys really do believe that they are that good. So they have complete self-belief, they apply themselves and they are fearless athletes. They're not afraid to go to that dark place where it's going to hurt. The training is the hardest part of this event, the racing is the easy bit. Racing is all mental, the preparation that goes into being an Olympic finalist or a world finalist - if you've not got the heart or the stomach for it then you're not going to make it. Some of my athletes who were the tier below, they loved the idea of being iconic athletes but they didn't have the stomach for the hard work. It is a job and the top guys treat it as such. It's not a vocation, it's not a hobby. You can't be in a better place than going to work and loving what you do, if you love training and racing and being out in the fresh air, travelling - it's a great job to have. Why do you think David Beckham was still playing football up until he was nearly 40? If you love what you do, you carry on doing it until your legs give out. Look out for the second part of the interview later in the week on the Sports Scholarships site.