Any coach will tell you that problem solving is a key part of the job. Often, however, it is figuring out what the problem that needs solving is that is the real challenge.
Identifying the issue is half the battle and Rob Denmark believes that with the help of the Coaching Development Programme (CDP), he is now in a far better position to do just that.
Denmark is one of three coaches on the programme and is confident that the support provided will enable him to find the answers to the questions that another busy summer of athletics has thrown up.
It appears that the former 5000m Commonwealth champion is already well on the right track judging by the performances of his charge, Jessica Judd. The 19-year-old 800m runner has run under two minutes twice this season, setting a new personal best, and narrowly missed out on a Commonwealth Games medal as she finish fourth in Glasgow.
“It’s been good, obviously as we go into the summer what happens is that your efforts have to go onto the immediate events but the good thing is that it is throwing up more quandaries in my mind, more questions, more reasons why we are doing things,” Denmark said of the CDP.
“So now we really know what the focus is with regards to my development and how that will help Jess because this summer is the first one that I’ve been able to apply a summer training programme with the advantages of the Coaching Development Programme.”
The Games in Glasgow may have only just finished but there is no time for coach or athlete to rest up with Judd’s attention now moving to the European Championships in Zurich and little more than a week to prepare.
Such a quick turnaround creates a whole new set of problems for Denmark as he aims to ensure that Judd is back in peak condition and ready to make a bid to make a second major championship final in the space of three weeks.
“It’s really crucial to have an understanding of what the recovery will be based on the effort that Jess has put in,” he added. “There’s rounds, there’s training beforehand, there’s big training blocks previous to the competitions, fitting it in between other competitions.
“So it’s just making sure that the spacing and the actually weighting to the sessions ensure that we get her into peak performance at the right time. Before you were doing it based on – not guess work – but past experiences so it is nice to have a bit more science behind it.
“Once again going back to the beginning, understanding the system, what the system involves, recovery, the adaptation, the athlete’s experiences and then looking at how loading affects that athlete for any given duration and you begin to build up a profile of that athlete.”
Another thing that Denmark stressed the importance of was race tactics in an era when there is so much emphasis on times and pointed to double Olympic champion Mo Farah as the prime example of a ‘master tactician.’
“They’re absolutely everything because if you don’t get your race tactics right then you don’t win,” he said.
“Obviously you need to be in a position to run fast times to be the best you can be. But if you look at someone like Mo Farah, he’s a master tactician but he wouldn’t be top of the world rankings. I don’t think he’s ever been top of the world rankings but I think I’d rather be Mo Farah than one of the Ethiopians who can run 12:46.
“It’s craft, it’s tactics, it’s learning how to race to execute and be the best at one given point during the season, that’s why championships are ultimately the real measure. That’s what we are trying to attain with Jess and we’re beginning to get there.”