On the 16th and 17th of November 2019, the European Sprint and Long Jump symposium was arranged by the Swedish Track and Field federation in Karlstad. The symposium featured a lineup of speakers including:

Dan Pfaff:

Internationally experienced and recognized educator/coach with forty-five years of multifaceted and numerous olympic medallist across several event groups.

Goran Obradovic 

Goran is the president of the board of experts at Athletic Federation Of Serbia. Coach of multi medallist long jumper Ivana Spanovic

Håkan Andersson:

coaching for more than thirty years, has served as national team coach for the Swedish national team and personal coach to some of Sweden’s must successful sprint runners in the last three decades.

Yannick Tregaro:

Leader jumps coach in sweden with merits including Christian Olsson, Emma Green, Kajsa Bergkvist and Tobias Montler.

Anders Möller:

Performance director of jumps in Sweden.

Anders Borgström:

Leading javelin coach and biomechanics lecturer at Karlstad University. Official IAAF lecturer.

Michel Torneus:

Sweden’s best long jumper of all time. Multi medallist and swedish record holder.

The weekend was intensive, provided many networking possibilities with coaches from all over the globe and had many valuable take home messages.

The following reflections were 5 shareworthly key points from the symposium:

Programming must reflect the competition demands of the event.

All presenters had this strong message throughout their lectures.  As coaches we tend to become too general in our programming and planning and spend too much time working with tasks that are far removed from the demands of competition. 

It is important to note that while some general training is important, it does not build the specific capacities that reflect the competition demands of the event itself. We must  have trusted mentors in order to help us constantly review and audit our own methodologies and to help us grow our experience and knowledge around programming.

Rest to work is key for a healthy athlete.

“In 2018 Ivana had 147 days of rest, how many had your athletes?” – Goran Obradovic

It is important to have a growth mindset if we are going to help our athletes succeed. One of the greatest strengths a coach can have is the ability to improvise or change the plan. We must be adaptable and consider monitoring factors and KPIs in our training and adjust accordingly to assure that our athletes “batteries” have the chance to charge and regenerate. Interestingly athletes do not only have 1 battery, they have several and each element of  training impacts upon these systems. For example, Muscular battery, Central Nervous System battery and so on. 

It is common to measure how many days of training we have had, but just as important is how many days we have to regenerate and recover.

If you have done exactly what the plan says as a coach then you have not done it right!

Research and evidence are often classic “go-to’s” for coaches when selecting items for their training programs. “Research should influence your planning but not direct it” resonated Dan Pfaff. “Programming is merely an experiment or a hypothesis and requires measurement, it requires evaluation and it requires feedback and as coaches we must be able to trial our own ideas” Dan then went on to reiterate that of course there is a certain standard of foundation knowledge required before too much experimentation occurs especially a deep understanding of the human body and its physiological responses to training.

Monitoring protocols for athletes was also a strong theme. How do we measure their responses to training? What physical literacies do we require our athletes to possess before they progress? We must collect data over time, analyse and react to it, as opposed to monitoring it irregularly and reacting directly. 

Interestingly, a common thread from Yannick Tregaro, Goran Obradovic and Dan Pfaff was that they often are only in the weight room once per week with their squads. (please note that they did emphasise that it differs for all athletes, some even never trained in the weight room and some trained more often, but in the plans they showed that we non-specific to any athlete, weight training was only performed 1x per week. Strength competencies were gained elsewhere with items that were more relatable to competition demands)

Return to Play and Return to Performance are constantly overlooked.

If an athlete misses a period of training due to illness or injury they fear “missed work” or “having to start again” Coaches should  consider how to assist athletes return to play. How often do we hear a physio or therapist say, “you are fine to resume normal training and competition” ? But  how can they give that permission from the confines of a clinic without seeing or screening the athletes movement during task? Coaches gave examples of athletes passing fitness tests that in no way reflected the demands on their events, they could walk and jog pain free but could not complete a 60% acceleration without pain! The chance of reinjury therefore escalates and athletes are back in the confines of the clinic because they were never ready to perform the tasks demanded of their event.

Coaches must be the gatekeepers of information and ensure that they can screen movement in order to be satisfied that the athlete can execute appropriate movement patterns and training items before they return to full training and this requires knowledge, planning, time, improvisation and patience.

The day after weight room is always easy or rest.

Lifting or weight room sessions are incredibly demanding on an athlete’s physiology (remember the battery analogy) It, like all forms of training produce “poison” in the body. The weight room can be incredibly beneficial in regards to training progression but it must be strategically placed in the plan so it is not close to activities that are closely related to the competition demands. For example: A jumper should not have a jump session the day after a lifting session, just as similar as a sprinter should not do max or close to max sessions the day after a lifting session either. The risk to reward ratio is too great.

Allow the batteries to recharge before performing highly demanding tasks. Logistics or lack of time are not excusable. We must be flexible and smarter with our programming and if in doubt, do less.

The depth of knowledge and experience of the coaches and presenters in Karlstad was fantastic and It is incredibly difficult to reflect on all of the key points that were raised over the two intensive days. Finding commonalities between the coaches was fascinating, as were the  individual details that inspired and initiated the asking of bigger and better questions. A very enlightening weekend!