Justin Knox is one of two recruits on to British Cycling's annual Coach Scholarship programme, which provides a wide variety of coach development opportunities across all of cycling's key disciplines.
Here, the keen Mountain Bike rider explains how the past month has provided some answers to the difficult questions of coaching through his time spent on the L3 Coaching Course and with Great Britain's BMX and Mountain Bike Talent Team squads.
A lot has been happening again this month with the scholarship, starting with the last two days of my Level 3 core, which was something that I started last month.
I have found the Level 3 course very informative and it covers all the underpinning principles needed for one-to-one coaching. Apart from what you learn from the course – which covers subjects such as observation and analysis, nutrition, biomechanics, training theory and prescribing training – there is also a lot to learn from the other coaches attending.
The course has raised many questions for me but with plenty of opportunities to discuss views and opinions and new ideas, the last two months has really helped me to cement my opinions and answered many questions on how to carry out one-to-one coaching, especially in relation to young riders.
I have also had the opportunity to attend a Talent Team mountain bike camp this month, as all the riders were invited down to Thornbridge in Derbyshire.
The first day was spent at Wharncliffe woods just outside Sheffield, which is a favourite haunt of Steve Peat, and consisted of a leisurely ride with a few race pace efforts. Wharncliffe was super slippery and was a challenge to ride as my front and back end were sliding all over the place and so was everybody else’s. However, I was impressed with the standard of riding and technical skill amongst the riders; not only were they physically fit, but they also had the skills to match.
After lunch we went back around the XC course again and challenged the riders to complete certain sections and looked at different lines. Some of the riders made it look so easy, although ‘mechanicals’ was the word of the day with several bikes and shoes going down. Luckily, though, we managed to address most of the issues due to my bag of bits and bolts (something I carry when I’m guiding).
The next day was spent with Great Britain's BMX Coach Jeremy Hayes, who came down to do a flat pedal session with all the riders, which is something that I insist on when I teach techniques to MTB riders as you learn much better technique when using flat pedals. The riders were then asked to come up with a technique they could practice in a certain area, this was done to demonstrate that you can work on MTB skills almost anywhere and that playing on your bike is just as important as club runs. For the rest of the day we worked on pumping, drop offs, and gap jumps, before finishing off with a few race pace efforts around the course.
More recently I attended a Track and BMX camp in Manchester. Track is probably the discipline I know least about, but slowly and surely I am picking it up. I have been watching very carefully to pick up what’s good technique and what’s not and to see the outcome of the tactics used by some of the riders. I really enjoyed the Keirin racing, although I think my favourite has to be devil.
I spent the next day with the BMX talent team. I went mountain biking with them last month and was very impressed considering it was the first time for most of them, but this time we were firmly on their territory at the BMX track in Blackpool. Apart from it being very cold it was a great day, I learned a lot about the technique involved in getting a good gate. We watched the riders go through the gate several times while taking video footage, the rest of the day was spent challenging them to tackle the straights in different ways.
Over the last two months I have learned a lot, and am really keen to have more insight to other disciplines. The opportunities I have been getting through the scholarship have been fantastic and I can’t wait until next month’s talent team camps.
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