On what we could comfortably call one of the sunniest days of the year so far, newly qualified R.A.C.E. coaches Gordon Dick, Peter Barron and Edd Shackley met at the Scottish Cycling office to collect their certificates and discuss how the programme had been.
The Regional Academy of Cycling Education programme is a regionally based performance development programme, primarily aimed at Youth and Junior category riders. Led by volunteer coaches, it is delivered in each of the five Scottish Cycling regions with input, direction and support from the Scottish Cycling performance and development team staff.
Not only is it only a great opportunity for the young riders taking part and giving them the experience they need for racing, but it offers a chance for club coaches to improve and take their skills up a level.
So, first off, how did you get into coaching?
Peter: I was always into coaching through various other sports, skiing and swimming, from quite a young age. I was away in Sheffield doing my masters a couple of years ago and got into doing stuff with cycling, got in touch with Chris Bryant (Education and Training Officer for Scottish Cycling at the time) in 2012/13ish and said I wanted to get into coaching and just started from there. I got my level 2 and emailed out all the local clubs asking if they needed any volunteers.
Edd: I met Mark Young (who was a Regional Development Coach (Tayside and Fife) for Scottish Cycling at the time) and they were trying to set up a West of Scotland Regional School of Racing, he came round all the clubs and asked if anybody was interested in coaching. I was in the Ivy and had raced time trials, road and a bit of cyclo cross and mountain biking and it sounded like an opportunity to put something back. I went along and Scottish Cycling put me through my level 2 coaching award. I had never done any coaching before that and had never even thought about it. I got a lot of support from Scottish Cycling and have never looked back since!
Gordon: My story is not dissimilar, I have been cycling since I was twelve and have always been a member of the same club, and really for me the coaching was really just a way of furthering and bettering our club members and that is really what started me off with it – I rode grass track for 15/20 years all around Scotland and ageing started hitting me, it seemed like a good idea to put something back. I started coaching many years ago at club level and when the track opened here there was a good opportunity to start track coaching as well, with the background I had from grass track racing – seemed like a good way of passing on my skills and things I had learned over the years.
What was appealing about coaching?
Peter: My background was a cross country skier in elite performance and when I finished doing that, I just really enjoyed helping other people trying to reach their potential. I did pretty well and made it to the Olympic Games, World Championships and things, but thought let’s just see what more I can do and that is what drew me to coaching.
Do you think your background in racing or competing yourselves has helped with your coaching skills?
Gordon: I think it has, but it is all about getting along with people as well as the practical side of it. There are a lot of people out there who go into detailed training plans and know all about that – but it is the practical side of it that I can really bring to it and the bit I enjoy most.
Peter: I think at the very top level, if you have been there performing with the elite, regardless of the sport then you know the mindset of the athlete – there may be subtle differences in the culture of the sport but in general it is fairly similar across most sports.
Looking at the R.A.C.E. programme specifically, how have you found it?
Gordon: For me it has just opened so many doors and introduced me to so many other people, and for me I think I was quite isolated at the club level coaching and I have learned about the wealth and depth of talent which is actually out there. Learning about the programmes that Scottish Cycling, onto British Cycling, have that develop talent has been an absolute eye opener for me and I think for me to take people on and into these programmes – I now know where to go and the people to turn to and to look for if I need assistance and don’t know something. The skill level and the quality here has been amazing.
Edd: For me I have found it really useful, I have done a lot of coaching at youth level and RSR level but it was really good to see it at a level above and to go into areas that weren’t familiar with myself, you didn’t feel like you were the expert anymore so I think it was a great opportunity to learn loads and to get to support at the Revolution at track side was great – to listen to Mark speaking to the riders, they did this wrong or should have done that. My comfort level is definitely at club level so I was pushed out of that – it is really positive!
Peter: My background has already had me working with this age group for the past year – so really what I got out of it was the peer to peer learning. I have been working with Mark (Endurance Coach for Scottish Cycling) and asking him questions, but getting the opportunity to work with other coaches who are on the ground with these kids each week, and working on different skills – it has been great to learn from them and I have picked up a lot I didn’t know. Working at the Revolution racing was fantastic – working with coaches who see things that I don’t. We have been getting to work with a group of like-minded coaches; getting together and actually pushing each other and learning from each other’s knowledge.
So what are skills you guys have needed to become better coaches?
Gordon: I think as well as having a basic knowledge of the sport, which is a given, I think it is how you deliver certain things and how you listen, talk to people and understand. Not everybody is going to be a champion but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a person. I think appreciating everyone’s positives as opposed to anything else is one of the things that I have taken out of this really. There have been a lot of things I have done and said which makes me think I wish I hadn’t said that, you think it maybe wasn’t the most positive of things to say! The interpersonal skills are definitely important and needed.
Edd: It is important to be self-reflective and know that you still have areas that you can learn in and that is really important! As long as you have an open mind and want to learn things.
What do you do when you are not coaching?
Gordon: I am out racing and cycling when I am not coaching so still staying within the sport. Being a better coach has made me more aware in my own cycling – you know where you are lacking and you know where you can improve.
Edd: I still try and cycle but I struggle to find time to do coaching, working and looking after kids. I made time for coaching though because I find it very satisfying; knowing that what you have learned can then help the riders, especially doing the sessions with them with Scottish Cycling West. At the end of the block of sessions you can see a significant improvement and that is really good to see. The kids are happier!
What is your best moment in coaching, what has stood out?
Gordon: We had a young lad join the club less than a year ago – and just this week he was selected to ride at the Youth Tour of Scotland – that boy came into the club with virtually no cycling experience and we have been coaching him up here on the track and out on the road. When you see someone improve so much from nothing to competing at a quality youth event, it is a good thing to see!
Edd: The most satisfying thing for me is seeing kids who I have coached and been involved with since they were young and now to see them riding at Revolutions and they are just brilliant. You hope that some part of what you have done has had an input to that but it is just actually seeing g that, well you can’t see the ones at a young age who are going to go far, but seeing them succeed is just great! Does make me feel old…
Gordon: Proud, not old!
Peter: For me it was going to the British Junior champs last year, it was the first time I had been at championships as a coach, but going with riders I had worked with here. At the end of the two days before I left – we have 7 personal bests and a medal and it was just brilliant to see all the hard work pay off!