Friday, 13 July 2018

DAYTIME SESSIONS EXCITE, BUT POWELL SPEAKS OUT

Trackspeed1-UK Head Coach John Powell has announced significant but exciting changes to the squad for when training begins for the 2018-19 winter period, but has also spoken out on how he almost put away his stop watches this summer.  The 2018-19 set-up for Trackspeed1-UK includes:
  • Daytime sessions based on morning 10am starts;
  • Trackside therapy;
  • Heavily discounted track access;
  • Consultant advice on nutrition, strength & conditioning based both in the USA and at home;
  • Top level physiotherapy at 50% if/when needed;
  • Full written training plans;
  • Free access to all track equipment;
  • 6 weeks' pre-season training in Florida.
John writes...

It was an amazing period - from when I divorced myself from youth team management in 1993, right up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.  I travelled the world following my athletes - European or World Junior Championships almost every year, and eventually some European and World senior Championships.  And of course the Olympic Games in Athens and London.  It was my life, it was so addictive.  Watching my athletes progress and succeed was a buzz beyond all other.  I used every day of my work annual leave allocation (and some!), remortgaged my house and took out loans to finance my travels, and supported my athletes in every way I knew of on and off the track. 
John Powell has reshaped his coaching routine heading into 2019
Even the frustrations of building an athlete from grass roots up to international calibre, only to watch them move away (and in most cases fail to improve), didn't really deter me.  I did have a blip in 2005, but then in came a great new bunch of sprinters and the love was reborn.  Travels took me to and from the States, to South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Italy, Lithuania, and heaven knows how many other obscure corners of the world.  I met some amazing people, some of whom I'm still in touch with.  My athletes won European Championship gold medals, a World Students gold, three medals in one European Junior Championships, European Youth Olympics titles, you name it.

Then came the exodus.

Athletes were either poached or left the group having been persuaded the grass was greener somewhere else.  Others left as a result seeing the fall in standards as their cue to look elsewhere. Whilst a couple of talents remained - for a while - the glory days had faded, and any interest from the powers that be in the sport instantly evaporated.

The years following 2012 were difficult, although we did produce some talents, but again they were ultimately attracted elsewhere.  The level of performance in the squad plummeted - and so did the coach's motivation!  So many senior names had been knocking at the door in 2012 such was the squad's success level.  I was even interviewed for Charles Van Commenee's post.  Now all this was but a distant memory.  Even The Queen didn't have any influence when we met in 2013!  

The point is, I've always been an ambitious, and this coaching gig was going really well in the noughties (2000 on...) with involvement in national teams boosting the CV despite still holding a full time job off track.  (I'm one of those strange people who still thinks to have anything to do with representing your country is a huge honour!)   But as the athletes migrated, so did the apparent interest from those on high.  We had produced some serious talent over the years, but that didn't seem to count any more.  Constant reassurance that there remained respect for our set-up was constantly ignored when it came to selection of coaches for national teams.  It had to be full time staff, one was told.  Strange that so many appointments have been made in recent years with no apparent advertising (assuming they really are UKA staff!)   The teeth kicking continued too with the offer of fast track coach qualifications for international athletes.  Support / reward for existing coaches?  Don't be silly.

The 2017/18 winter was my toughest, and for a long time I was praying for July when I would finally retire from the sport that has been my life for 45 years - 42 as a coach.  That has changed with a few close friends counselling the idea of daytime coaching and a radical reshape of the group. I'm already excited about the coming new training year.  We may not have any superstars in the group (yet?!), but we certainly have some potential, so we'll see how we go into 2019.  If  it is to be my final 12 months with clip board and stop watch, then so be it - at least I gave it one last real try! 

It's especially frustrating though - at one point I honestly thought I had created something pretty special, but it seems that athletes - and some coaches - are extremely selfish people.  I have told my athletes many times that so many years of holding a stop watch does not make one a good coach, and you should only ever be judged on results.  The squad continue to PB in most cases, so I guess I'm getting something right, but maybe operating at the level I aspired to for so long simply wasn't meant to be.  Sometimes life sucks!

John Powell MBE is a level 4 coach in speed and level 3 in jumps and hurdles, and he has worked with coaches or created links with coaching staff all over the world including Harvard University, University of Virginia, and the Institute of Sport for New South Wales, Australia.  His CV is attached on the Trackspeed1-UK website.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

REON LEAPS INTO TOP UK LISTS

It's a few years since Trackspeed1-UK produced top level horizontal jumper, but they have certainly unearthed one in 22-year-old Reon Gowan-Wade.

A year of niggles meant his coach kept him away from the rigours of the long jump runaway, but last night (June 11th) he made his comeback at last and jumped straight into the UK top 30!
Reon in Long Jump action at Norman Park
Competing at his club's home open meeting at Norman Park, Bromley, Reon leapt 7.20 metres to rank 27th in the UK, and immediately put himself forward as a leading exponent of the event in the next 12 months.

"It's been frustrating not being able to get back on the runway and see what I can do," he said after the event, "but it would have been foolish to risk an annoying niggle in my hip with such an explosive event.  I could manage with simple running, but it has been a very stop-start winter, so I need another year to get back in event-specific shape."

Reon has been around since he was 13, but not really broken through in the sport but now, with plans for a full winter programme ahead of him, both he and coach John Powell are convinced he can convert at last to a real threat nationally.

"Reon lacks strength and is not particularly fit compared with where he should be," said John.  "He worked hard in our pre-season US training camp, but he needs to start from scratch, get fit and strong, avoid further injury, and we could have a bit of a star our hands next year."

As for the rest of this season, Reon intends to keep it reasonably low key with open meetings and more training just to see what he can achieve before the summer break.  He'll get back into preparatory training for winter in September.

Reon follows in the footsteps of several top horizontal jumpers produced in the past through Trackspeed-UK.  They include internationals Phillips Idowu, Darren Thompson and Onen Eyong.

Chaka Maillet (far left) and Daryl Thomas (right) were other
trackspeed1-UK athletes in action at Norman Park
- here setting off over 200 metres

Thursday, 24 May 2018

SPRINTERS ON FIRE!

To say it has been a positive start to the 2018 summer season appears to be something of an understatement, after lifetime bests were shattered at Lee Valley last might (May 23rd)!

They may have had positive wind readings on their tail, but with major championships still a few weeks away, Trackspeed1-UK athletes competing in a Lee Valley Athletics Centre Open meet underlined just the sort of 'on fire' form they are in right now.
Brandon Murray - in form of his life at Lee Valley
Brandon Murray, who was forced to pull out of the Loughborough International on Sunday (May 20th) at the last minute due to work commitments, made amends by clocking his fastest 100 metres of his life by far of 10.62 seconds.

That was in race 3 while, in race 2, Dean Hylton clocked a windy 10.54 seconds, most notable as he out-dipped England and Senegal international Josh Swaray, who has times below 10.3 to his name, and was also ahead of former inter-counties champion Jonathan Browne.

Rhys Francis, Daryl Thomas and Chaka Maillet were also circling their best ever 100m sprint times, but will have to wit until another day to record a wind-legal time but, as their coach, John Powell, commented, all the indications are that they are all ready to improve significantly this season.

"These were really good performances at a time in the season where confidence is all important," he said.  "We have a while yet before the big meets, but to get a couple of really good performances under your belt at this stage is always a very good springboard."

This weekend shows no competition for the squad, and so they will be looking to further improve their potential with some training sessions at their training base at Crystal Palace.

That said, Welsh international Cameron Starr opens his account over 200 metres tonight (May 24th) at Portsmouth, where he will be looking to emulate his training group's successes 24 hours earlier.
Welsh international Cameron Starr opens his 2018
account over 200m in Portsmouth tonight (May 24th)

Monday, 14 May 2018

COUNTY DOUBLE FIRES UP SPRINT DUO

Trackspeed1-UK sprinters opened their championship campaign for 2018 with a sensational one-two in the Surrey County 100m final, securing both Gold and Silver in a hotly contested event at Kings Meadow, Kingston on Sunday (13th May).

Dean Hylton (6) and Cameron Starr (13) on their way to an
impressive County one-two at the Surrey Championships.
Dean Hylton was no stranger to the county rostrum, having won bronze, three silvers and now two golds over recent years, but he had to fight to retain his title from last year with training partner Cameron Starr hot on his heels.

In the heats both athletes cruised through to qualify, winning heats in each case comfortable ahead of all the opposition.

In the final, Starr was the sharper out of the blocks, and was leading after 60 metres, but Hylton switched on the after-burners to overtake and win the title by just under a tenth of a second.

Dean and Cameron receive their medals alongside
third-placed Tremayne Gilling
It marked a perfect opener for two of Trackspeed1-UK's most talented athletes and, although times were not the fastest they have ever posted, it lined them up nicely for their next outing at the annual Loughborough International next Sunday (20th May).

Trackspeed1-UK Head Coach, John Powell, was pleased with the outcome with both athletes recording times far faster than their opening campaign 12 months earlier.  Hylton clocked 10.72s, while Starr recorded 10.80, both faced with a slight headwind.

"It's always nice to kick things off in the summer with winning performances," said John, "and a County one-two, especially in Surrey, is no mean achievement.  I would fully expect both Dean and Cameron to improve now as the season progresses, and I'm really looking forward to seeing quite a few of the group in action now.

"As always, we've had a challenging winter at times with the weather curtailing some sessions, but we still have athletes in pretty good shape, and they are ready to roll over the next couple of weeks."

The squad have athletes in action at the open meeting at Lee Valley this Wednesday (May 16th), and Brandon Murray joins Hylton and Starr at the Loughborough international event on Sunday.

It's all smiles as Head Coach John Powell congratulates his two medalists 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

JEROME TRIUMPHS IN ONE-LAP DEBUT

Trackspeed1-UK sprinter Jerome Lule emerged triumphant after his first ever competitive 400 metres in Clermont, Florida, today with a time that was surely a statement of intent for the future!

The 21-year-old Shaftesbury Harrier clocked 50.56 seconds to win his round of the event Stateside, confirming what his coach had been saying the whole trip  that this was to ultimately be his main event!

Cross-winds made the going far from easy, but despite his vast lack of experience over the longer sprint, Lule judged the pace well, and finished strongly to hold off the opposition.
Trackspeed1-UK's Jerome Lule (centre) wins his first ever
400m race in Clermont, clocking 50.56s.
"I was pleased with the way it went," said the athlete after the event, " but  know now I can go well inside 50 seconds.  John told me I ran wide in my lane on the first bend, and it was really hard work with the wind blowing you all over the place."

It was the season's opener for the squad after they pulled out of the earlier meeting at Gainesville.  Sprint times were down, illustrated by the fact that one of the world's fastest men, Tyson Gay, ran only 10.28s, and the visiting German National team couldn't produce anything faster than 10.48.

"The wind was across and hence the readings, plus or minus, couldn't be totally reliable," said John.  I was expecting faster of our guys - my timing isn't that far out, and marks were way faster in our time trials two weeks ago.

"This was only the first meet of the year though, and from that you simply need to learn from your performance what you can, then put it away and move on.  There is zero doubt that there is way more to come from these lads, and they will need to be patient until the season is properly under way."

Reon Gowan-Wade ran his first competitive 200 metres since a young teen, clocking a creditable 22.42 seconds, while James Kasiriye-Sebalu was just outside his best with 22.67s.
Reon Gowan-Wade (2nd from right) on way to a lifetime best 200 metres

In the 100m Brandon Murray was the unluckiest of the bunch with a recorded -2.2m/s headwind, yet he still posted 10.89s.
Brandon Murray (142) clocked 10.89 in the 100m
"Lots to be encouraged by, and some aspects to learn from," concluded John, "which isn't a bad place to be at this stage of the year."

Trackspeed1-UK's pre-season Stateside camp draws to  its conclusion at the end of this next week when all return to the UK to engage with the outdoor season proper.

Friday, 13 April 2018

LIFETIME BESTS SHATTERED IN EARLY TRIALS

Trackspeed1-UK held their own early season time trials today in the Florida sunshine of their pre-season training camp in Clermont -  and every athlete promptly shattered previous best ever marks over 60m, 100m, 200m or 400m  sprints.

It was an impressive day's work which succeeded in kicking well into touch most of head coach John Powell's predictions as previous best recorded marks were rubbished by every member of the squad.

It is true that times were wind assisted, and it is true that all times were unofficial, but even allowing for these variables, performances featured some really good top end sprinting.

Possibly the most impressive was 20-year-old Croydon man, Brandon Murray, who had only ever run over 23 seconds for the 200 metres.  Hence his 20.98 seconds around half a lap was nothing short of stunning.  This after another huge PB of 10.41 in a 100m contest with training partner Cameron Starr.
Brandon Murray smashed PB's over 200m,
100m and 60m in squad trials.
Welsh international, Starr, has been promising much this season with some classy training sessions both back in the UK and more recently Stateside, but even he could not have predicted 10.28s even allowing for the following wind and a possibly marginally generous timekeeper!
Welsh international Cameron Starr hit impressive form
over 100m Stateside.
Next up came 21-year-old Shaftesbury Harrier Jerome Lule.  Assessed for a long time by his coach as a budding 400m athlete, his track record to date was solely over 100m and 200m.  After his first attempt at the one-lap sprint even he had to admit it might be his future with a very solid 50.88 second effort.

Trackspeed1-UK have a pretty impressive set-up this year with 2012 Olympics medical lead John Allen providing physio' support, Mark Stanton strength and conditioning coordination, Alex Starr offering nutrition advice, plus Bukola Woodburne Dyer as massage therapist.  All this alongside the still active international partnerships developed over the years in America and Australia.

"After a period that has seen the squad a little in the wilderness, there are some exciting plans for the future now," said John Powell.  We have a potential set-up that will have alot to offer athletes over the coming season and next winter's training programme."

Meanwhile, back at their Florida base, Daryl Thomas trashed his 2015 200m best of over 23 seconds with a 22.13 second effort, while Reon Gowan-Wade established a solid opening 200m of 21.78 seconds.

"All these times come with a huge health warning," said John, "but they aren't so far out as to say that they weren't all PB's, because they were all so far inside previous best marks.  It was the best possible start to the 2018 outdoor season and a great consolation for not competing at the annual meet in Gainesville where prohibitive entry fees proved a step too far on top of a two and a half hour drive."

Trackspeed1-UK will open their formal competitive programme now at their training base in Clermont where there is an open meeting on Saturday April 28th.

Trackspeed1-UK squad therapist
Bukola Woodburne-Dyer helps Reon
Gowan-Wade on the road to recovery
after the group's trials efforts 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

STATESIDE PREP LOOKING CLASSY ALREADY

Trackspeed1-UK athletes are already beginning to produce signs that 2018 could be their year, as they put together some classy training workouts in the United States.

Based at their annual pre-season camp at the National Training Centre (NTC) in Clermont, Florida, the dramatic change in climate from the chaotic British winter seems to have worked already as a strong motivator.

Conditions at the NTC are not even closely matched to the squad's London home at Crystal Palace and, combined with sunshine, 80-degrees, and six-star facilities, their new, albeit temporary, home seems to have proved inspirational.
Trackspeed1-UK Head Coach John Powell reviews one of the squad's
early sessions with sprinter Reon Gowan-Wade
"We don't have the whole squad out here this year," said Head Coach, John Powell, "as trips like this do not come cheap.  We are lucky enough to have four sponsors who are supporting us, or we would still be huddled in a corner of the indoor track at Crystal Palace.

"There is a huge imbalance in our sport now," he continued.  "The elite end of athletics have pretty much whatever they need both financially, in facilities, coaching expertise and support services, and the gap between them and the rest is not getting any smaller.

That said, we are above a huge majority of UK athletes in having this opportunity not only to train here pre-season, but also to learn from the world class company that train here already."

The squad's base in Clermont is home to some of the United States' most accomplished athletes, not least the second fastest man of all time, Tyson Gay.

"That in itself is a huge motivator," added John.  "Today we met the team manager and lead coach from Equador who had a couple of their elite athletes training here, including a London Olympic finalist.  The mutual learning opportunities are amazing.

"We are also exceptionally lucky to have additional expertise as part of our party, not least Dr John Allen, one of the most experienced physiotherapists in the United Kingdom.  Add to that the Strength and Conditioning / Nutrition advice of squad consultant Mark Stanton, and the services of Sports Therapist Bukola Woodburne-Dyer, and it's a pretty impressive set-up this year!"

Reon and training partner Welsh International Cameron Starr
in action during an early session in Clermont.
Trackspeed1-UK athletes open their 2018 outdoor account next Friday 13th April when they travel north to Gainesville for the Tom Jones Memorial meet, held at the University of Florida track - a notoriously fast surface that could see some fast early times produced.

Friday, 9 March 2018

WARMING UP NICELY FOR SUMMER!

The temperature may still be single figures out there, but Trackspeed1-UK athletes are warming up nicely for summer.

Their winter training programme, reshaped on previous years, is beginning to show some very positive signs, according to head coach John Powell, as sessions wind down from the intensity of winter toward the speed-based foundations preparing for summer.

Although quiet on the news front, the squad have been working hard at Crystal Palace, with John doubling in his role as chairman of the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, a stakeholder group fighting to preserve facilities in the long term at the sports centre he has coached at now for over 42 years.

Trackspeed1-UK Head Coach John Powell talks
to the BBC about the future of Crystal Palace
- his coaching base for over four decades.
(To be broadcast BBC London News, April)
Many of the squad will be traveling Stateside at the end of this month to attend their annual warm weather training camp in Clermont, Florida, where athletes are guaranteed top notch facilities in a climate far more reliable and appropriate to sprinting than the UK.

"It's a great facility at the National Training Centre in Clermont," said John, "and together with the excellent climate it always represents a golden opportunity for athletes to focus on themselves as athletes 24/7 while they are there, and really put in some top class sessions that prepare them ideally for the coming summer season."

The squad will compete in two meetings while in Florida, one based at their training venue in Clermont, and the other at the University of Florida track in Gainesville.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

COLDER, TOUGHER, BETTER - SQUAD AND ACADEMY DIG INTO WINTER!

The days and nights are getting colder, and the training is getting tougher, but both the Trackspeed1-UK mainstream athletes and their Academy understudies are grafting away now with more PB's already predicted on the horizon!

The select few who currently populate the Academy are progressing well after an initial month of tutelage under Head Coach John Powell,and now with former Jamaican Junior International, Dean Hylton.  (Any new faces interested in theTS1-UK Academy - or mainstream squad - should email John Powell direct at trackspeed1@hotmail.com)

The main squad are well into their autumn programme now too, with a revised approach to winter by their coach already showing positive results.  Spectacular improvements by some of the squad during 2017 summer has set the bar high for 2018, and so John is eager to build on that success.

Ishmael Smith-John improved over 100m in 2017 from
11.12s to 10.79s. 'More to come in 2018' says his coach!
"The intensity of training is greater this time round," he explained, "and there is a greater thread of speed throughout the year.  We have also devised a strength and conditioning programme that integrates well with what everyone is doing on the track thanks in no small way to input from our S & C consultant, Mark Stanton.

"The Academy athletes are going well too.  We have a couple of really exciting prospects who could well form the next generation of Trackspeed1-UK graduates."

As the UK winter kicks in, coaching eyes are already on final preparations for summer though, with plans for the squad's annual trip to Florida in March/April now well under way.

"This trip is a key part of any athlete's preparation for summer," said John, "and this year we have been able to whittle the price down significantly, and hence I am very much hoping as many of the squad can travel as possible."

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

WINTER BECKONS AFTER ANOTHER USA TOUR

Trackspeed1-UK Head Coach, John Powell, is back in the UK after another hook-up with coaches in the USA prior to the squad returning for full-on winter training next week.

The highlight of John's visit in Los Angeles was his meeting with Quincy Watts and Joanna Hayes, both coaches at the University of Southern California.  Watts won the Olympic 400 metres title in 1992 (Barcelona) and Hayes the gold in Athens 2004 over 100 metres hurdles.

John Powell meets Quincy Watts and Joanna Hayes at USC
John with USC Head Coach for Track and Field,
Caryl Smith-Gilbert
"It was amazing to meet two such celebrated athletes turned coaches and to chat and see the facilities at USC," said John, who also visited the infamous University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

At UCLA, he mingled with some of the 50,000 students, and viewed more awesome facilities, with another priceless hook-up with new speed coach Curtis Allen.

The track and field facility at UCLA
"Both schools have amazing facilities and certainly nothing we could rival," said John," but there again  it is the USA, and their country is a little larger than ours, and in California they have the rather significant advantage of sunshine pretty much the year round!"

Trackspeed1-UK athletes are already into preparatory training at their Crystal Palace base, getting into shape for when their full winter programme kicks in next week.  They will be looking to elaborate on the outstanding personal bests in many cases set during the 2017 summer.

A new Academy of high school pupils added to existing numbers will also be eagerly engaging with their sights set on graduating to their senior counterparts in future years.

"We have a history of over 40 years of recruiting raw talent and seeing some of it emerge in later years at international level," said John, "and that is a tradition we are very proud of.  The Academy set-up now provides the opportunity for local young athletes to take advantage of a great training set-up - who knows what it may produce in the future."

The Academy training programme is devised and structured by John, with coaching delivery by former Jamaican Junior International, Dean Hylton, who is in his fifth year of training with the senior squad.

More images from John Powell's LA trip here...

UCLA shade the track relay boxes for
greater clarity in race meetings
A gigantic astroturf area next-door to the track provides an awesome
addition for athlete training away from the hard but very fast track surface
The track and field facility at USC

Two views of the strength and conditioning room at USC
A view of part of the strength and conditioning facility at UCLA