Tips on Finding a good Masters Sprint Coach
By Coach Dixon
The one thing I say to the different groups I train is: “To get speed you have to practice speed!” Of course, this requires many factors involving the athlete and the coach. How do you get faster? Let’s start with the fundamentals of finding a good Sprint Coach. Preferably a master’s Sprint coach yes, there is a difference.
A coach will help you focus on the goals you want to attain and achieve the results you want. They will help you hone your skills, get organized, and keep you practicing so that you can succeed. But are all coaches the same? No way. How do you tell the difference between a phenomenal coach a good coach and a mediocre one?
One of the main factors in looking for a good sprint coach is obviously what experience they have. I have had many an athlete young and old come to me after spending years with a distance coach who says they can coach the sprints only to find out the coach really didn’t know the athlete’s event(s).
The sprints events are the 60m to the 800m. Yes, the 800m is a sprint event (always was). The 800m is an anaerobic energy system (Special Endurance II) event. The 800m is a Long Sprint. If trained/run properly, you only use up to 25% aerobic capacity. Your chances of getting an
experienced sprint coach will greatly improve if the coach is a sprinter too. Better, if he or she is a Masters competitor or has coached or is coaching Master Sprinters.
I know it’s hard to find good sprint coaches, but in the long run, it’s better for your health if you do your homework. So, take the time to look for someone who knows your event(s). Find out who they’ve worked with ask for a resume and references. Find out who you will be training with.
Sometimes I’ll mix my masters and youths together, but they are not doing the same workouts “Individualization” (more on this later) is the key. Even if I had two sprinters that ran the exact same times in competition I, would not train them the same based on several factors. Furthermore, I would not work a second-year athlete the same as I would a four-year athlete (Training Age). Yes, I track Training Age too.
A great coach will have a basic knowledge of a Multi-System Training Philosophy. This would consist of the: Musculoskeletal System, Energy System, Neuromuscular System, Neuroendocrine System, and the Proprioceptive System which, is all part of the Physiology aspect of training. They should also have knowledge of the Psychology aspects of training to motivate and how to communicate effectively.
They must also utilize an effective Training Philosophy as opposed to winging it at practice. Not to mention the Technical aspect of sprinting like “Block Work” and how to run the turns and the biomechanical aspect of sprinting, i.e. form. Of course, I could spend a lot of time going over each
of these factors but not today. Hopefully, you’re starting to get an idea of what a good/great coach is.
Individualization: it’s your decision if you need a hands-on coach or you can do it via online
training. Remember, the relationship between you and your coach can be an incredible experience once you make the right choice and it can last a lifetime. Please, take your time and be selective when choosing a coach.
If you’re looking for an online coach here are some areas to consider:
1. A good master’s coach will have experience. Does he or she know how to handle a broad
range of clients and issues? A good coach will recognize that you are an amateur and that
you are also an adult. Most masters are in the sport for the sheer joy of it and not to make
money or become professionals. Some of us have other commitments like families, jobs
etc…therefore our time can be limited, or it can be virtually limitless. The coach will have to
be able to adjust to your time commitment and provide a training program that’s compatible
with your needs.
2. A good master’s coach will possess the ability to foster a good coach-athlete relationship.
This relationship must be firmly based on trust if it is to work. The coach will become your
training partner, your friend, your ally, and your mentor. However, you, the athlete must
believe that the coach is looking out for your best interests, but it is your job to ensure you
have the right person for the job.
3. A good master’s coach will work with you to identify both short-term as well as long-term
strategic goals; he or she should want to know your goals upfront. They will work with you
to set up a training plan (Periodization Table) to achieve these goals. They will also explain
how the two of you will realize these goals. And they should have a system of checks and
balance to ensure you’re sticking to the timetable the two of you established in the beginning.
If not, the coach should be able to make changes in the program to correct it and be able to
explain to you what’s going on and why.
4. A good master’s coach can communicate even under the worst of circumstances, he or she
can communicate what you need to do, and how to do it. They can articulate what you need
to know in a clear fashion without screaming at you. Just because the coach was a great
sprinter back in the day does not mean they are a good coach. One may have the ability to
perform but not possess the ability to teach or the ability to articulate it properly! Does the
coach ask questions to help identify what’s really hindering your success or does he or she
just stick to surface issues and tell you the same thing over and over like: “Get your legs up”?
There may be a reason you’re not or can’t get your legs up it could be weak core or hip-
flexors or a number of other reasons (see #9).
5. A good master’s coach should be able to demonstrate the drills to ensure you know how to
perform them properly. They should be able to set an example of what an athlete should look
like. I have seen way too many coaches who are totally out of shape yet trying to convey
nutritional values and how important it is to do weight training. I myself will run with my
athletes sometimes giving them instructions on form while we are sprinting. I’m not
expecting all coaches to be able to do that, but again they should be able to perform the drills
at least and hopefully, compete as well.
6. A good master’s coach must understand your nutritional values. They need to know the
difference between training a young adult versus a master sprinter. They should know that
there is a major difference in training volume, nutritional values, recovery system, weight-
bearing exercises, etc. In addition, as we train the more stress and pounding, we are putting
on our bones. All of this can place a heavy toll on our body; thus we need to be proactive as
opposed to reactive to prevent injuries. Of course, many other nutritional factors needs to be
considered for us mature athletes, but that’s for another time.
7. A good master’s coach will try to give everyone equal time and will make themselves
accessible. A friend of mine trains with semi-pro and professional runners she always feels
left out because the coach does not give her any attention. His focus was on the money
makers. She is the only masters’ runner he has. It is imperative that the coach and athlete try
to bring in others who are like-minded and within the same age category and training level.
This will allow the coach to set up another practice session for masters training. Also,
training together with other master sprinters will help the athletes push each other in
8. A good master’s coach will make the time to support you at your events. Having your coach
at your event can mean the difference between winning and losing. They’ll keep an eye on
you during your warm-ups and may give you some last-minute pointers if necessary. Of
course, most of this was addressed during practice, but there’s always something to work on.
They will congratulate you on your wins and then remind you that it won’t count next week.
9. A good master’s coach will recognize your strengths and weaknesses. He or she should be
able to explain why you’re having difficulty performing a drill or exercise and should be able
to tell you how to build up your weak point(s). They should be able to tell you what the
problem is, what’s causing it, and what affect/effect it will have on your body. To prevent
injuries, they should provide testing to see what needs to be worked on before you advance
into more strenuous training. Sometimes they will need to play detective. Many times, I have
found out that my athletes think they need more training during competition season which,
can lead to overtraining or the wrong type of training (Reversibility).
10. A good master’s coach will have their “Coaches Philosophy” posted on their website or
handy to ensure they are following it. Because sometimes we need to be reminded as to why
we do what we do?
11. A good master’s coach stays updated on the latest information. The more we learn about the
human body; the more things change. A coach who is training the same way they did two
years ago is not doing their job to stay current. They should be on a quest for constantly
learning and have a good knowledge base of the human body and how it applies to sprinting.
One of the areas that I see neglected in training is the Central Nervous System (CNS). The
CNS plays a very important part in sprinting and should be trained as well and trained
properly. Even in the warm-up drills if you’re doing the wrong type or not correctly you’re
giving the CNS the wrong signals. If you’re doing the wrong type of weight training you’re
giving the CNS the wrong signals as well as the muscles, this process is called
“Reversibility.” Again, I could go on in more detail, about this subject but I hope you get the
idea. Sprinting is a science and as Hippocrates said: “Thinking that you know is one thing,
knowing is quite another. Thinking that you know is ignorance, knowing is science.”
If you are considering hiring a Sprint coach take your time. Just because you have spoken with one
that “sounds good,” does not mean that he or she is a perfect match for you. Talk to a few coaches
before making your decision.