Over the last 2 days I have been coaching Canoe Slalom Athletes competing in the Australian Schools Championship at Penrith Whitewater Stadium. Schools from all over Australia brought their best athletes which delivered some excellent racing, possibly spurred on by New Zealand bringing their best U18 athletes to race.
I must say there is some great new talent coming up the ranks in both New Zealand and Australia and when you bring them all together like this it creates an electric competitive environment. It also attracts coaches like Nick Smith (who coached 2012 Olympic gold medalists) who is nurturing future Olympic gold medalists for the Australian Team.
The young athletes competing have spent hours, days, weeks and years of training to getting where they are today. . . And lets say a quick thanks to the committed parents that support them!
Back in September I was head coach for a Talent Identification training camp that brought together the best U18 Canoe Slalom athletes in Australia. The initiative lead by Australian Canoeing and Australian Sports Commission is designed to give young athletes exposure to a competitive training environment and an insight into what is like to be an athlete. Their training camps offer support & guidance and create a pathway into the National Teams. On this camp I meet over 20 of Australia’s best U18 athletes from Victoria, Perth, Tasmania and New South Wales. The young athletes were bused in at around 7am and left around 7pm each day exhausted. They had a grueling schedule of whitewater technique training sessions going straight into video review, then talks/presentations on nutrition & sports fueling, the importance of commitment to training and tips on performing in races. I was told by parents that it was the most intense camp they had been on, which is what I designed it to be, a real challenge both mentally and physically that inspired them to become champions.
I ran some sport specific strength conditioning sessions and as we has such a large group I took them to a good friend Glenn Mitchel’s gym – Penrith Crossfit. Here I ran through the specifics of core stability training and how it transfers power from the paddle through the body into the boat. After a technical demo of some exercises, we put them together into a routine with the intensity needed to achieve the best results. It also reinforced that when learning something new you are not perfect straight away and ‘practice makes perfect’. This was a great learning opportunity that was aimed to help the athletes evolve there own gym training sessions with their coaches back home.
The best part for many of the young athletes was the ‘Boys Vs Girls’ competition to pull a bus at the end which you can see at the end of the clip below.
Training is serious, but there is no rule that says you can not have fun and watching senior Team Athlete Joey Croft certainly made me laugh, but seriously he is practicing technique with a very very light weight before he moved on to a much heavier weight. He is the guy with the beard on the left of this clip 🙂
Most of the young athletes on that camp went on to pick up many of the medals at the Australian National Schools Championship yesterday and you can see the results and full race review here.
I had a small coaching group of just 3 athletes.
- Tristan Carter who won the national U16 tittle in both K1 & C1 and was just a few seconds behind the U18 winner. His ability to hold his line and stay focused with speed is continuing to improve on an almost daily basis. If he continues at this rate he will soon be challenging for a place on the Australian Junior Team.
- Madi Wilson did a person best in her debut race at Penrith Whitewater Stadium, performing to the best of her ability when it counted. Showing that the commitment to training and practicing edge control & stroke drills really paid off.
- Kensa Randal came from New Zealand to enter the race off the own back to experience racing on the biggest water she had ever paddled!!! Nerves were replaced by a massive smile during the first session and in just 5 days she learnt the river and started to felt comfortable on the water. She put down a faultless race run that was controlled and fast, showing that she is capable of paddling & racing well on big whitewater!
I must say I enjoy coaching both senior and junior athletes leading into a races as it gives a great insight into how different people approach the task of racing, but there is one main consistency I see time and time again:
The athletes dedicated & committed to training are most likely to succeed.