Tips and advice on what it takes to become a top steeplechaser
Coach insight – Jonas DodooSeptember 20, 2017
Jonas Dodoo oversees the training of several Olympians at his Lee Valley base and he tells Emily Moss about his approach to coaching
I look after three sprints squads in London. The one led by me includes 2016 Olympic 4x100m medallist Daryll Neita and talented Olympian Ojie Edoburun, as well as numerous other athletes ranked in the top 10 in the UK. I also employ two other coaches with my Speed Works company.
I also work as a high performance consultant with professional rugby and football teams. There I can bring my track and field experience and support decision making relating to the team. Speed Works is run as a business in team sports and as a charity in athletics.
My coaching background also includes working with the English 7s and Bath Rugby for five years. I went to study coaching and sports science at Hartpury College and it was only in my second year that I started coaching. I went on to do a Coaching Masters.
I’m driven to learn from experts. While doing my Masters, I found Dan Pfaff online and spent three months working alongside him in the USA and then for the following four years I was lucky enough to be his apprentice with UK Athletics, learning my trade from him.
I almost went into teaching. I really believe in pedagogy and teaching athletes the fundamentals to avoid injury. I do not believe you should rely on stress overload and volume. The missing link is educating your athletes to use movements and exercise to remain healthy.
My coaching philosophy is ‘athlete-centred, coach led’. During my apprenticeship, I got exposed to many elite coaches and what I noticed was many coaches that were successful with a particular type of athlete. I wanted to be a coach that could coach any athlete to be very successful and I don’t really think you have many of those in the world. The only way you can coach a variety of athletes to be successful, is to turn it around and figure out what they need based on their history. It is a very different approach because it requires humility, patience and education. You really have to educate each athlete to take control.
I believe in speed all year round. But strength and conditioning and sports therapy should go alongside that. My squad works with sports therapists Gareth Degg and Mark Hokan, as well as our head of sports science, Ruth Waghorn. I also get my athletes to spend time with nutritionists and the key is to get them into a routine, which becomes engrained in their life.
I worked with Arsenal on the rehabilitation of Theo Walcott. I feel that working with other sports makes my track and field decisions fresher. Even when I started working with Dan and British Athletics, I kept in touch with the team sports and the key is that I am constantly learning.
I see my athletes every day. We do running training sessions and also lift weights three times a week. This involves running drills, plyometrics, resistance sprints, cone work and endurance training sessions. In between that it is recovery and regeneration work, incorporating stretching and sports therapy.
Culture, routine and environment are all important. You need to educate the athlete first, as there are thousands
of things they have to remember, such as stretching, nutrition, psychology, school/work, social aspects and to retain their focus. As the coach, you need to understand the biomechanics, psychology and emotional intelligence of the athlete. This takes time and exposure.
“You can’t microwave experience”. My mentor Mike Afilaka once said that. It takes time and exposure to build up this coaching experience and it cannot be rushed.
In relation to new gadgets and technology, I believe that everything necessary was developed a long time ago. Now, we just need to polish it, share knowledge and accelerate the development.
I also screen athletes when they first come down. I ask them to perform a series of 40m sprints broken down into two to three parts. The focus is very much on technique. From observing these, I establish what they are good at and what they need to work on and I devise a programme to address their strengths and work on their weaknesses. We take things from there.
I spot new talent through young athletes who are running fast times, those who have long levers, those who have an active and reactive nervous system. It is important to ask them about their maturity, as some athletes are gifted, others are just early developers. I also want to find out about their character and how they deal with adversity.
Good athletes need to be able to compartmentalise their life away from the track. Athletes need a strong mindset. I need to be able to make a connection with them on an emotional level when I am coaching them.