Lead Coach for the GB Paracycling Team Jon Norfolk recently graduated from UK Sport’s Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme (ECAP), during which time he was mentored by British Cycling Head Coach Shane Sutton.
We caught up with Norfolk and Sutton to talk coach development, the transfer from athlete to coach and 2014 goals for the GB Cycling Team.
Jon, how useful did you find ECAP?
For me the initial emphasis on what kind of person you are was an interesting one, as a coach, I’ve always focused on the athletes and other people, so to look at how I work was interesting. And the good thing about ECAP is that a lot of it is applicable back to the sport, it’s surprising how quickly you can go back into the workplace and put things into action.
Shane, how have you noticed Jon develop during his time on ECAP?
Jon’s coping strategies and ability to deal with certain situations has massively improved, as well as dealing with stressful athletes and knowing how to calm a situation down, a lot of that has come on through ECAP.
Sitting down with the guys [who have done ECAP] and listening to them talk and hear about what they’ve learnt, and what they learnt from other people on the programme, the benefits are obvious.
Having skills added to your armoury through programmes like this allows you to cope better with situations that come up on a daily basis in coaching.
Jon, you made the switch from athlete to coach, was that a difficult transition?
As an athlete you receive a lot of information, and as a coach you pass it in the opposite direction, but very rarely do you sit down and look at your own performance. It’s been quite illuminating to understand that your performance as a coach has as big an impact on the outcome of an event as the athlete, and that your performance, just as much as theirs, dictates the outcome of the performance.
Shane, other former athletes and ECAP graduates such as Paul Manning and Chris Newton are now working as coaches within British Cycling, do you think it’s a natural progression?
Coaching is an innate skill and not everyone has the ability to coach at the highest level. There are certain things you need to learn, for these guys, like Paul and Chris, who have gone through ECAP and come back to the sport and are now in high powered positions, working in our blue-riband events, ECAP was certainly the right pathway for them.
Do you think it’s important for Olympic and Paralympic sports to learn from one another and share best practice?
Shane: I’m sure we could learn something from every sport and look at the way they work. Most British sports are successful these days, so they’ve all got a formula that works, just in the same way that we have. If we could work with other sports it’d be fantastic, but everyone is busy in their endeavour to achieve their own success, there’s not much time to get together. That’s what ECAP’s good for, it brings coaches together and allows them to learn from each other, so we get good knowledge through them.
Jon: We’d be silly to think that repeating the same things will continue to bring us success, so to open ourselves up to new ideas and new relationships is a valuable thing.
What’s next for the GB Cycling and Paracycling Teams?
Shane: Our focus is to make ourselves better on a daily basis, the Commonwealth Games aligns itself with the Olympics in Brazil, so that’s one of the goals for next year, but the focus is on getting the athletes and the coaching staff better every day.
Jon: All our programmes will be shaped around performance in Rio and working back from there in terms of process goals, we’re at the time in our programme where we’re working out what it will take to win gold in Rio and how far out from that we need to be with one, two, three years to go.
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