Kieran Showler-Davis is the Associate Director of Track & Field/Sprints & Hurdles Coach at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Kieran is a former international sprinter, having competed at the 2010 World Junior Championships and the 2011 European u23 Championships, where he won silver in the 4x100m relay. He later competed for England as a senior on numerous occasions. He moved to the United States to study and compete for Florida State University and Carson-Newman University, where he gained All-American status while also completing his undergraduate studies in business administration and securing an M.Ed. with a coaching emphasis.
Freelap USA: You have seen some great results recently at Carson-Newman, including Makanakaishe Charamba winning an indoor 200m national title and running 10.15, and Devon Moore running a windy 9.99 at Texas Relays. What are some of the reasons for this success?
Kieran Showler-Davis: I think there are several reasons that our sprinters are running as well as they are, and a lot of this comes down to the professionalism in their approach to preparing for competitions. I stress to them that practice and training are only a small part of the equation, and things like sleep, nutrition, and hydration play a massive role. As a coach, it’s not possible to be around the athletes 24 hours a day, ensuring they eat right and go to bed at a reasonable time; so, it falls on them, and I think my athletes do a great job of this.A lot of our sprinters’ success comes down to the professionalism in their approach to preparing for competition, says @Showler_Davis. Click To Tweet
More recently, the competition within the group has become fiercer. Not long ago, Von was, without a doubt, our best sprinter, running a windy 10.12, and I think he has been responsible for making our recruiting efforts that much easier. Recruits see his progress from 10.5 to a windy 10.1, a lot of consistent 10.2s and 10.3s, and his placing at nationals, and view us as a viable option that can help them improve.
Since then, guys like Maka have come in, training has become more competitive, and they push each other. Von saw Maka’s success last year, which has spurred him on, and Maka now has the goal of representing Zimbabwe in Budapest at the World Championships this year. All of this fosters an environment where getting better becomes easier.
Finally, my extra experience as a coach has made me more secure in my philosophy and what the meat and potatoes of my training plans look like. I still like to experiment and try new ideas, but I feel I have a better understanding of what works in our setting, so I can better guide these athletes.
Freelap USA: You were an international sprinter yourself. Can you talk about your background as an athlete and the transition from being an athlete to now becoming a coach? Having had a lot of success in the last couple of years as a coach, looking back, is there anything you wish you could have done differently as an athlete?
Kieran Showler-Davis: I grew up in the south of England and was coached by my parents. I was fortunate to have quite a bit of success, running 20.7 as an under-20 athlete and representing Great Britain at the World Junior Championships in 2010. I started university at Florida State, training under Ken Harnden, who was a big influence on me and my ideas surrounding training methodology, and I ran at a couple of different colleges before ending up at Carson-Newman.
While I’d had some success in the U.S., I typically found the training I’d been doing with my parents had worked well for me, so when I started at Carson-Newman, I wanted to follow the program I’d been doing in the U.K. At this point, I was an older senior, and I don’t know if it was because I had come from a coaching family, but it came naturally to me to help out the younger athletes on the team, and it was something I really enjoyed.I don’t know if it’s because I came from a coaching family, but it came naturally to me to help out the younger athletes on the team, and it was something I really enjoyed, says @Showler_Davis. Click To Tweet
Video 1. Keiran Showler-Davis winning a race at the South Atlantic Conference meet in 2018.
After I graduated, I wanted to continue to compete, but I was also given the opportunity to continue coaching as a GA, still at Carson-Newman. I continued to enjoy this and really get a buzz from seeing athletes I was helping make progress—and having Von early on meant I had an early taste of success, which no doubt contributed to the enjoyment. To be honest, though, coaching wasn’t something I’d always set out to do, and I didn’t even really know it was an option because, in the U.K., it’s still very much volunteer-based. So, my dad would work his day job and then coach in the evenings, almost as a hobby.
If I had my time again as an athlete, I would follow a “less is more” approach a little more closely. At 16 years old, I ran 21.1 while only training on the track twice per week on Tuesday and Thursday nights and playing football (soccer) on a Saturday, so I had four days a week without any training outside what I might be doing in PE at school. It does make me wonder if sometimes people train for the sake of training, and looking back, I certainly think that large amounts of recovery were very important for me.
Having a better understanding now of what some of the high school and collegiate athletes in the U.S. do in terms of practice and training, I can see how some approaches may not work for everyone.
In addition to this, I would probably take my strength and conditioning and psychological preparation more seriously. When I was at FSU, I remember really liking the strength program that I used there in my second year, and that became a sort of template for what I continued to do. It would have been great to have someone to continue monitoring that for me and pushing me on it.
In terms of psychology, I’m sure many former athletes say, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” I think this comes down to experience—I don’t think there was too much I could have done to fast-track my development in that regard, but it would have been nice to have my 2023 mind in my early to mid-2010s body!
Freelap USA: At Carson-Newman, you don’t have your own track. What are some of the ways you manage your program to work around not having your own facility? Do you think, in some cases, a limitation like this can be a blessing because it forces you to focus on a few key things?
Kieran Showler-Davis: We’re lucky enough to have a high school that allows us to use its track, but we obviously have constraints that not all collegiate programs face. As you mention, though, I think this has an upside, as you’re forced to adapt. For example, a week before our indoor conference meet, the high school that was letting us use its track no longer had room for us; it could have been very easy for us to panic, but as we had faced logistical barriers before, it seemed less daunting to implement a contingency plan. Therefore, it fazed us less.
There have been times when we’ve arrived at the high school track to discover an event taking place, so we’ve had to adjust the plan on the fly. This is something I saw my dad do throughout the years he coached me, and I always thought it was impressive that he could switch the session up if necessary, depending on the type of obstacle in the way. I don’t know if this has made these situations bother me less, but I think I’m a better coach now than I would be if I never had to make sudden changes based on facility access.I don’t know if this has made these situations bother me less, but I think I’m a better coach than I would be if I never had to make sudden changes based on facility access, says @Showler_Davis. Click To Tweet
Video 2. Practicing block starts in our indoor space.
In addition, our circumstances encourage me to focus more on the meat and potatoes of training that I mentioned earlier and worry less about training “fluff.” For example, when we do our acceleration sessions, I’m forced to choose whether we will do blocks or sled work. While our sleds are stored by our weight room, we have an old gym on the other side of campus where we have some rollout track, and we use this for our block sessions. It may be nice to be able to do a contrast-style workout and alternate between both sleds and blocks in the same workout, but I don’t have that option, so it keeps me focused on the “need to do” without worrying about the “nice to do.”
Video 3. Acceleration training on the track.
Freelap USA: Do you do much in the way of resisted sprinting? Is there much technology you use when training your athletes?
Kieran Showler-Davis: We incorporate some sled work into our acceleration days, but after an initial block of that, and once we start moving on to block starts, we don’t use the sleds because of the logistical constraints that I mentioned. I do have an Exer-Genie, but I only tend to use it during winter or spring break or after our outdoor conference meet when most athletes aren’t practicing. Again, linked back to the previous question and constraints, getting lots of athletes through the Exer-Genie in one session—where you have to adjust the resistance, etc.—is a challenge.
Doing anything in training that requires a lot of waiting around can disrupt the flow of the session, and athletes are more likely to become distracted. If that happens, it’s less likely that the positive outcomes you’d want from a training session will be achieved.
Related to that, we have access to timing gates through our strength staff on campus, and we’re able to take those to the track, but figuring out the logistics of when they aren’t being used and then transporting them off campus adds more layers to implementing this technology.
I use video to provide the athletes with some visual feedback. I find it really helpful, as quite often, watching runs or races in real time makes it very easy to miss things. Therefore, this obviously allows me to go back and watch as many times as I need to, focusing on a different technical aspect each time. This assists me in my decision-making regarding which technical components an athlete will address in their upcoming training.
Freelap USA: What does a typical week of training look like for your short sprinters?
Monday – Blocks/acceleration 5–6x15m (25–30m long facility with a rollout track).
- Weights (compound lifts, often contrasting lifts and plyos).
Tuesday – Longer session. We start with something more akin to tempo and increase the speed throughout the year.
- May start with (300m, 3 mins, 300m, 10 mins) x2 150m, 3 mins, 150m.
- Later in the year, we may do 160m, 3 mins, 140m, 10 mins, 140m, 3 mins, 120m, 10 mins, 120m, 3 mins, 100m.
Wednesday – Active recovery, medicine ball work, drills, ancillary weights, mobility, extensive plyometrics. (We keep this individual—some find the plyos take it out of them, so we may reduce or remove it.)
Thursday – Shorter track day focusing on sprinting under fatigue.
- 60-meter progressions, 3x3x60m > 4x3x60m > 3x4x60m > 4x4x60m
Progressing from 1–3 minutes rest between reps and from 5–8 minutes rest between sets.
- Or we may do something like 2x120m, 2x80m, with 8 minutes rest between each run.
Friday – We start with stadium stairs before progressing to hills.
- A hill session consists of a trail run at the start, 1–2x600m with 3 minutes rest, but this gets removed as we get closer to the racing season. Then, after the trail run, the hill part of the workout may be something like:
- 3x150m with 5 minutes rest between runs, 3x100m with 4 minutes rest between runs, and 2x50m with 3 minutes rest between runs.
- The Friday sessions actually get longer, and the intensity gets lower as the Thursday session increases in quality. I do this to ensure we are being as safe as possible by not doing too much intensity within the same week. For example, hills may start with 60m or 80m reps, while the work done on Thursday is slower.
- Weights (compound lifts, often contrasting lifts and plyos)
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